FUN Should NOT be an ‘F’-Word

Approximate Reading Time: 2 minutes

… but, sadly, it appears it still is.

Playing with Reality at the Learning and Entertainment Evolution Forum – ProfHacker – The Chronicle of Higher Education.

The opening keynote by Nathan Verrill, co-founder of Natron Baxter, set the tone for applied gaming as he pointed out that “For many people, fun is the f-word.” When we talk about bringing games or play into the classroom, there can be resistance on that very grounds–are we just just selling chocolate-coated broccoli? Why is there still a cultural trend towards fun and work as opposites that have to be tricked into coexisting?

It seems to be most problematic in the very discipline that should know better, namely, Education. I’ve come across this again and again (and again) – among classroom teachers, among administrators (at ALL levels of education) and, perhaps worst of all, among Education professors. Ed Tech faculty, even.

Here’s part of a conversation I had with an Ed Tech professor last year when I was starting my book:

I too have a question about one of your figures. In your “serious games” continuum, you have “Education” and “Fun” at opposite ends of a continuum (I don’t understand what the grid lines mean). Does the picture mean that if something becomes really fun, it can no longer be educational? OR that something really educational won’t be fun? How do you define “fun”? It might also help me, as a fellow EdTech to see your definition of ‘education’.

And the answer:

According to a lot of authors we have already discussed, education and fun do appear to be at the two extremes of a continuum. I’m not inventing that. That is what makes developing an effective AND engaging educational game so difficult, – balancing the two. Accepting to add water (fun) to wine (education).

It’s actually NOT what makes the design of good educational games difficult, but that’s a whole other story. Sadly, this guy actually makes educational games. He writes about them. Considers himself an authority, especially in educational circles. Unfortunately, it’s people like him who perpetuate the problem.

I’m not going to identify the person who wrote this claim. First, he doesn’t claim to have invented this notion – he merely claims to support it. Second, people don’t like being held of as examples of wrongheaded thinking. I also can’t show you the diagram we’re talking about, but it looks kind of like this:

The "Serious Games Continuum"

Not only is it seriously mistaken in placing education and fun at opposite ends of the spectrum, the placement of “fun” at the bottom betrays an attitude, AND the implication that Serious Games are only educational is also just plain wrong.

Obviously, we still have a long way to go before the formal educational community is sufficiently enlightened to ‘get’ games.


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FUN Should NOT be an ‘F’-Word — 1 Comment

  1. Pingback: Choose: Education OR Fun. Apparently, you can’t have both. | The Becker Blog

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