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November 07, 2006

The Play of Imagination:


Extending the Literary Mind

"In the past decade, beginning with Ultima Online, a new genre of interactive play has emerged in the form of massively multiplayer online games (MMOGs). These games combine the power of traditional forms of roleplaying games with a rich, textured graphical framework. The result has been the emergence of game spaces which provide players with new and unusual opportunities for learning. As these games become increasingly popular and as they begin to approximate large scale social systems in size and nature, they have also become spaces where play and learning have merged in fundamental ways, where players have become deeply enmeshed in the practices and cultures of interactive play, collaboration, and learning. More important is the idea that the kind of learning that happens in these spaces is fundamentally different from the learning experiences associated with standard pedagogical practice. In this paper, we examine how this new world of games has captured the imagination and how the play of imagination that it engenders yield insights into the way play, innovation, and learning are connecting for the 21st century.

The power of these particular games rests with the way in which they allow players to construct vivid and meaningful “conceptual blends” by taking different worlds (such as the physical and the virtual) and combining them to create new and better ways to understand both the game world they inhabit and the physical world. Where MMOGs differ from other kinds of games is in their deeply social nature. While a traditional “game” remains at the core of MMOGs, the rich social fabric that the game produces blurs many of the boundaries that we tend to expect such as the distinction between the physical and the virtual, the difference between player and avatar, and the distinction between work and play. Further, we argue throughout the essay that the learning that happens in MMOGs is tied to practices, but those practices are not solely the practices of game play or even skills such as resource management. They are, instead, the skills of learning how to use one’s imagination to read across boundaries and be able to find points of convergence and divergence between different worlds to understand their relationships to one another. MMOGs encourage the use of imagination to bridge the gaps and boundaries between worlds to provide a more complete and a more complex understandings of both the virtual and the physical worlds the player inhabits." Continue reading The Play of Imagination: Extending the Literary Mind, Working Paper - September 16, 2006 by Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown.

Posted by jo at November 7, 2006 04:06 PM