Obedience & Innovation - Both Play into Games

In my post earlier this week, I talked a little about the Utne Reader article on video games. While I agree with the majority of the article, I disagree with the thesis Suellentrop states at the end:

"Our video-game brains, trained on success machines, may be undergoing a Mr. Universe workout, one that leaves us stronger but less flexible. So don't worry that video games are teaching us to be killers. Worry instead that they're teaching us to salute. "

Suellentrop argues that games teach players not to think outside of the system, to accept the framework they are given and try to succeed within it. Games reinforce living within the rules of the gameworld and this translates to living within the rules of society. Thus, decreasing innovation and potentially critical thinking.
If this thesis is correct, what does it mean for using games within higher education? And why would a professor use games within the tradition of the creative thinking and challenges of a liberal arts education?

But other studies applaud games for pushing players to test the limits of the systems and understand how to use it in order to succeed. The Federation of American Scientists (in my posts from October) found that games are educational because they push players to test the physics of a game and succeed within the system. The FAS report stated that these skills help prepare gamers to be more successful within the existing corporate and business worlds.

I believe that games successfully to both - help players succeed within existing systems and challenge them to them to find new and creative paths. Yes, games encourage and reward the player for exploring the physics of the game and testing the world for success. But there is not a gamer around that at some point has wanted a game to do more. The "If only I could do..." pleads that frustrated gamers can make are a good example that gamers do not settle. They want to innovate and do more... are presented with an opportunity to do so in a real world environment would. The success and frustration within games (the testing and exploring required) has empowered them to propose and try new ideas. Yes, innovate.

The path a gamer goes through find success in a game looks something like this:
- Engagement in the game and interface
- Motivation and desire to succeed and advance
- Testing of the system, discovery of game physics
- Analysis of limits and boundaries
- Evaluation of successful application
- Discussion (internal or external) on desired physics and gameplay
- Generation of new ideas/applications = innovation

The final two steps can often take place outside the game and away from the act of playing. Players often are engaged enough to continue thinking, planning and enjoying the game away from the physical act of playing. It is in this reflection time that creativity and innovation often occur.