An Inherently Good Conversation

First of all, I love Mythbusters. So this week’s reading was about the greatest thing ever. And honestly, I never even knew a Maker Faire even existed, or that Adam Savage would talk about Why We Make things. This is why I love graduate school. It brings you cool things.

I’ve actually been fascinated by and have seen this transition from fan to engager that Adam Savage talks about in the video about how he got his hat. Amazingly, I watched a video just last night proving this, of a speedrun (my first full speedrun video I’ve ever seen actually) of the video game Psychonauts. Fantastic game, by the way. A speedrun is where a person takes a game that is mean to be anywhere from 6-80+ hours and play through as fast a possible. He beat this entire game in just over 1 hour.

But it wasn’t just your average watch-a-player-blitz-through-the-game-YouTube-video. He actually played it in a live conference room with Time Schafer and ALL of the developers who had worked on that game. Seeing their expressions as they saw loopholes in their game they never knew they had exploited was hilarious and priceless (and they were dishing it out as much as they were getting it, which made it all the more fantastic). 12:31, 15:10, 23:50(-24:40) and 26:57-27:51 (especially) are a couple of those great moments. It was all in good fun, and even more, through the course of the video it was discovered that this was not only a fan of the game, but he was also in a masters program to finish his degree in computer programming, so he knew some of the mechanics of why these loopholes were working. I would not be surprised if he was offered a job somewhere because of his ability to creatively interact with their media and having the knowledge to apply it. It is a valuable skill with real world application, and something he taught himself by engaging with it in a new way.

And maybe because it is because of our impending project coming up and so too Gee’s paper-thesis captivated me. (It’s fantastic. Everyone should read it). He took it five steps beyond any academic writing I’ve yet encountered on the subject and applied it so well. So much so that I am urging my husband to read it for pleasure reading.

There have been a plethora of articles and papers on “tapping into” video games to engage and teach teens and children. Gee took it the other way and flipped it upside down, asking instead: WHY are these kids willing to pay so much money and utilize so much free time to play something that is designed to be hard?

He breaks it down into the reasons video games are alluring, and it isn’t always/just for the pretty graphics or escapism (or several other reasons). It goes far deeper than that. People who play video games want to be engaged. They want a challenge. They want to learn actively and approach it in a hands-on (albeit virtual) way. In a way, they too can be makers (as we saw in the Psychonaut speedrun video. He created a new way to play with the game that the developers never designed or intended. He “broke” the rules and thought outside the box, and those skills should never be easily dismissed).

Adam Savage says that when you make something “the world becomes a little more parcelable, it becomes a little more understandable to you. You become a part of a conversation.”

Synergy exists. When you meet in those conversations (and I’m not just talking verbal here), you create something and there is growth there: personally, intellectually, for the world as a whole. It exists now somewhere where it didn’t before.

“When you are shaping things yourself, it is an inherently good conversation” (Savage, 2012).






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