Optimistic Resilience in Gaming

Before I begin, let me announce that BU President Bob Brown — with regrets — has had to reschedule our February 19th BUA community evening. An unavoidable conflict has just arisen, so we will let you know when he can be with us in the future.

Last week I heard a speaker on…wait for it…video games! Her thesis revolved around what educators can learn from these games.

Did you know that the average “failure rate” on a video game (think of your avatar being killed — again and again) is 82%? And yet kids go back undiscouraged — again and again — to try to make it to the next level. How many of our students would be so optimistic if they failed a Math or English test 8 out of 10 attempts? Wouldn’t they just say they aren’t good at it, and give up?

What accounts for such optimistic resilience in gaming, and how can we tap into it in academics? The speaker suggested that games have a “noble purpose” (save that princess, kill that evil emperor), which day-to-day school work seems to lack on the surface. With this in mind, do we do enough to expose our students to higher principles and to show them the real-world benefits inherent in our subjects? In addition, gamers know that any failure can be a learning opportunity (watch out for that hidden booby trap next time), while in school a bad test seems over and done, not a way to do better in future. So how can we bring to learning that same sense of experimentation and growth, rather than an “all or nothing” despair?

I could go on, but you get the gist of the thesis. At the Academy, I believe we have a culture that does indeed capture much of what good video games provide, and that our students bring to their studies a real sense of adventure and enthusiasm. Much of this is due to our superb teachers, who have their own high sense of noble purpose and love of their subjects. Maybe we should dress our faculty in long robes with tall pointed hats to give them more of that wizardly look as mentors of the young…well, maybe not.

Warm regards,
James S. Berkman
Head of School