Earlier this week, I saw an article in the April 2006 issue of Wired magazine in which Will Wright, the creator of The Sims, makes the case that electronic games are a powerful means for unleashing the human imagination. While he acknowledges some of the negatives widely attributed to electronic games (violence, addictive nature, etc.), he makes a pretty compelling case that gaming provides actual benefits to society through the expansion of "creativity, community, self-esteem, and problem-solving."
In the interest of full disclosure…while Will Wright is legendary in the computer gaming world, my gaming "pedigree" pretty much begins and ends twenty some odd years ago with my pac man spinning uselessly in a corner with the "bad guy" ghosts looming — game over in less than a minute. All the while, my darling husband shaking his head in disbelief. It might have been the lowest score in the history of the game.
But in this article, here’s a guy speaking my language. I’m so intrigued I may even give one of the new generation of games a try. The "gamers mindset" as described by Wright, just may be the hope of the future of an innovation economy. Here’s why…
The method of play for these games is experiential, learning in context, trial and error, and rapid, repeated cycling through the scientific method (hypothesis — "if I do…," experiment — "give it a try," and analysis — "what worked/didn’t work & why").
Through this "gamers mindset" learning process, Wright suggests that the players learn to "treat the world as a place for creation, not consumption." Wow. This pairs natural curiosity with active experimentation and higher order thinking. Problem-solving is organic and rules evolve in response to the emerging world — innovation becomes the standard process.
Wright explains, "Players navigate the game’s possibility space (as defined by the given conditions and the end goal) by their choices and actions; every player’s path is unique." Active involvement is key– creating and interacting with worlds, characters, and story lines. Imagine if we consciously approached our careers or businesses — our lives — in this way…creating new possibilities over and over again through the simple process of wondering…posing a hypothesis and then testing it out — knowing ourselves to be active participants…creators, not merely observers and reactors.
The future, Wright suggests, includes more and more opportunities for creation built in as the game, the individual players, and vibrant player communities collaborate in the creation of new experiences and new possibilities. In this way the games become a "visible, external amplification of the human imagination." Imagine what can happen when you bring the gamer’s mindset and strategies, supported by years of gaming experience, to the problems, challenges, and possibililties of the world we live in…oh boy…benefits to society, indeed!