Why Our Attempts Fail

Failure is not a lack of effort, it's a lack of understanding.

My wife raised a good point with me, "All this educational stuff works for games like Zelda, but it doesn't really apply to me if I just play Mario Kart." Now my wife, in spite of my best efforts, would not identify herself as a gamer (although she logged two months worth of Brain Age over the summer). But that is the point. Another librarian and co-worker raised the same question; Do these strategies and applications fit for those that don't play video games? Yes.

Before I dig further into the research, I want to make a comparison that I don't often see.
Why people fail at games and research.
The parallels exist. A co-worker and fellow librarian that I respect stated that she could never figure out which buttons to press. My wife has echoed that sentiment as well. There is a frustration there in both cases. What button should I push, what site should I choose, how to I get what I need? I believe that the problem exists in both games and research because people do not know how to get at what they need. The lack of understanding the system creates failure.

Think about these questions in terms of both gaming and research:
- If the interface is confusing can the user move beyond it?
Think of the well documented simplicity of Google's interface compare to library databases like OCLC or EBSCO. Think of the 10+ button of the PS2 or XBox 360 controller compared to the Nintendo Wii's 3 buttons. There is an effort to simplify for the benefit of the user.

- If the user doesn't know how to navigate the interface without training, what is the incentive to move on?
If the user is confused by where to go or what buttons to push the fun of the game quickly dies. If the user is confused by how to find relevant results in a library resource, does their frustration manifests elsewhere? Do they give up or find lower quality sources? When user starts a game or a project with good intentions, where are we to help?

- How can the user succeed without knowing the physics of the system?
The idea of testing and exploring within the game environment are essential for success. I told my wife of a "power slide" move within Mario Kart and she was surprised, "Really!" I knew this because I tested the physics of the game. What about subject terms in a database? What happens when a user doesn't test the limits of the game or search? If the physics of a game are unknown, how does the player know how to succeed. If the physics of a database are unknown, how can the user find what is needed?

-What about a lack of confidence?
There is an implied correlation between the amount of time practicing either with the game, or practicing a search database. The more a user can practice, the more their confidence level increases, which leads to their exploration and testing of the physics limits. How can we as instructors help support this confidence?

Both gamers and our students have "ah-ha" moments when they discover a new feature, skill, article or link within the system. We need to help these moments happen more often.