15. Guest Lecture (Scot Osterweil of MIT Game Lab)


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visit MIT OpenCourseWare at ocw.mit.edu. PROFESSOR: So today in class,
we’ve got a guest lecturer. Scott Osterweil from the MIT
Education Arcade at MIT Game Lab’s going to be talking
to us about learning and play in games to put us
in the mindset for the games that you’re making that
feel like they might be educational or more
about awareness, to take some ideas from him on that. Then after that, we’re
going to do a play test. So this is your
first opportunity to give staff and clients,
if our clients show up, the experience of
playing your games and giving you some feedback
on the low-fidelity prototypes that you have right now. And again, they could be
digital or non digital. That’s going to be
pretty quick today. We don’t need everybody to
play everybody else’s games, if you don’t like. So what we’re going have
you do is set up your games. I expect if they’re
paper, you probably only have one copy of your game
running at any one time. So just make sure
that everyone who’s on the team who is not playing
is observing and taking notes. If you do have digital
and would like to set up multiple stations, please do. It’s always helpful. Our next play test
is November 5. We’re having the
class from 21W032, the Introduction to
Digital Media class taught by Ed Barrett. They’ll be coming in at the
end of the day at about 3:00 PM to test your digital games. So on November 5, it’s
a good opportunity for a first playable
version of your digital game to get tested by people
who are not in the class. And then after play test today,
we’ll take a quick break. And then we’ll do presentations
where each team will come up here, and you’ve basically
got the floor for two minutes. We want to hear what is the
state your game right now, basically referring back
to your product backlog. What are the features
that are planned? What did you test today? What does your build
look like today, your low-fidelity
prototype look like today? And just let us
know how it’s going. We’re going to ask for a number
of these short two-minute presentations throughout
the rest of the semester. And those dates are in the
handout for project four. And I’ll be making mention
of them as we go along. And then the remainder of
class, you’ve got about hour to an hour and a half at the
end of class to work in class. I’m going to let you
know how much time you’re going to have time for working
in class for future days. This Wednesday, you’ll probably
have about two full hours in class to work, looking at
what our lecture schedule looks like. So that’s that. Any questions about
what we’re doing today? Any questions
about project four? OK. I’m going to hand
it off to Scott. SCOTT OSTERWEIL:
[INAUDIBLE], this is the [INAUDIBLE] switch
you were talking about? PROFESSOR: Yep, I’m
switching it over right now. SCOTT OSTERWEIL: Well,
it’s nice to see you all. I see at least two faces
from– three from classes that I taught, so forgive
me for those of you who may have heard some of this before. So this was sort of
teed up as if I’m going to talk to
you about education, but I’m actually not going to
talk to you about education. I’m going to talk to you
about something else entirely. Maybe we’ll get around
to education by the time we’re done. But what I want you to do right
now– hang on one second– is turn to the
person next to you and play a quick
round of tic-tac-toe. So I do like doing
this, even though it’s hard to get people to stop. It’s actually kind
of interesting to me. When I’ve done this with an
audience of about 300 people, it takes a long time to
corral everybody back, which is really remarkable. If you weren’t
playing a game, I hope you were at least looking
around and noticing that the room got
kind of loud and there was a fair amount of laughter,
and noise, and animation, which is really
remarkable when you consider the fact that
tic-tac-toe is a stupid game. That by age eight,
you had figured out that there was no point
in playing tic-tac-toe because you almost
always play it to a draw. I’m always amazed when I ask a
bunch of adults, which you are, to play tic-tac-toe,
how into it they get. And I think in the end,
it’s the thing I really want to talk about, which is play. I know you guys have been
in a class studying games. Have you talked much
about the word play? Good. We are all in the
business of making games, and yet we don’t stop
much to think about play. But play is not something that
was invented with the Atari. People have been playing
games for a long time. The oldest known game
implements are older than the oldest known writing. I don’t know how many
of you know art history, but this is the
late 16th century in what’s now Belgium,
the low countries– Flanders in those days. The great genre
painter Pieter Bruegel, who did a painting called
Children’s Games, in which he documented over 100
games that scholars have been able to identify
as real games that were played at that time. And if you think about
it, at that point there wasn’t really much of
a thing called childhood. That by the age of 11
or 12, you were probably working in the family
business, whatever it was. You were expected to take
on adult responsibilities. And yet clearly, play was still
a huge part of their lives. Now, this is a
fanciful painting. He was not trying to
be realistic here. But the point was play was a
huge part of their lives then. So we know that they
were playing back in the 16th century. We know they were
playing 6,000 years ago. We actually know that
our ancestors played too, that other vertebrates play. In fact, Edwin Wilson has sort
of argued that ants play too, but let’s just stick to
vertebrates for a minute. When mountain goats play–
there’s a alpine mountain goat– they play
by– and by the way, let me just say quickly
from my definition, play is the stuff
you do when you don’t have to do something else. You don’t have to get food. You don’t have to evade
capture, or protect your young, or procreate, or find shelter. When you don’t have to do all
that stuff– some of which you do playfully, by
the way– but when you don’t have to do that
stuff and you’re on your own, you play. And so mountain goats
play by actually chasing each other around the mountains
and jumping from cliff to cliff, ledge to ledge. And they do it in
spite of the fact that mountain goats
will occasionally fall to their deaths. And if we know anything
about evolution, we know the behaviors that lead
to the deaths of individuals are behaviors that are
more likely to die out, unless there is some
advantage to the behavior that outweighs the risk. And it would easy
to assume from this that mountain goats
are learning how to do the things they need
to do, like jump and land on precarious ledges. That that’s what they’re
learning through their play. We might extend
that thinking when we look at an image like this. By the way, you can find images
like this on the internet. Anyway, so we’ve all seen
images of cats or puppies fighting, playing at games that
look like fighting or hunting. And if we take that example
and the example of the mountain goats, it’s easy to conclude
that play is about rote memory. It’s about learning to do
things through repetition. But they’ve done a study
where they prevented kittens from the opportunity to
play while they grow up, play with other cats. And it turns out they learn
how to hunt just fine. What they don’t
know how to do is how to interact with
other cats or make other more complex decisions. What I’m going to argue
is play is about something far more involved that just sort
of rote memory and repetition. Last animal example. They did a study where they
gave an otter a fish every time it swam through a hoop. Now, if you think about
what an otter’s needs are, that otter was rich
beyond its wildest dreams. Everything it needed
was right there just by swimming through the hoop. So did the otter retire as we
might do if all our needs were taken care of? No, it started swimming
through the hoop upside down, backwards. Playing with a hoop with
its way of exploring how the world worked. The otters– I assume
there’s more than one– the otters knew that swimming
through a hoop got fish. They wanted to find out
what else it could do. And again, this is when
survival is no longer an issue. So play is really the way in
which we explore the world. Just looking at these
images of children, there are four different
continents here, four very different
kinds of games. But I’d argue the affect
is the same in all of them, and that what’s going
on in all of them is the same thing, that
the kids in these pictures are really constructing their
understanding of the world through play. What I want to argue is
that through play, we begin to build the kinds
of conceptual structures that we are going to then
engage with more formally in other spheres of life. And I could argue that
it’s only for children, but I’m going to
argue further that it doesn’t stop in childhood. But sticking with
childhood for just a moment and using my own
personal example. I loved playing with
blocks when I was a kid. And this is all
pre-kindergarten. I can remember the
pleasure of discovering that two square blocks
were the same size as one rectangular block, and
two rectangular blocks were the same size
as one big block. And the kicker was that
that was equal to four of the little square blocks, and
that those relationships could then be replicated elsewhere. That that was a pattern
that I could find elsewhere in the world. And so pre-kindergarten
now, what I am really doing is developing a primitive,
but I would say robust sense that math is the way we
actually model the world. That we can actually model
the world mathematically. Now obviously, as four-year-old,
me couldn’t have said that. Four-year-old me couldn’t even
necessarily answer 2 plus 2 equals. But four-year-old me knew
something far more robust. I was starting to
really understand that the world could be
described mathematically, and that that was why
I was primed to be a relatively good math student. The challenge, though, is that I
just played with blocks the way I chose to play with them. No one made me. In fact, if you’d sat me
down and say play with blocks and discover what you can about
numbers, I might have refused and age four. Players’ motivations are
entirely intrinsic and personal in all play. You cannot make somebody play. I think it’s helpful to think
about it as if there were four freedoms present in play. Freedom to experiment. I thought I had
revised the slides. I really sort of revised that. I think it’s better say freedom
to explore is the better word. But what I was doing
with those blocks was seeing things about
the blocks that were not– the package showed
pictures of things you could build with
the blocks, but that’s not what I was doing. I was sort of exploring
properties of the blocks that no one was
telling me to look for. Freedom to fail. If you played with
blocks, you probably built a tower that
eventually fell down, and you probably learned a lot
from the tower falling down. You probably, in fact,
persisted at trying to get the tower to stand up. And along the way, you were
learning all sorts of stuff about mechanics and physics. Freedom of identity. If you think about
doll play for a minute, a kid in the floor of
their room acting out conflict between two dolls,
or stuffed animals, or action figures is really exploring all
the roles in their own family, in their world. A kid who plays at Luke
Skywalker versus Darth Vader is really figuring
out what part of him or herself is Luke
Skywalker and what part is Darth Vader, because we think
we have both of them in us. And that’s what we
explore through play. In less than a week, on
Friday, a fair number of you are going to engage in identity
play at a fairly large scale, so it’s not just
a childhood thing. I mean, I’m talking about
Halloween, obviously. And anyone who’s ever
played World of Warcraft or any number of games knows
that in fact, through games, we play with our
identity over time. Finally, freedom of
effort is the freedom to really play hard
or play relaxed. You cannot make
somebody play hard. And if you watched
the pattern of play, people will play intensely. They will suddenly ease up. Again, stick to World of
Warcraft for a minute, sometimes you want to grind. You just want to do the
mindless stuff for a while. And sometimes you want to
enter into an intense battle. They both happen. So here’s the challenge for us. The player’s
motivations are entirely intrinsic and personal,
as I’ve already said. And I’m also arguing
that obviously, learning is happening through play. But how do we channel
play into learning while still allowing
for its fundamentally open-ended nature? So if you, as Rick
said, are going to be making games in
which you want to– well, I hope you’re thinking about
real learning rather than just conveying information. And I’ll get to
that in a minute. But whatever it is you’re
doing, theoretically you want to make a good
game, they still have to have the
freedom to play. You don’t have a
game without play. You can have something that
has the structure of a game without play, but
it won’t really be a game if
they’re not playing. But anyway, so that’s
where games come in. That’s how we can channel
learning sometimes while still being open ended. And just to use the most absurd
example, think about golf. It was Bernard Suits who
originally used this example. But in golf, you’re
hitting a very small ball with a very long stick. Anyone golf here? Yeah, that’s what the normal
percentage is in a class. But it’s hard, right ? The first time you
swung the golf club, you might have missed
the ball entirely, right? Yeah. Sometimes even when you start
connecting with the ball, it goes the wrong direction. It goes 10 feet, 20 feet. When you can finally
hit it some distance, it goes into the water,
it goes into the woods. It costs $2.50 every
time you lose a ball. If your goal, after all, is
to get the ball in the hole, why don’t you just pick it
up, and walk to the other end of course, and drop it in? The golf game would
go much quicker. You’d never lose a ball. You have a lot more success. But no one chooses to
play golf that way. If you think about
it, people choose to play golf by moving
the ball to the hole in the single
stupidest way possible. And as Bernard Suits
said in this context, games are really
about overcoming unnecessary obstacles. And unnecessary is critical
here because every game is, by definition, unnecessary. If you’re really
playing, it’s voluntary. It’s not required. Your survival does
not depend on it. So by definition, every
game is unnecessary, and therefore the obstacles
in every game are unnecessary. And the game is the
voluntary overcoming of unnecessary obstacles. So why do we do it? Why would we do all that? Well, in games we
willingly submit to arbitrary rules
and structures in pursuit of mastery because
that’s what’s going on in golf. Even in golf. You think it’s hard, and yet
even though you missed the golf ball the first time, you
think, I think I can hit it. And then eventually
you do hit it and you say, I think
I can hit it further and I think I can
hit it straighter. And in fact, the game
gives you feedback. The game is continually
giving you feedback as to how you’re doing. No matter how
ridiculously hard golf is, you set for yourself
proximal goals. I’m going to hit a little
straighter, a little further. And the game lets you do that. No one runs out
into the golf course and says, stop, you didn’t
hit the ball far enough, or yells at you and says, hit
it further, further, right? They let you
playfully explore what you can do with that golf ball. And you keep saying
I’m getting better, and so you keep playing golf. And that’s true with every game. And I’ll talk about a couple
other examples going forward about that. So games give you proximal goals
which seem worth achieving, but only if you can
continue to be playful. And that’s I think
the thing we sometimes lose sight of when we’re making
games is the playfulness. We remember the goal. We remember that there’s
an outcome that we want. And we remember that we want the
player to get to that outcome. But we forget about
playfulness, which means we either make a game
that’s too easy. We lead them right
to the outcome. That’s like picking up the ball
, and walking to the other end, and dropping it in the hole. And a lot of games do that. Or we just figure I’m going
to make it really hard. I don’t care whether
they enjoy themselves. They’re going to get there. And of course they don’t. They quit. It’s one thing to
define a challenge. That’s important. The real art in it is
defining a proximal challenge, one that people can reach. And I would argue that if
you’re talking about games in which you want to
convey information or you want people to learn
something, all of that has to hold true. And in fact, the other
thing I’m arguing, obviously, is that at in every
game, people are learning. That the reason you
like playing golf is because you’re learning. And Raph Koster sets
this out really well in the Theory of Fun,
the book A Theory of Fun. But that basically, the
fundamental pleasure of gameplay is
learning, is learning to master the game,
which means in a sense, if you’re doing
a game and you’ve got some goal for some learning
to happen, all you’ve got to do is make that learning
interesting and worth achieving by giving people
the right set of goals to work toward it. So I keep talking kind of
interchangeably between play and learning. And yet the four freedoms
of play, which I’m arguing are the four
freedoms of learning, are not the four
freedoms of school. If you think about school, and
I’m not talking about MIT right now, if you think about your
own high school experience– high school is particularly
bad– what kind of freedom is there? Freedom to fail? Not so much. Freedom to explore? Well, I mean, even a
high school science lab, everyone is expecting to get
the same results by following the exact same procedure, right? And that’s the most experimental
you ever get in school. Certainly no freedom of
effort or freedom of identity. You sit in your
same seat every day and you’re expected to
behave the exact same way. And you’re expected
to work equally hard. You can’t come in and say I
don’t feel like working today. So there’s very
little play in school, at least as it’s
currently embodied. And this is why I
mention school here, is because I think
one of the challenges if you’re an MIT student is
that you were probably pretty good at the game of school. You probably did what
was required of you. You probably didn’t
necessarily recognize that doing the things that
school required of you is not when you were
actually learning, that that was just
playing the game. That the learning was
more self-motivated and more self-directed. And so frequently people,
when they turn around and try to make anything
to do with learning, whether it’s a game, or write
a book, or create a curriculum, they replicate everything
that’s bad about school. And the reason I don’t like to
say I make educational games is because when you think
of educational games, you think of all the bad
games that have replicated what’s bad about school. Games that have largely taken
the dead carcass of a game and stuffed it full
of academic content. So you’re going
to shoot at aliens and you’re going to
memorize your times table. Now, what aliens have to do
with times tables, I don’t know. Any I’d even argue that
memorizing your times table is of questionable value. There may be a place
for it, but it’s certainly not what being good
at math is about, fundamentally. And too often,
games for learning end up being about simply
I’m going to feed you content that would be
boring in a lecture or boring in a textbook. And guess what? It’s going to be just
as boring in a game. The only difference
is we’re going to surround it with things that
we think you think are fun, like shooting at aliens. So it sort of
translates into people thinking that what
the world needs is something like
Grand Theft Calculus. But in fact, without
playfulness, a game is just going
through the motions. It’s just gym class. Volleyball in gym is not
the same as volleyball at the beach, and there’s
a reason for that. And even smart MIT
kids making games when they think there’s
learning involved end up reverting to gym
class, to just I’m going to make you play this
game to learn this stuff you don’t want to learn. Just to talk about
the difference between a good learning game
and a bad learning game, let’s talk about difference
between spelling bee and Scrabble. In a spelling bee, most of
us, when we do a spelling bee, are nervous. Our palms are sweating. We think we’re going to fail. Eventually the
moment comes where they say no, you’re wrong. Sit down. You’re probably relieved. When they say, you’re wrong,
sit down, nobody says to you, well, that was interesting
that you spelled it that way, or I can understand why you
might have chosen to spell it that way, because
it rhymes with– no. They just say you’re
wrong, sit down. And that’s the end of it. The end of a spelling bee, one
person feels good, the winner. Maybe the kid who comes
in second feels OK. Everyone else is relieved
because they don’t have to do spelling anymore. And I first coined this analogy
thinking about bad games. But I later came to
realize that it’s bigger than that, because
if you think about– so I don’t know how
many of you know this, but 7% of the
population in the US graduates high
school saying they’re good at math, which means
we take an hour a day for 12 years teaching
93% of the population that they’re not good at math. We would be doing them all a
big favor by in kindergarten, saying you’re not going to do
math and just leave it at that. Or better yet, we
could figure out ways that teaching
method that actually were meaningful and relevant to
people, rather than making them feel like they’re
not good at math. So that’s a bad game. And so what I’m really arguing
is that school is a bad game. School is a game in
which we reward people for learning how
to play at school. Sometimes they’re
smart at some things. I’m not saying that
there aren’t people. But largely our goal
is to weed people out. And we filter some
people into some fields because they seem good at it. For everyone else, we’re
sort of convincing them that they– whew, I don’t
have to study anymore. I’m done with school. I never have to
learn anything again. That’s the way most people
end up leaving school. Scrabble, you sit down. You got your board. You got your tiles. You’re moving
around all the time. You’re being creative even
in the downtime just thinking about all the words you know. If you never win a
game of Scrabble, you have all sorts of
other proximal goals, like getting a 50-point word,
or getting a triple word score, or getting the highest
score you ever got. Just like golf, it gives
you lots of feedback. By the way, most
people who play golf, they’re not in a tournament. They’re not playing
to win a game. They made their own game. Maybe I’m going to get a lower
score than I got last time, or maybe I’m going to get at a
lower score than the person I’m playing with. Well, at Scrabble,
it’s the same thing. So you’re continually setting
your own goals within the game. The game has goals. It has something called victory. And we all may aspire
to that victory, but we have lots of other
ways of measuring ourselves that are not about victory. And every player makes up
their own game within Scrabble, and golf, and any good game. We actually all play a different
game when we play a game, and that’s not a
fault to the game. So one last thing I sort of want
to bring into the conversation as we think about
this is an expression. It dates back to around the same
time as the Bruegel painting. But in English, we first see the
expression all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. And at first, your
first response is that’s a good thing, right? Yes, play is important. So it seems to be a
statement in support of what I’ve been saying. But the only trouble with it is
that it also sort of suggests that there is this dichotomy. There’s work and there’s play. And I may have sort
of suggested it by saying it’s the
thing you do when you don’t have to do anything else. But then I did
modify that by saying that you do some of these
other things playfully as well. And in fact, when
we go into school, we think that there’s
learning and there’s play and they’re different. But in fact, I’m going to go
quickly through those slides and just go up to
here and just say I think we really need to
think of it more like this. And we need to think about
situating things here. And fun, by the way. Let me just be clear about fun. Fun is not giggles. Fun doesn’t even necessarily
require a smile on the face. If you think about yourself
playing a video game at age 11 or 12,
there were probably moments where your
tongue was sticking out, and you’re cross
eyed, and you’re yelling at the screen,
that’s not fair, and you threw your controller. And then you beat the game
and said, that was fun. And Seymour Papert a retired
professor from the Media Lab, is the one who coined
the term hard fun. And hard fun is not
a special category. I would argue that lots of fun
is hard fun, maybe most fun. Certainly most
games are hard fun, and that most good
learning is hard fun. The things you learn that
aren’t fun, yes, there may be some value to
memorizing your times tables, but it doesn’t make
you a mathematician. That’s not where the
real learning happened. There’s things you have to
memorize– although I heard somewhere that a
10th grade biology student has to memorize
more words than a 10th grade French student. And if you think about it, how
many of us, other than those of us who go to biology,
ever use all those words that we memorized about? None of it. So, I mean, I think too much
of our vision of learning is still based on memorizing
stuff that you then get tested on, rather
than building up cognitive structures
that you can then work with through the rest
of your life, which is what we really want people to do. That’s my point, because
I know you’re doing this work with the Red Cross. You have information
you want to convey. I want to argue that if
the information you want to convey fits on a 3
by 5 card and people can carry it around
with them, then there’s no point in
making a game of it. So just to do a
parallel example, I’ve done games for the working
poor, games where the goal is to explain to them that they
shouldn’t take out payday loans or take on credit card debt. Well, in fact, you could
write that on a 3 by 5 card. If I handed it to
most people and said don’t take out a payday
loan, don’t take out credit card debt, they would
nod, and smile, and agree. And then they would
go and do it when they were in extremis, anyway. They don’t do it
blithely, but they do it. But my point is that the
understanding that you really need is more subtle
and more complicated. You really want to give people
some functional understanding of something. So when we did that game,
what we really tried to do is put people in the situations
in which they might otherwise get loans and help them see
what the alternatives were. That that was the important
learning, and helping them recognize those moments. The learning was sort of
helping them, and helping them feel empowered to be
able to make decisions. So we were doing lots of
stuff beyond conveying the information don’t take
out of credit card debt. And so similarly, I think you’re
doing games where you probably think you want to
convey information, but that’s all information
that could fit on a pamphlet, or on a 3 by 5 card,
and you probably really don’t want to make
a game out of that. You probably really want
to make a game that’s going to be about helping people
through some experience master something. And through their sense
of mastery, change them. So I think that’s it
in a nutshell, what I want to say, and just use the
rest of the time for questions. And then you’re to see
your paper projects with everybody else. Any questions? Yes. AUDIENCE: So a lot of
your initial description, it actually sounded
like grad school. SCOTT OSTERWEIL: Yeah? AUDIENCE: So I feel
like grad school is quite the opposite of
what you’re saying school is. PROFESSOR: Yeah? Say a little more, because
not everyone knows. So [INAUDIBLE] and fail,
because [INAUDIBLE] why did you go to grad school? Because you can explore things. You can fail. You can do a project
that doesn’t work, that nobody’s really
going to get mad at you. You just do the next paper. Afterwards, you can try
as hard as you want. And there are days
when you don’t feel like [INAUDIBLE] too much. I’m not sure about identity. PROFESSOR: Right. Well, a lot of people
enter grad school thinking they’re
going to do one thing and end up leaving
doing something else. They have that freedom to. I mean actually, that’s
true of undergraduate too. I would say undergraduate,
and certainly at MIT, it seems to me slightly
more playful. Well, I don’t know. I’m not familiar. I don’t know what it’s like
the freshman year, when you’re doing all those psets. I don’t know what that’s like. I was a theater major
at a different school, so I don’t know
what that’s like. But I do see, and particularly
in upperclassmen, a fair amount of play in your work. But I think it is true. What I’m really
arguing at core is that what real education is
about is learning how to learn, is learning all
the kinds of things you need to do to
know how to learn. And some of it means just
having your natural curiosity positively reinforced instead
of negatively reinforced. Kids are naturally curious. They don’t have any
trouble asking questions. We slowly start doing
things that make people stop asking questions. We killed the curiosity
in most people. And so I’m really
arguing that education should be about
maximizing your curiosity so that you continue to
ask interesting questions for the rest of your life. So my example of
math, I don’t see why there’s no reason why
everyone who graduates high school couldn’t,
when they then hear a politician
quote a statistic, say how does he know that? Where did that
statistic come from? And when you read a
survey, say that question doesn’t seem like a
good survey, or that’s correlation, not causation. Those are all things we can
learn in high school math, for example. So it’s much more about learning
how to think than it is about– and for statistics, it’s far
more important to know how to ask those questions than it
is for everybody to know what the r value is of something. I think that’s a term in
the statistics, isn’t it? Yeah. I haven’t taken statistics. And the reason I’m
going back to sort of trying to talk to you about
what education should be about is because if you do games
for learning, particularly because they’re
games, get you’ve got to shake the false
model of learning is and go for the truly
playful model– because otherwise,
it’ll be the same kind of boring educational game
that probably made you look askance at having to listen to
me at all in the first place, because that’s
what you thought I was going to be talking about. Yes. AUDIENCE: What’s your opinion
on games that by structure makes it easy or hard for the players
who play with a lot of effort, like hard work, or play
without a lot of effort? SCOTT OSTERWEIL:
You can do a game that’s all– requires
nothing but 100% effort. And in a sense, the play is
who decides to play that game. The people who are
willing to put themselves through 100% effort all the
time, they voluntarily do that. And so you’ve found
your audience. I’m not saying you couldn’t
do a game like that. I’m saying that it’s likely that
in the course of most people’s gameplay, they’re going to
have this need to– a game where you get on the rails
and the clock is going, and you guys [INAUDIBLE]. That’s why there’s
usually plateaus of some kind or another. There’s an acknowledgement
that people need to stop and take a breath. Even if it’s just a
plateau, a savepoint, there’s some
acknowledgement of that. I think games where
there’s actually some combination of really
intense play and more relaxed play can sometimes
be more satisfying. So I’m not saying that a
game can’t be all hard– or the other side of
it, Farmville clearly was very popular with lots
of people who really wanted to do kind of mindless stuff. I guess we all have
the need sometimes for non-taxing– so there’s
nothing wrong with a game which requires almost all
in or very little in. It’s just that the
reality is, the player is going to move fluidly from
one state to the other. And if your game can accommodate
that, so much the better. AUDIENCE: [INAUDIBLE],
there’s something that I want to
comment on [? that. ?] It is totally possible to
play Farmville extremely in hard fun, isn’t it? SCOTT OSTERWEIL: Yeah. AUDIENCE: I had a
interesting [INAUDIBLE] just playing [? for them ?]
and that required very, very precise timing [INAUDIBLE]. So it is possible [INAUDIBLE]. SCOTT OSTERWEIL: Yeah. And the point is
that Phillip chose to make it that kind of game. And everybody will
choose to make it that kind of–
too many games, I think we freely make
the mistake of imagining a certain path for a
player on the win state, and we design the game
around that player, following the path
to the win state. And we forget to think
about all of the time that players are
likely to spend either trying to break the game,
or play in different modes, or in fail state. I mean, one of the things
I encourage students to do is make sure that the failure
is the most interesting part of your game, because if your
game is at all challenging, people are going to be spending
a lot of time in failure mode. A, you want to reward
them and say that’s OK. We’re happy to see you here. And b, you want to make sure
that it remains entertaining while they’re in failure
mode so they don’t quit. Like I said, I think
it’s an easy mistake to fixate on what’s the
path to success look like, and not think about
what the whole gameplay experience is like. And that gets worse when
people have an agenda, like a game for the Red Cross. We really fall into that trap. And that’s why so many
serious games seem so serious, and
earnest, and humorless, because all the
designer thought about was the player earnestly
achieving the goals that the designer set
out for the player, rather than thinking
about the player playing. AUDIENCE: [INAUDIBLE]. AUDIENCE: I guess this goes
back to your example about golf [INAUDIBLE] and not having
somebody yell at you for not hitting the ball straight. How do you think
that kind of goes with the existence
of golf teachers, who are paid to essentially tell
you you’re doing it wrong? SCOTT OSTERWEIL: [INAUDIBLE]. AUDIENCE: I guess I’m thinking
of my own dad and [INAUDIBLE] my sister, who have very
different opinions about a golf coach telling them
to do it right. SCOTT OSTERWEIL: So
the relevant thing there is that they elected to
have a golf coach tell them to do that at a certain point in
their– if you started somebody with a golf coach
yelling at them– now, it could be very gentle, loving,
helpful person, in which case it might go fine. But chances are if you started
somebody with someone standing over their shoulder telling
them what to do every moment, they probably would never
develop a real interest in it. So the point which you elect
to have somebody there, you have your reasons now. You have your motivation. And so that’s a different
experience at that point. I think lots of kids
who get turned off to musical instruments
or sports because too early in the experience,
they’re forced into sort of just reproduce the
results that some adult wants you to reproduce, rather than
explore this and figure out where your motivation is. Well, thanks. But I’m sticking around, so if
you have any other questions, I’m happy to take them. PROFESSOR: Another
reason I wanted to ask you to come
and talk to class. So we mentioned a couple of
the other game classes we have at MIT that we’re teaching. And you teach 615, the
Games for Social Change? SCOTT OSTERWEIL: Games
for Social Change, yeah. PROFESSOR: Next fall, right? SCOTT OSTERWEIL: Yeah,
that’ll be next fall. PROFESSOR: Can you
say a little bit about what that class entails? SCOTT OSTERWEIL: Yeah. And Sabrina took it. It’s sort of taking the same
principles that I was talking about and using them to
think about if you’re interested in social change
and how you could use for that, understanding that you
can’t make people change. And so the question is,
how can you use play to actually encourage change? And so probably we’re
looking critically at how society works. And the task we’re trying this
year for the first time– well, you’re doing two big
projects this year. We’re just now finishing a
project on the theme of walls to go in conjunction with the
25th anniversary of the Berlin Wall coming down. And that’s going to be
on display at the Goethe Institute, which is
a place in Boston, and it may also be
on display in Munich at the same time, the games. And then we’re going
do a project where we try to actually
look at some system in society, like school,
which is a bad game, and try to redesign
it as a good game. Not make a game about school,
but rather redesign school itself as if it were a game. Every year we try
different stuff. The one thing I
like to try to do is come up with
projects that actually have– for which you’re doing it
with somebody besides just me. I don’t just want students
doing stuff for me. I want them doing it for
some bigger audience, and we try to do
that in every game, every semester [INAUDIBLE]. And that’s [INAUDIBLE]. PROFESSOR: Cool. Yeah. So if you really
like what you’re doing right now with the Red
Cross/Red Crescent project, and you want do more
of this kind of stuff, take a look at that in the fall. And if you’re looking
for some help or insight about the design of your
project this semester, the Games for Social
Change materials are on the
OpenCourseWare website. And we’ll post those
readings and materials there so you can take a look at that. SCOTT OSTERWEIL: It’s
a bit of a seminar, so I think there’s no lectures. And so I think there’s a lot– PROFESSOR: The readings. SCOTT OSTERWEIL: Yeah. And they’re not
always explicitly about what we end up
talking about in class. So I don’t promise that
they’ll always be helpful. But anyway, they’re more
like thought starters than [INAUDIBLE]. PROFESSOR: All right. So it’s 1:48. Take a really quick break. And then set yourself up
into your five groups, and set up your play test. We’d like to start
doing play test at 2:00. So 12 minutes from now,
if that’s possible. Do you think it’s enough time? So we’re about to get started. How many stations do
you have for testers? AUDIENCE: [INAUDIBLE]
many [INAUDIBLE]. PROFESSOR: How many
are you going to have? Three? All right, three. Cool. If you’re not using your
computer to run a game, then close it or set it
aside so people know. How many stations are you
going to have over here? AUDIENCE: Two. PROFESSOR: Two? And group behind you,
how many workstations? Four? How many workstations
are you going to have? Two? And in the back, how many? One? 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 9, 12. So basically if you have–
there’s one, two, three, four, five testers, plus let’s
say each team send out two people to test other games. Remember to rotate. We’re going to do this
for about 20 minutes, as long as it takes. And then see where we
are and do it again to get some just quick
testing and make sure that the five of us get to play
a good number of your games and give you some
feedback on that. So remember, if you’re using
digital– if you’re not, if a computer’s not
being used for testing, close it or make it look
like it’s not being used for testing by typing on it. Let’s get started. Can I get everyone’s
attention really quick? Can I just get a
really brief report? How many teams– how many
tests did you guys get? AUDIENCE: Two rounds
and three [INAUDIBLE]. PROFESSOR: So you feel like you
did a good amount of testing? For the team close up here,
how many rounds did you get? How much testing did you get? AUDIENCE: We got about
four [INAUDIBLE]. PROFESSOR: Four? AUDIENCE: [INAUDIBLE]? PROFESSOR: How many
tests did you get? How many people played the game? A good number? AUDIENCE: We had two
who played [INAUDIBLE]. PROFESSOR: Cool. I’m just trying to get a sense. You guys feel like you’ve got a
good sense of number of people? Did you guys get four or five? And in the back, how
many players did you get? AUDIENCE: We only
had one [INAUDIBLE]. PROFESSOR: Has it been useful? AUDIENCE: Yes. PROFESSOR: OK. So let’s close off
testing for now. If you’d like to test later
today or later during the class period, you can. Go ahead and finish off whatever
testing you’re doing right now. And at 2:50, we’re
going to come down and each team’s going to give
a brief, two-minute description about the state of their game
and your product backlog. And those are actually
going to get recorded so that we can send them to
Pablo and the rest of his team, so they can see what
you’ve been working on and give us some
feedback about it. OK? So 2:50. Everyone set? AUDIENCE: [INAUDIBLE]. PROFESSOR: So Snap, come on up. And again, two minutes. Talk about your features. Talk about what’s in your game
now, what will be in your game. Also, give a really brief
description of the topic your game’s about. So this is for our clients
to know what we decided to do for all of our topics. AUDIENCE: So we’re Snap. So we’ve decided to [? return ?]
Snap into a multiplayer game. So it’ll be all everybody
playing at the same time. Right now we have a game that
looks pretty similar to what we played in class,
where you can enter words and you can snap with anybody
else who has played the game. Right now we don’t
have any fiction and we don’t have any
indication of score other than just the number
of times you’ve snapped. We’re hoping to change that. We got a lot of really
good feedback today, and we’ve thought new ideas
for how to convey feedback to the player and some
improvements to the UI, because right now
we don’t really express much to the player. That’s about it. PROFESSOR: Any challenges
that [INAUDIBLE] leading up to where you are now? Is there anything [INAUDIBLE]
questions [INAUDIBLE] risks that you have right now? AUDIENCE: So the networking is
still a risk, as we just saw. It’s a lot more confusing
when something doesn’t work, why it’s not working. We also do want to confirm
that the game that we build is similar enough to Snap
in terms of satisfying the client’s goals. So we don’t want to change the
game, even if it’s more fun. We want to make sure
that the game still satisfies the
client’s requirements and that they’ll still be
able to use it and gather the information they want to. And that will require
some careful testing to see what people end
up doing with Snap. PROFESSOR: And what
did you decide on? Have you decided on
tech yet, or are you still trying out multiple– AUDIENCE: Yeah. So I think we have a tech. So we have a server
running on Node. And we’re going to use
Phaser for the front-end so that we can make a
more expressive game. For now, we’re not
using Phaser, though. The current prototype
doesn’t use Phaser at all. AUDIENCE: One thing you asked
earlier was [INAUDIBLE]. Does that basically
mean that you have to run on two
different flight, or– AUDIENCE: Yeah, yeah. So the idea would
be to experiment with what sorts of entire
group visualizations would be interesting to
put up for the entire room. And the back-end team might work
on what sort of visualizations we want to show separate
from what we want to export at the end of the game. PROFESSOR: [INAUDIBLE]
anybody else? AUDIENCE: [INAUDIBLE]. AUDIENCE: Thank you. PROFESSOR: [INAUDIBLE]
Cholera is Awesome. AUDIENCE: Yeah. So the current
state of our game, we spent a lot of time
thinking about design and how exactly we
want to do things. So we’re currently
making sort of a game where you control–
or don’t control. You take care of a
bunch of villages. So you see different villages,
how infected they are, and how many people are
dying sort of thing, and then implement measures
to prevent cholera spreading. So you give people soap
to wash their hands or set restroom facilities,
or use vaccination, and that sort of thing. And so a lot of the
feedback that we got on a lot of questions
that we’re facing basically revolves around the issue of
making this game realistic versus making this game
more fun sort of thing. So you can make a really
unrealistic game that can be tons of fun,
but we also want to stick to reality because
at the end of the day, we do want to teach the people
that are playing how to prevent cholera from spreading. So there’s sort of this
trade-off that we have to make. And the second trade
off is sort of like you can make a blantanty educational
game that just throws back at you that can sort of be
fun for the first time you play it, but doesn’t have
a lot of replay value. And it’s sort of hard to make
a great educational game that also has a lot of replay value. So we’re thinking, maybe
consider maybe we don’t want that much replay value. Maybe this is a game that these
people will play once or twice, learn what they need to learn,
and then never play it again. So it’s sort of trade-offs
that we need to think about. PROFESSOR: So you’re still
working on the paper prototype that you need [INAUDIBLE]? AUDIENCE: Yes. PROFESSOR: OK. Cool. Thanks, [INAUDIBLE]. AUDIENCE: Yeah. But we’re starting to
build up the back-end. And we’re going to be using
Phaser to [INAUDIBLE]. PROFESSOR: So you’ve
already [INAUDIBLE]? OK, cool. Forecast-Based Funding, right? AUDIENCE: Yep. Hi, we’re
Forecast-Based Funding. The general idea
behind our concept is that planning
ahead for disasters is much better than
trying to react to them. So if you can have operating
procedures or ways of planning for them [INAUDIBLE]
afford that, you can reduce loss of lives
in the event of disasters. We are actually
between two prototypes right now that we’re testing
to try and get at the ideas. The first one is a sort
of higher-level city-based simulation of a city that’s
at risk of disaster, which you then have to fortify,
[INAUDIBLE] train volunteers, or preparing for
upcoming disasters in order to prevent too much
damage from happening to them. One of the problems that
we’re seeing with the game is that’s kind of abstract
and not as interactive for players to connect with. But they are getting
a good understanding of the idea of planning ahead. AUDIENCE: Yeah. And so to try and
address those issues, we have a second
prototype right now, which is about trying
to actually rescue people in a flooding city. And so that hits the other
end of the scale, where the player is told ahead
of time this disaster was planned for versus this
disaster was not planned for, and the appropriate
effects for each. And then they have
to rescue people under those two
different conditions, and then they get
to directly compare what the experience of
is for acting in one circumstance versus the other. AUDIENCE: Over the
next couple of days, we’ll be looking at what we
learned from both of them and trying to either
combine them or pull out the parts that we thought were
really useful to [INAUDIBLE]. PROFESSOR: [INAUDIBLE] on this? This was the hard one. AUDIENCE: Yeah. PROFESSOR: [INAUDIBLE]? AUDIENCE: I think it was
stated a couple of times that we should be looking at
people that are policymakers or donors in the sense of
sort of people who would be allocating funds from
governments or non-profits, things like that. Basically we make it appear
that this type of planning ahead is a good idea. PROFESSOR: And have you
decided on technology yet, or are you still pondering it? AUDIENCE: We’re
probably using Phaser. PROFESSOR: All right. Thank you. Heat Wave. AUDIENCE: Hi. So as you guys have
all heard, Heat Wave is going to be a game
that will hopefully be used to help Red Cross
volunteers help people in areas that are either
suffering from or about to suffer from a heat wave. So what we did was
we decided we wanted to test out a very simple
digital prototype, not with the same type action
as our final prototype, but not in Unity
because having a working game in Unity at this
point we didn’t think is a viable option. So we made a Python
test base game. And people were
able to choose what they were going to do based
on the scenario and the people they were interacting with. And what we really want to
test it was how does this work. Is playing a good way to learn? And if so, how can we make more
learning come out of the fact that they’re playing a game
and then making these choices. So what we did was we showed
people, and a lot of times, people noticed
right away, well, I don’t want to sit there
and do nothing, which is what we wanted them to notice. And oh, this person passed
out even though they were only outside for three hours. Why was that? So we did see a lot of that. But something we didn’t
see was people sometimes got stuck in a pattern. It’s just like, well, I’m always
going to do the same thing. And then they don’t
get different results and they don’t really
learn anything. So we want to give people more
interesting options and more options in our actual game
so that they try more things and they learn more. So that’s what
we’re going to do. PROFESSOR: So you
already [INAUDIBLE]? AUDIENCE: Yeah. Any other questions? PROFESSOR: [INAUDIBLE]. AUDIENCE: [? Great. ?] PROFESSOR: Thank you. [INAUDIBLE] Animal Village. AUDIENCE: Hi, everybody. We’re saving the Animal Village. Our goal is to empower
around 8 to 13-year-olds to reach into their
community and learn more about what cholera is,
what its symptoms are, and how they would
convince people that cholera is actually happen. Our play tests were focused on
bringing as many minigames as possible, and to testing. So in this case, we
had four minigames. The main feedback we
got on those games was that they were far
too easy and simplistic. And we agree, it turns out. Our goals moving forward
are to essentially improve our game
beyond just reading an informational
pamphlet, and to do things where it requires
actual abstract thought and in general, more
effort from the player to think of the behaviors
and actions they need to potentially change or
encourage in their community. We found a lot of success
with this in our game already present in the mayor dialogue. And we hope to branch
that up as moving towards, we begin to implement
our game in Phaser. Any questions? AUDIENCE: [INAUDIBLE] what’s
the upside of having minigames versus one [? full ?] game? AUDIENCE: So our goal
with the united minigames is to be able to
drill down and be very specific about
which behavior we want people to show. There are approximately
three to four core behaviors that are very necessary
to prevent cholera. And having one minigame devoted
to each of them in theory will allows us to focus more
and teach more, as a result. AUDIENCE: That’s
a good statement. Just riffing off something
else that you said. I haven’t looked that closely
at the cholera documenation. I’m not so sure if convincing
people that cholera is a problem is necessarily
the thing you need to do, but convincing people to change
their behavior and whatnot. AUDIENCE: So not
convincing people cholera is a problem because obviously. It’s convincing people
to report cholera as it happens instead of waiting
to see if that one isolated case of diarrhea is actually a
symptom of an outbreak or just someone eating something bad. AUDIENCE: Right. So one of the things is
like this early alert thing [INAUDIBLE]. OK. Cool. All right. PROFESSOR: Thank you. AUDIENCE: All right. Thanks.

One comment on “15. Guest Lecture (Scot Osterweil of MIT Game Lab)”

  1. Dongjoo Hwang says:

    Design a failure model? Man, that insight.

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