Games and learning?

does anyone know about the relation between fun, games, play, and learning?
some nice articles i should read? i’ve started writing a blog about games (boardgames in particular and roleplaying games as a sidenote). I have the feeling play and games are the “natural” way of doing things but i cant really find in-depth articles on this. What do you people think? is there a “serious” gap between playing and not-playing? What can we learn from playing? How can we learn from playing? Any thoughts or pointers? thanks!

You’ve just posted on a favorite subject of mine. :slight_smile:

I’ve never hunted down any scholarly articles in particular, but over the years I’ve definitely noticed them here and there - articles that make the connection between the ‘play’ brainstate and learning.

I would go so far as to say only a few ways of ‘learning’ actually exist, and different types of learning. ‘Play’ seems the best for innovation and discovery (one kind of learning). Adrenylated experiences (fear, excitement, anger, intense love) seem the best ways of encouraging or discouraging behaviors.

My favorite: combining adrenylated experiences with play-states creates the most whacked out intense learning.

Martial-artists who lose the sense of ‘play’ but acquire an adrenylated-state during drills and sparring quickly start sucking. However, to have drilled in a ‘play’ state means that when confronted with the ‘real’ scenario, with its rush of adrenyline, one tends to learn some really intense things that one never forgets, and survive to retain it.

Play does not mean ‘goofing off’, although it can involve ‘goofing-off’.

I own all this as my own perspectives on play and learning - I don’t know that it appears in this form in any scientific article.

We’ve just started having role-playing game days to drill story-telling skills (if you haven’t read my blog). I see these having a huge potential.

In any case, the old paradigm of “exercises” that “teach” you things sucks, I think. Either play games, or do the real thing, but no more ‘exercises’, I say.

Here is a good article on “invisible learning” by Jon Young:

That’s why elementary and high school tend to be so boring. Also it’s why I find city life to be so boring. The schools and concrete jungles tend to be largely devoid of fun and games, and when they are introduced they tend to have a deceptive, transitory and false nature to them. A bunch of silly adults trying to make fun out of what is not inherently fun and convincing others to follow them and pretend they are having fun. Trying to substitute money and machines for the free life out in nature. It’s no substitution and it hardly meets one’s needs for a healthy life, IMO.

Meanwhile under the sullen fluorescent lighting reflecting off the sterile green metal and orange desks of the classroom, the young children are brimming with energy, ready to burst out of their desks at a moment’s notice and run free outside and play with animals, play in the mud, get dirty, go hunting, go for a long walk the whole day if they want to. Many just doodle all class and goof off and wait for recess because they want to be having fun and doing what comes natural. “We don’t need no education” is right, at least in the sense of education in the modern school system.

Watching the animals frolic and run free seems like a better classroom for children and adults. Many indigenous peoples used to (or still do) allow their children incredible freedom to run and play and make their own mistakes and learn from them. The old way was to learn through example and watching, and then you could start contributing to the tribe and taking part in the daily economic tasks and social activities. The best part about the country is the freedom to make your own fun and shout and run around like a madman if you feel like it without some other person there telling you to “go back to your studies” or “stop that” or “quit acting like a child”, if enough adults would stop telling children what to do and how to behave and instead let them follow their natural inclinations and let them run wild, then perhaps we could learn some valuable lessons from them and allow them to live a more healthy life.

thanks for the lighning-fast reply all! more then i could ask for. I loved reading about Jon Young and now think about trying to find a great secret spot of my own!. I even thought we could actively try out his awareness-raising ritual, by asking each other questions about their spot on this forum? we dont all have mentors after all.

Is playing our natural state of relating to the world? If,when playing games, we explore different relations to eachother, can we not use this model in our personal life? are we always playing and are some people just playing too serious? I know these are quite alot of questions, its just that i have the feeling that to play is my natural state of relating to my world of exploring issues and feelings and different postures and relations. It is almost as if im exploring myself by asking these questions? does that sound weird?

I actually go to school for game and simulation programming, I’m in the middle of writing a research paper on games/simulation and learning/eductation/training. I don’t really like the deceptive side to it, so I’m trying to focus on the more natural side to it.

I know I’m focusing more on video games and such, but they have the same concepts as other games essentially so…

Excellent Fenris! We probably would have a lot to talk about in person. I’ve started to move more and more into game paradigms when teaching teamwork and social technology, along with tracking and so on.

great topic!

I actually just devoted the entire second issue of a zine to Play/Games (focusing on the rewilding/anticiv aspects)

Included are essays, poems, ideas, games, and excerpts from various sources.

here are some books and links that might be of use:

Wildflowers of North America Knowledge Cards.
Also available Birds, Insects, Trees, and Wilderness Survival, and Animal & Bird Track cards.


Living Landscapes and Gaia’s Garden Game -

Playing on the Mother-Ground: Cultural Routines for Children’s Development by David F. Lancy

Games of the North American Indians by Stewart Culin

A Childrens Games Anthology: Studies in Folklore and Anthropology (Studies in Play and Games) by Brian Sutton-Smith

Children’s Traditional Games: Games from 137 Countries and Cultures by Judy Sierra and Robert Kaminski

Transformations:The Anthropology of Children’s Play by Helen Schwartzman

Studies in the Anthropology of Play: Papers in Memory of B. Allan Tindall by Phillip Stevens

Man, Play and Games by Roger Caillois

Child’s Play: Myth, Mimesis and Make-Believe (Explorations in Anthropology) by Laurence R. Goldman

Wow thanks for these resources! I might check some of them out, hopefully they will be useful in my paper.

I’m thinking of writing it with some type of intro of learning traditionally through games, and then expanding that over to today and the topics I have to cover.

wow a lot of nice resources there! thanks for the effort im gonna delve into this now.

:smiley: Joy!
Early on in elementary school we were periodically asked to write “stories” on that triple-lined paper (you know, for printing out alphabet characters) and a bunch of them are still sitting in a scrapbook at my parents’ house. One of my stories starts something like, “I went wandering in the woods and I met a deer. We played hide and seek.”

Thanks for the reminder! :slight_smile:

So I’ve got my first lab for my class, which is to create a branching story,
I just need a learning objective.

Any suggestions (I’ve got a partner but if I do something oriented around rewilding I’ll share it here?

edit: PrimalParent thanks for the resources tho I only found two of the books at the city library : /

i have these if anyone wants em:

Games of the North American Indians - Culin (2 vol.)
Games of the American Indian - Baldwin

and i’m working on a review of wildcraft! right now. i’ll post it later.

I can also recommend

though it is a pretty theorethical piece about games design

there is more too if you can find it there.


get in touch with me

Ancestor of the trampoline,
I love this picture. In case you can’t read what is written on it. This was taken in Nome, Alaska. It shows a person being tossed in the air off a walrus hide that is held all around the edge by a group of people. The game is being watched by a larger crowd.