why play?


“It is a game, isn’t it, Mary Poppins?”

Mary Poppins:         

“Well, it depends on your point of view. You see,

In every job that must be done,

There is an element of fun.

You find the fun, and snap!

The job’s a game.

And every task you undertake

Becomes a piece of cake

A lark, a spree it’s very clear to see

That a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down

The medicine go down

Medicine go down …”

In the musical film “Mary Poppins” (1964) the nanny introduces the two kids – Jane and Michael Banks – to a technique how to transform a dreadful job into a joyful game. As she explains in her song “snap!”, medicine tastes so much better with tons of sugar. One could argue, that this is what serious games and gamification are all about – designing a spoonful of sugar and adding it to the “serious” content.

The approach to use games for serious and educational purposes reaches back to the roots of institutional forms of play (Locke 1989; Rousseau 1762; Fröbel 1826; Montessori 1909). The term “Serious Game” was introduced by Clark Abt (1970) in the 70ies, but made popular by the “Serious Game Initiative”, which coined it in 2002 (Wu 2008). Although we are lacking an established definition of “Serious Games”, Clark’s understanding of games aiming at “an explicit and carefully thought-out educational purpose” appears widely agreed on in a majority of studies and publications. From a game design perspective one could argue that these games are designed for a specific serious purpose beyond pure entertainment. This purpose can be described as the intention to design a playful environment that provides “serious” content, topics, narratives, rules and goals to foster a specific learning process. Serious games are intentionally designed to make the players engage with a particular matter to achieve a specific knowledge and to foster a change of their thinking and behavior.

Check full article to see if it will take more than a “snap” by Mary Poppins to fully use the potential and design an engaging solution to our educational challenges.

Author: Dr. Konstantin Mitgutsch, 2017

Original Article