Convergences: Build.Break.Make & Jane McGonigal

Some of the youths attracted by PIGSquad’s games and apps.

Parents really, really want game design education and opportunities for their children to make games.  It was palpable at the OMSI Mini Maker Faire where the Portland Indie Game Squad hosted an exhibition of indie games.  Will Lewis invited me to talk with attendees about Pixel Arts and our planned educational initiatives.  One parent let us know, “my son doesn’t stop talking about Minecraft.  He keeps asking how he can make games.  I don’t know what I should tell him.”  Advice has its difficulties when done from afar, but we did offer some starting points as learning mentors.  It wasn’t just Minecraft though, and many parents signed up for our e-mail newsletter.

OMSI’s Mini Maker Faire gives us early validation of our educational goals: offer maker-based education in art, design and programming through video games.  As important, I think it validates the Right Brain Initiative’s goal of STEM to STEAM and that parents are deeply bothered by cuts and the loss of arts and humanities in schools.  OMSI’s nickname for the maker faire was Build.Break.Make, and it’s what I would call Play.Make.Design.  In either case, learning is embedded in iteration through engagement, mentoring and collaboration.

Iteration surfaces this week with two more convergences, Dr. Jane McGonigal and Kickstarter.  McGonigal is speaking this Thursday, Sept. 19, at Concordia University on the power of education and gaming.  Her SuperBetter and book Reality is Broken stretch what we conventionally mean by playing games toward systems of feedback loops and flow through divergent states.  Instead of tight loops of scarcity and reward found in gamification and freemium play, the preferred directive is gamefulness through an iteration of engagement.  In that spirit, check out this homage to her work with Dropkicker: Kick Your Bad Habits for Good, a new Kickstarter with a simple story:

A little over a year ago, I changed jobs, moved to a new apartment, and did a few other things that caused the amount of cash in my life to decrease – a LOT. I was stressing out about money and feeling lousy because I felt like I wasn’t in control of my life. I’d been reading Jane McGonigal’s book “Reality is Broken,” and thinking about the game “Chore Wars” by Kevan Davis, and hit on the idea of turning my financial struggles into a game. 

Along the way, we realized that what we were really working on was something that made good financial habits easier to learn. “Why not do this for all sorts of habits?” we thought, and DropKicker was born. 

I’ll be at her talk with our community group, Portland Games for Change.  Feel free to join us and chat; we’ll be at McMenamins beforehand from  5:30-6:30pm.  For information and volunteer opportunities, come by  our google group Pixel Arts PDX.