Playing to Learn

Advice from resembles what I tell my English literature majors about why they are expected to study and benefit from literary works that they might not choose to read for their own pleasure. (The same goes for students in my Video Game Culture and Theory course.)

Before you begin down this path there is something you should know: playing games in order to study them is not what most people would consider “fun.” This doesn’t mean it isn’t fun at all; it just means you have to think a different way.
You have to find joy in discovering mechanics and watching their emergent properties unfold.

You have to be willing to endure a certain amount of tedium in order to glean clues about the inner workings of a game. Most of all, you have to be able to enjoy playing bad games as well as good.

Like the rest of game design “playing to learn” falls somewhere between a science and an art and contains all the joys of those two fields (though not many we traditionally associate with playing video games). If you can enjoy the eureka moments that happen when you finally discover how something is done, and the cascading flights of fancy that cause you to see the ramifications of a design that far exceed what’s actually in the game, then this field is for you.

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