Learning through Gaming


by Kevin Rigdon (pralix1138)

When I was younger I had a dream. It wasn’t a grand dream. I wasn’t setting out to make the world a better place or anything. After hours and hours of playing table top roleplaying games, I wanted to create my own game. Most people who’ve gamed over the years have had the same notion, I’m sure. The problem was, I never considered how complex these things actually are under the hood. I thought all I needed to do was make up some interesting backstory, have different character types, cool spells and powers and such, and roll some dice. The die types (i.e. 6-sided, 10-sided, etc), were rather arbitrary really.

The backstory was derivative, the spells and powers were uninspired. The different character types, or classes, were unimaginative, but the dice system, good people, was fantastic. Ok, that’s a lie. The dice system was the exact opposite of fantastic. It was crap. Piles and piles of pungent poo. I had no clue what I was doing. I didn’t consider that I had to worry about game balance, probabilities, statistics, and a whole host of other things that make a playable game mechanic. I naively thought that game designers just picked their favorite types of dice, and put some numbers on the page, and thought, “Hey, that works.”

But why am I sharing my failed dreams with you? Other than a bald faced attempt to generate sympathy, you mean? I suppose it’s a valid question. I’ve gone on and on about how people should be playing games, and table top roleplaying games in particular. I’ve pontificated on how they teach us about our world and about ourselves. But I’ve never talked about how they are actually educational. Thank God for Mark Rein-Hagen.

For those of you who weren’t playing roleplaying games throughout the nineties, Mark Rein-Hagen is a game designer that is responsible for revolutionizing the genre. He was co-creator of Ars Magica, and created Vampire: the Masquerade and with it ushered in the World of Darkness setting and game line. In addition to changing the gaming world, Rein-Hagen has founded a new game company called Make-Believe Games, and has been spending a lot of time championing the benefits of gaming.

His thesis, as outlined in the video below, is quite simple: playing games is educational. Through gaming, people learn problem solving skills, how to follow, how to lead, socialization, probabilities, negative numbers, addition, subtraction, division, and multiplication, as well as learning how to construct arguments, compromise, and tell stories.

So, watch Mark Rein-Hagen talk about the practical benefits of playing games, and let me know what you think in the comments.

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