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Failing And Confusion In Games And Gaming

Games allow us to experience power and incompetence, success and screw-ups. Players can rock-out like the Stones, slay dragons and rule empires. But on the way, we also fail safely and enjoyably, as we navigate through stages of profound confusion and frustration before achieving success and insight. So let's talk about screwing up - in games and in general - and how to study the cognitive dynamics in games, failing and confusion.

2013.10.02 | Lars Pallesen

Date Wed 13 Nov
Time 09:30 15:30
Location IMC, Jens Chr. Schous Vej 4, Building 1483-3, room 312
Registration has closed

"Failing And Confusion In Games And Gaming"


9.45: Trickle in morning coffee
10.00: Andreas Lieberoth - Welcome and introduction
10.30-11.30: Jesper Juul - Failing to learn from failure
11.30-12.30: Dennis Paiz Ramirez - Finding failure and spotting successes in games. 
12.30-13.30: Lunch (at own expense)
13.30-14.30: Charlotte Jonasson -Learning from errors in education - real-life  consequences and transformations
14.30-15.30: Ioanna Iacovides - Investigating game-play: Are breakdowns in action and understanding detrimental to involvement?
15.30: Goodbye




Jesper Juul:

"Failing to learn from failure"

It is often said that video games are not simply “fun”, but in this talk I will argue that games are fundamentally about failure. Games hinge on a paradox of failure: in games, we expose ourselves to unpleasant experiences (i.e. failing) that we normally try to avoid. This paradox of failure is parallel to the paradox of why we consume tragic theatre, novels, or cinema even though they make us feel sadness, fear, or even disgust. In this presentation I will argue that the paradox of failure is unique in that when you fail in a game, it really means that you were in some way inadequate. However, while games uniquely induce such feelings of being inadequate, they also promise us a fair chance of redeeming ourselves. This distinguishes game failure from failure in our regular lives: (good) games are designed such that they give us a fair chance, whereas the regular world makes no such promises. Games, then are the art of failure: the singular art form that sets us up for failure and allows us to experience it and experiment with it.
Given that games make us tolerate failure and challenge, the last few years has seen many arguments made that work, life and education can be drastically improved if we structure them more like games. However, by viewing games through the lens of failure, it becomes clear that the 2008 Financial Crisis was caused in part by many banks making their organizations too game-like, and that we cannot count on game structures being universally applicable to non-game contexts.

Jesper Juul is associate professor at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts - The School of Design. He has been working with video game theory since the early 1990s. His previous books are Half-Real and A Casual Revolution. He recently published The Art of Failure, a book that combines personal confessions about failure with philosophy, game design analysis, psychology and fiction theory.

Ioanna Iacovedes:

"Investigating game-play: Are breakdowns in action and understanding detrimental to involvement?"

Despite the growing appeal of digital games across a variety of audiences, there has been little consideration of how learning occurs during play, and how this learning relates to the experience of player involvement. Previous research does suggest however that breakdowns can be a source of learning while other work has explored how failure can affect the game-play experience in different ways. This talk reports on the findings of a multiple case study approach that investigated how learning and involvement come together in practice. Eight cases (consisting of a mix of casual and hardcore players) were carried out, with participants being asked to come into the lab to play games on three different occasions and to keep a diary of their gaming experiences over a three week period. During the lab sessions players were also asked to review a recording of their game-play session as part of a cued post-play interview. A form of critical incident analysis indicated that game-play breakdowns and breakthroughs occur with respect to: Action (e.g. pressing the wrong button; carrying out a new attack), Understanding (e.g. not knowing what to do next; figuring out a puzzle) and Involvement (e.g. boredom or frustration; satisfaction). Physiological data was also collected during play but was not found to be useful for identifying breakdowns and breakthroughs. The findings suggest that action and understanding breakdowns actually contribute to involvement when the player feels responsible for overcoming them but will decrease involvement if they take too long to overcome. The utility of the physiological data will be discussed while examples will also be provided to illustrate the key findings.  

Short bio
Ioanna (Jo) Iacovides is a Research Associate at the University College London Interaction Centre (UCLIC), UK. She is particularly interested in technology and learning where she has explored the use of digital games in formal education; how digital games and tools support informal learning and how people learn to use technology in the workplace.

Charlotte Jonasson:

"Learning from errors in education - real-life consequences and transformations"

A central purpose of the introductory course at a Danish vocational school is to prepare the students for apprenticeship. Empirical findings from a one year field work at a vocational school show how teachers and students during workshop classes in the kitchen share an attention to, what Ingold (2001) has described as an ‘education of attention’, where the novice becomes skilled through processes of imitation and processes of improvisation. In this process, the teachers encourage the students to make and learn from their errors, which, they argue, may not always be possible at workplaces that have to attend to more productive and economic priorities. This presentation will outline the theoretical and empirical implications of such learning from errors practices being part of what can be described as a 'real life' school rehearsal game.

Dennis Paiz-Ramirez:

"Finding failure and spotting successes in games"

Failure plays a big part in games. Because of the complex nature of modern games, players are expected to fail a great deal before they become proficient in any sense. Exploring the state-space of a game is actually part of the fun, and keeps the player engaged (Schell, 2008). This is in sharp contrast to simple games such as Tic-Tac-Toe, which becomes boring once all possible moves have been realized (including those that do not result in a win state) (Koster, 2005). In most games, failure actually leads to “recursive play” where players reflect on performance and hypothesise ways to do better (Squire, 2011). Rather than being told what the correct answer is, players come to understand the problem by reflecting on what they have tried, what worked, and just as important, what failed. In fact, challenging and well ordered, problems, where the solution isn’t readily apparent, have been identified as a mark of a well designed game (Gee 2003). Players willingly create new knowledge by confronting behaviors and models that they don’t completely understand. Most modern videogames also have a ranking systems of some sort built in as a measure of proficiency. These can come in the shape of leaderboards, statistics, or levels all of which players use to increase their performance. It’s no wonder that, games are seen as a promising tool for learning, as well as assessment.

However, there are still several things to consider when we assess a player’s performance in a game in an attempt to gauge learning. In an age of constant assessment, failure outside of games, and particularly in schools, has transformed from simply not succeeding to something that can determine future opportunities. Failure becomes a label by which a student’s mental faculties are assessed. In its most malicious form, a failure can even manifest itself as a learning disability. At this point it has devastating effects on how the student views themselves, and how society views the student (McDermott, Goldman, & Varenne, 2006). The fact that students are avoiding failure, with failure being an avenue to discovery, is quite troubling and has strong implications for the use of games in learning and assessment. Because of the complex nature of failure in games, standard assessment practices, such as pre and post assessments, may not accurately portray what a player learns. For example, What actions are considered to be a success? Can we still learn something meaningful even if we don’t beat the game?  In this presentation, I will share some problems I’ve identified with assessment in games, and my initial attempts to address them.