First there was Origins. Then I came back to find that I had a week to finish up final review for my first book. Then I got some short-term industry contract work. So, things have kept me busy, but I'm now back. In the coming weeks I'll follow up with what I learned at Origins this year in terms of teaching, game design and more.
One thing I've been thinking about for a little while now is the similarity between education and game design. I'm starting to actually read some books on education, and an awful lot of concepts are identical, they just have different names. I heard this from several teachers at Origins as well -- after seeing my presentation, they remarked that some general concepts of game design are the same as in the professional literature for education, except that they are perhaps easier to understand in the context of games (if the teacher happens to be a gamer, at any rate).
For example, one of the concepts most game designers are familiar with is the MDA Framework, which says (among other things) that there are many different kinds of fun, that different games offer different combinations of these kinds of fun, and that different players find some kinds of fun more or less engaging than others. There's a parallel to different kinds of learners in a classroom environment: audio learners, visual learners, kinesthetic learners and so on, where each student is engaged by a particular type of activity. It's not much of a stretch to find links between the kinds of classroom activities and the kinds of fun in game that people find engaging.
A more interesting example is rubrics. I'd never heard the term 'rubric' before becoming a teacher. Essentially it means making a list of skills, and then grouping and classifying them. For example, a grading rubric for a class would list all of the things students are expected to be able to do after taking the class, and then what skills the students must build in order to do those things, and then what the students must demonstrate (and at what level) in order to achieve an A, B, C, etc.
Most teachers I know hate developing rubrics. It's a chore that involves tons of paperwork, and defining all these tiny details about a class and the concepts that you're teaching and how they all relate to each other and how you plan to measure everything. It's something that teachers do only when forced at gunpoint.
And yet, there are designers of computer/console role-playing games that do essentially the same thing. What are the capabilities that I want the players to be able to take advantage of in and out of combat? What are the skills, abilities and magic spells that I can make available to the players to allow them to accomplish these feats? How should I group these skills and abilities and spells -- by function, by elemental sphere, by character class? How do players gain access to these skills -- leveling up, completing quests, finding items? And this is the kind of content design that RPG designers absolutely love. It's the really fun part. It's a hoot. They'll go back and design more of these skills for fun, on their own time, rather than doing the important work like testing the combat system for balance.
Somehow, there has got to be a way to make rubrics as exciting as RPG design. I haven't figured out how yet. But it's the same freaking task.