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What Do Games Teach Us?

Games are an excellent educational tool. No, not the educational games, the fun ones. They teach us by letting us experience things directly. But what is it that they teach us? This is actually an accidental effect of how our brains are wired and what we enjoy, but there are actually some things in common – things that we may not necessarily want to be taught.

Instant feedback

This is by large the most common thing. It's a principle of a good user interface and a clear information architecture and all those other principles: we like it when we get an instant response to our actions. To a point where we complain about 16 millisecond delay in the mouse cursor movement on the Macintosh computers. But the results of that go much deeper. Consider those examples:

Punishment for mistakes

Every mistake must be punished. The punishment is usually in one of three forms:

Conversely, any action that is not punished is fine, and quite possibly even desirable. Go on, go into people's houses, break all the vases, kill the peasants, etc.

Obey

Your task is to guess what the author wants you to do, and then do that.

Completing

Eat all the dots. Explore the whole level. Kill all the enemies.

There is always a solution

No matter how hard the problem may seem, there is always a solution engineered in. And if there is some odd item lying around, you will probably need to use it in some way.