I’m not really into video games, so I started reading a New York Times Magazine piece on the designer (Tarn Adams) of an obscure and complicated game reluctantly. But it got interesting quickly. And then:
Tarn sees his work in stridently ethical terms. He calls games like Angry Birds or Bejeweled, which ensnare players in addictive loops of frustration and gratification under the pretense that skill is required to win, “abusive” — a common diagnosis among those who get hooked on the games, but a surprising one from a game designer, ostensibly charged with doing the hooking. “Many popular games tap into something in a person that is compulsive, like hoarding,” he said, “the need to make progress with points or collect things. You sit there saying yeah-yeah-yeah and then you wake up and say, What the hell was I doing? You can call that kind of game fun, but only if you call compulsive gambling fun.” He added: “I used to value the ability to turn the user into your slave. I don’t anymore.”
Surely some see in this a Keith Devlin style argument about how gaming ought to influence curriculum design. That’s not where I’m coming from.
No, I see an analogy.
Substitute curriculum and problems for games, and student for user.
I threw Sal Khan into the graphic but he’s just a stand in for any one of us who works hard on the engagement side of teaching while losing sight of the purpose side. And no matter how pure our intentions, we all have these moments.