Infinite frame games for lifelong learning, defined

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Chapter the third, Wherein Donald embarks on an epic quest to do what he promised to, namely, to write a series of blog posts explaining the inchoate and ambiguous terminology he referred to in his first blog post.

So let's see -- In my first post I explained that my current goal is to create infinite frame games for lifelong learning. Let's unpack that statement and see if we can figure out what we are trying to do and how it can benefit society.

We should start with some general idea of what we mean by a game. This is a commonly-used term and there are some very good definitions out there. Bernard Suits describes a game as 'the voluntary attempt to overcome unnecessary obstacles'. Wikipedia opens their article on Game with 'A game is structured playing, usually undertaken for enjoyment and sometimes used as an educational tool'. I find it fascinating that, in this last definition, a distinction is being made between 'enjoyment' and 'education'. Marshall McLuhan said that 'anyone who tries to make a distinction between education and antertainment doesn't know the first thing about either' and this statement goes both ways. Education can be entertaining and entertainment can be educational. We often learn things through arbitrary gameplay, though these things are not always that useful. Indeed, this has been the great challenge of games for learning. We have tried to make entertaining games that are designed to teach specific concepts. In making the games fun we often lose sight of the focused learning. In making them educational we often lost sight of the fun.

This is where the term 'frame' comes in. Frame games are a new way of looking at games. Instead of creating a game tailored to a specific subject and designed to be used inside the classroom, we strive to make games that are general in nature and wrap around classrooms. These 'frame games' can suffuse a learning environment without interfering with the pedagogy of the educator. An educator can teach with games or not. They can teach with a computer, or a whiteboard, or a chalkboard. They can teach interactively or with lectures. The game is not dependent on the mode of teaching. The game exists to encourage non-educational behaviors that are nonetheless correlated to success. The simplest example is a game that encourages attendence. Encouraging students to attend class does not interfere with or depend upon the style of teaching, yet it is almost certain to improve the performance of the students. Frame games transcend some of the challenges of lower-order classroom-bound educational games but they bring about their own challenges. They can impose order on informal situations and run the risk of stifling the inherent openness of the playground, lunchroom, livingroom, and other externalized but connected aspects of a students educational life.

This is where the infinite part comes in. James Carse in 'Finite and Infinite Games' says that finite games have a definite beginning and ending. They are played with the goal of winning. A finite game is resolved within the context of its rules. Infinite games, on the other hand, do not have a knowable beginning or ending. THey are played with the goal of continuing play and bringing more players into the game. An infinite game continues play, for the sake of play, and its rules are subject to change according to the desires of the players. Carse tends to view games from a philosophical standpoint, saying there is only one inifnite game: Life. Peter Suber, in The Paradox of Self-Amendment, suggests that such an infinite, self-amending game can actually exist. He designed such a game and called it Nomic.

So, what I am trying to create is an infinite frame game. A self-amending metagame that surrounds and suffuses traditional education. I intend to create an epibolic layer on top of education, in order to embrace traditional education, extend it, and, ultimately extinguish it in order to make room for something else entirely.

This game has no knowable beginning or ending. In fact, it has already begun. If you are reading this, you are already a player. Welcome. Your turn is coming up.

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