Serious Games

I have often felt from those older than I am that games are not useful teaching techniques; yet the field of e-learning (that I work in) is replete with counterexamples. Some of this thinking is generational and some of it is misunderstanding. The older conventional wisdom is “Learning is serious. It’s your responsibility to learn. Grin and bear it.” There is much wrong with this attitude, but I want to focus on what is right — that the learner is expected to take what is being presented seriously, and then diligently go and learn it. A corollary is “Teachers are to be respected because they have knowledge and wisdom.” So good so far.

With that said, are games largely a reaction to the unserious nature of learners today? Yes and no. First, no. The game-as-learning motif really stems from the love of games from those who grew up in the 80’s and 90’s. It leans heavily on the simulation aspect of games, which does well in teaching people. (Just ask the military.) Those who grew up later still have been surrounded by games.

Now, for the yes. Those who want to learn will learn. These are the self-motivated people who succeed in life. For them, games are not strictly necessary, although they will use them, or anything else that is available. I think of myself when I was interested in the Byzantine empire. I devoured everything I could find about it. It would not have mattered if the information was on microfiche or reel-to-reel tapes. I would have found a way to listen to it and learn it, because it had captured me.

Again and again learning magazines state that the whole in-person teaching model is dead, because it’s non-interactive. However, what is not being asked is, “Why?”. Have people’s brains changed? Are people physically different from college students in the ’40’s? Not much. What has changed? Culture. Now people expect to be served, rather than to serve, and this manifests in even how they are taught. We can expect very little self-motivation today, and those who are self-motivated stand head and shoulders above the crowd. Those who do get going, like a heavy boulder, once pushed — even they are rare. People who are uninterested in learning and thus uninterested in their own future are common. Strangely this occurs when knowledge is more widespread than it ever has been in human history. Is it that if people don’t have to work for it, then they don’t want it at all? Yet games pose challenges and rewards. Thus, games are being used to motivate those who are not self-motivated, do not esteem authority or wisdom, but are willing to play a game, even a serious game whose aim is learning. Games have always been used to teach. That is nothing new. However, when games are the primary way that learning transpires, I think that is what is different, and troubling.

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How Many Would Attend Your Funeral?

Although the questions sounds like one of so-many Facebook games, it came to me with an unwanted heaviness, crushing my lungs beneath its weight. Life is not about accumulating admirers, friends, relationships to put in the trophy case on our wall, but nevertheless, the question remained, demanding an answer. I could count the numbers on three hands — my wife, my parents, my brothers (because they’d have to, not because we are close), two semi-friends, and some people from work. Maybe some people from the past would show; maybe not. I felt this not as a measure of popularity, but one of influence. How many people had I really touched? How many had I really reached? When I was in the grave, and my soul was at home with the Lord, who would notice?

I would not want an English funeral in all its grandeur, nor a twenty-one gun salute. Bury me in the rain on a lonely hill in the grieving countryside; in the hills and forests where I was born, there return my form. My soul will be released and the anguish of life will be over, but the crowd below will be few. Perhaps fifteen, gathered beneath umbrellas under the grey sky? Perhaps.

What will I have left behind? Some interactive fiction games, poetry, some songs, other writings — reviews, essays, rants, all never to be published. So many things unfinished, I would also leave, things that could have been great, but instead all they were were vellities. My heart turns in upon itself.

So few know me though I write every week, though I walk amongst them every day, though I work with them, though I am related to them. In the mad onrush of the chattering extrovert world, we quiet ones live with one foot in the grave. It is my great suspicion that were half the world to vanish the other half would not notice.

In the end, the irony will not be that I have died, it will be that I had made so little impact that my absence would scarcely be noticed. Do I want to be noticed even dying? Do I want to make others care even then? Do I want others to grieve for I am gone? No, but it would be nice to know that I blessed them while I breathed.

How many would attend your funeral?

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The Underside of Technology

Although I have written before on the deleterious effect of hype (here, here, and here), I didn’t have an insider’s view of it. Nasim does, and he blows the whole machine up from the inside out. Read the whole thing.

I am stunned at how pervasive and how dishonest the tech/influencer/social media schtick is. This is way beyond anything I suspected. We are all being played and we have been for a long, long time. I am fortunate in that my discernment is healthy and active, so I have been able to avoid manipulation by most; however, now my eye is extremely suspicious. The influencer model is the way most marketing is done now, which means a few things to me, personally:

  • Never pre-order anything. This dovetails with the old adage “never buy 1.0 of anything.” Wait for reviews from people who actually use the product.
  • Never trust any reviewer who doesn’t at least disclose their affiliate marketing.

In short, only the honest can be trusted. Funny how the world still needs and still craves people who tell the truth without favor or fear, isn’t it?

Hype can never satisfy, because it isn’t designed to do so. It is designed to move product, not tell you the truth or ensure your happiness.

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Social Media is the New Popularity

Now I see.

The games played in junior high school and high school to be popular have their digital equivalents in social media. Remember the popular people, who were liked by so many? They are the ones with the most “friends” now, too, if Facebook friends are really friends. They are the ones with the most followers. They are the ones with the most +1s, upvotes, comments, and so on, and they collect these things like the tokens of a shaman and wear it for all to see.

Web 2.0 and Web 1.0 weren’t like this. Social media is not a new phenomenon, but it makes me think what the Web used to be like before it became a sad replay of the worst of jr. high and high school. What those days lacked in “socialness” they made up for in individuality and in trust. You could reach anyone with their email address. Now email addresses are rarely displayed and everyone has to deal with the overflow of junk mail hawking porn. Have we progressed? In many ways it doesn’t seem like it, and a world, even a virtual world, ruled by the popular clique is not a place I really want to be. Yet the deafening drone to be popular rolls on.

Entrepreneurs are preached to again and again that popularity is the commerce that they need to trade in. And the same sad lecture has been sold to actors, writers, playwrights, musicians, and especially bloggers. Yet, is popularity really how we should measure our lives? Sure, likes, comments, upvotes, etc are cool, but are they the reason why we do things? If so, then we are simply whores.

I’d much rather be the outcast kid who gets up on stage and blows everyone away with his talent and then goes back to his quiet life off the stage, a soldier like Cincinattus, not someone who feels like he has to put on a show every moment of his life for everyone to see. Sorry, social media — we aren’t friends and we never will be. It’s time to do what we do not for the adoration of the crowd but because we were made to do it, in-season and out of season, whether history loves us or not, whether we have fame or ignominy, because what we do is why we are here. Let the shallow minnows flounder in the kiddie pool of life with all its plastic toys. We will be captains of the depths.

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The Odd and the Unknown

Lately, I have been researching mermaids. As with anything out-of-the-norm, there are volumes of bunkum, ranging from taxidermy specialists to flim-flam artists, people faking the past, and on and on. However, there are still corners and edges of existence that are rarely seen and grasped only tenuously. You can find all sorts of claims by the gullible, but you also have to contend with the arrogant superiority of scientism. Here is a great example of the latter perspective.

Note the chronological snobbery — surely, people of the past mistook ordinary creatures for mermaids! Why? Because people of the past were stupider, more rural, and not as cultured or educated as we are today. Does any of this sound familiar?

Note also the hilarious statement close to the end. So you think that not “believing” (the author’s words) in global warming is tantamount to making the large logical leaps that you think ignorant people in the past performed? Really now. The people who claim to be so smart are often the most ignorant and are also usually the most inexperienced in life. I have experienced many strange things, and I know personally people who have experienced things I have not. They are reliable witnesses, and experience speaks louder than the arrogance of scientism. After all, scientism is the philosophy that proclaims infinite knowledge yet cannot understand how its prescriptions lead to high suicide rates and societal chaos.

Scientism takes large logical leaps as well — consider Darwin’s assumption that life naturally evolves — that is, becomes more complex and refined over time. Thus, you see all sorts of wide leaps when you begin to discuss “intermediate forms”, like dog-whales and other such unproven monstrosities for which no fossil evidence has ever appeared. Likewise, scientism believes that organs such as the eye can evolve, when all biological evidence points towards irreducible complexity.

Those who live in glass houses should not throw stones. I raise you a Piltdown man to your bluff of the ignorant dead.

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The Irrelevance of Network Television

I was talking with my wife’s father one night, and he expressed disgust that network television was (in my words) “blackscaping” — that is, creating shows that are by, for, and about blacks. This was not a new phenomenon to me; it has been going on for several years, as the networks seek an audience that they can appeal to and which they think will be loyal to them. That network television is at home in the gutter is nothing new also, so if they want to appeal to low-class blacks, they are free to do so. It’s not racist in itself or really even racist in its effects. It’s just money and an audience that is willing to be entertained by what ABCCBSNBC pumps out.

Yet her father was offended. He viewed it as an assault. This perplexed me. No-one is forcing you to watch the dinosaur networks. There are literally thousands of channels out there via cable, streaming companies, Youtube channels, etc. We are literally drowning in choices. Who cares what these dying companies do? They’ve already told me they don’t want my time or my money and have been consistent in saying it. I don’t even know the last time I watched a network show — it has been that long. I watch fansubbed anime, film noir, Korean dramas, or whatever else looks interesting on whatever streaming plan we’re on at the moment when I feel like watching something. Usually I’m too busy DOING something to just be WATCHING, though.

What I realized is that some people feel that the networks owe them something. They don’t. They present a product and we vote with our remotes. NBCCBSABC have been dead to me for more than 20 years, so I regard what they do as being a sad curiosity. It doesn’t affect my life in any substantial way, and I’m over playing outrage politics. They don’t even exist in my world, so they can’t bother me. How bored must you be to be offended by what they do? Can you find nothing else to watch? I mean, is there literally nothing else you can find?

As the ad says, “Find new roads.”

While I don’t like everything I find, I’ve found some amazing and beautiful things. These I keep. Those, I remember. The trash I delete or click back. It doesn’t stay. It has no hold upon me and so the net effect it leaves is just about nothing.

Find new roads.

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The World Does Not Need You

Whenever I read something like this, all I can say is that the world does not need you. If you have lived your whole life without being aware of the rest of the world around you, so focused on your own specialty and never once thinking in any moral dimension, why start now? Why declare the obvious as though you were the first to discover fire? You should be mourning your amazing blindness. Furthermore, just what has woken you up? Trendy crises? A need to sell more product so it’s time to pretend that you care? I don’t see any great life change or spiritual insight. Just spare me the SWJ virtue-signalling, ok? I don’t care. Nobody else really cares either — they’re too busy pretending to care by fighting with other “woke as f” people on the interwebz. All your great designs really amount to jack, because they’re not doing anything that really matters. Go lead the next great boycott of Uber or something.

Everything that everyone does constantly reflects morality. You cannot help but shout what you value through your words, deeds, and even thoughts. This is elementary, and there is nothing more boring nor more offensive than fakery. I suspect the author of fakery to the umpteenth degree.

Creative activist? No. I leave that to the shallow souls who founder feet from shore. I am a creative person communicating in myriad ways the strange and beautiful truth of God. I am an activist, never, but an artist always.

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A Representative Republic is a Moral Test

Every so often someone will argue for direct democracy, as though there was wisdom in crowds. I will tell them that voting on a representative is a moral test of the populace. It is also a test of willpower and focus — that is, do you care enough to participate? Do you care to vet a candidate? Do you care to help him or her run? If you do not care, you will be governed by those who did and do. And if you cannot be bothered to participate at this level of effort, why do you propose something that requires much more effort?

Representatives Are Emissaries or Diplomats

The idea of representation in itself assumes that people are too busy doing real work to muck with government all the time. They should therefore choose someone they trust to do business on their behalf. The whole framework supposes that the people are the masters and they are sending an emissary or a diplomat to a foreign land to express their interests. This style of government is a moral test for the populace because the populace gets to choose its representatives. If the people become inured to volunteering wicked or corrupt men to represent them, that reflects upon what they have deemed morally acceptable first. That is why Benjamin Franklin once said when asked about what style of government he had helped create, “A republic, if you can keep it.” Only a moral populace can keep a republic. Corrupt men will be ruled by tyrants.

The Nature of Man

Having the people vote on everything, say even at a state level, without checks and balances, would lead to despotism (mobocracy is a form of tyranny by the crowd). If enough people voted to sabotage the engines of freedom, then such would come to be. Therefore, it is beneficial to have some proxy to make sure that changes are not made in haste. Checks and balances are another way to prevent hasty changes and to prevent a small group from wielding influence unsupported by their numbers. Those in favor of direct democracy often do not understand nor appreciate the value of checks and balances, because they do not understand the nature of man.

Let us examine the position in greater detail. Do such advocates favor restoring the rights of states to appoint senators however they wish? Of course not, because they make the facile assumption that more voting = more power. Also, they assume that the state’s interests among peers are best represented by a popular contest, which the framers of the Constitution decided against.

For the people to vote for both representatives and senators at the national level defeats the purpose of checks and balances. When a candidate must court an entire state full of people as a US senator, how representative is that senator? The answer to a not-very-representative system is not less representation, but more — more representation of different players. Again, checks and balances.

The Nature of the Advocate

The very same people who claim to be so interested in direct democracy are the same ones whose do not participate much in the system now. Why should we believe such hypocrites? They have no idea how much time direct voting would consume, nor any idea of the scope of work to make it happen, nor any concept of privacy or security. A linchpin of representative republic is that the government is in the end, not very important; commerce, individual pursuits, and the spiritual life are far more important. That is why so many state legislatures do not meet all-year. Even the US Congress has recesses. So these advocates are people with too much time on their hands; perhaps they should get productive first?

In the end, the case for mob rule is not convincing. Mob rule via direct voting does nothing but burden all with the exercise of administration. I do not want to spend my time doing this, and few other people do, either. Most people do not have some weird desire to run everything or control everything or constantly be involved in controlling or running government. Government is necessary but it is not supremely important. I have other things to do with my time than continuous voting. Don’t you?

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Prepare in Quiet

Part of living well is to purposefully and violently screen out all of the things that do not matter, and in this modern age, we are bombarded with them from the moment we wake to the time we sleep. Advertisements, shows, movies, books, magazines, podcasts, emails, texts, social media sites, social activities, work activities, seminars, continuing credits, classes — the barrage is relentless. Is it any wonder that quiet is the new radical? That being alone is a time more prized than any other? Old and true words have been speaking all along, but few listened — Jesus himself withdrew to lonely places to commune with the Father. We were not built to be machines, to be tattered and frazzled and run ragged. To win we must withdraw. To triumph we must prepare in quiet. For we are not at peace, how can we engage with the harried world? It will overcome us. So then we must be at peace, stable, secure, ordered, primed.

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The Magical Thinker

One aspect of modern society is the emergence and the widespread occurrence of the magical thinker. The magical thinker is one who does not think carefully and does not examine deeply what he or she experiences. He or she usually suffers from a techno-euphoia syndrome where the latest tech fixes all problems, always. The disappointment felt by the magical thinkers is always fixed by the next tech product, of course. The magical thinker believes in and is seduced by the easy fix, the magic potion, the pied piper.

Magical thinkers are a bane to the rest of existence. They proclaim the difficult things to be easy and so they delude others like them and the rresulting happy hordes run off cliffs. Worse, they make the rest of life difficult because then other magical thinkers are frustrated when we cannot multiply bread and fishes like Jesus. Sorry, but simple vector graphics are not the same as bitmap photos, and the two cannot be treated the same way. No, Obama’s birth cert was never credible because of PDF layers — sorry!

It is frustrating because people invent things to solve a limited number of problems, and this lurching forward into the future is both healthy and good. This is not to discount the revolutions caused by discovery or genius, not at all. However, one is not the other, and even a revolution in say, plastics, does not make other areas of life suddenly better. Even a revolution in plastics has limited application, because some items are still better made with metals.

Magical thinkers don’t care about any of that, because they aren’t really interested in creating things, building things, or doing things. They flit about like hummingbirds, seeking the next big thing, the next great high, the easy fix, the magic potion. Such are not to be found in this world or any other, and that is not doom. That is reality, and it is reality to appreciate things for what they are, for the benefits that they provide, and not to idolize them or to be disappointed when they do not save your soul.

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