Critical Thinking and game design

crit·i·cal think·ing
noun: critical thinking
  1. the objective analysis and evaluation of an issue in order to form a judgment.
    “professors often find it difficult to encourage critical thinking amongst their students”

Critical thinking is the intellectually disciplined process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to belief and action. In its exemplary form, it is based on universal intellectual values that transcend subject matter divisions: clarity, accuracy, precision, consistency, relevance, sound evidence, good reasons, depth, breadth, and fairness.

It entails the examination of those structures or elements of thought implicit in all reasoning: purpose, problem, or question-at-issue; assumptions; concepts; empirical grounding; reasoning leading to conclusions; implications and consequences; objections from alternative viewpoints; and frame of reference. Critical thinking — in being responsive to variable subject matter, issues, and purposes — is incorporated in a family of interwoven modes of thinking, among them: scientific thinking, mathematical thinking, historical thinking, anthropological thinking, economic thinking, moral thinking, and philosophical thinking.



I see all the time in our local Facebook group.  Parents complaining about PARCC Tests in our local schools.  That how so much emphasis is being placed on the tests, that teachers are primarily teaching students just on how to pass the test.  And I wonder.  Has this been going on for such a length of time, that we have shifted so much focus from teaching our children to think, and visualize, to research and work out problems, to just repetitive Pavlovian actions.

Perhaps it is different in other states, other countries.  If you look at younger people that play WoW, they grew up with PlayStation controllers in their hands, they know how to beat games from repetitive muscle memory, you memorize a pattern, go here, do this, interrupt that, stand here, collect loot, Win.  They have extremely advanced visual skills, can manipulate multiple tasks at the same time, testing, chatting, playing games while eating, and holding a conversation.  But they are lacking in Critical Thinking skills.  They rush head long into a battle, when they die, the run back and run headlong again, but avoid a trap.  They learn to avoid all places that cause problems that need to be overcome, and find short cuts to accomplish the goal.  They see a video posted, here is the way to short cut the encounter, and just mimic it.  They are lacking the knowledge to try to work out a way to get though the problem, only that here is the solution.  Point A to B.

I think that Blizzard and other gaming companies are still thinking as they have years ago, place problems in the way that need to be thought through, but what we have now dominating the gaming realm are teens to young adults that have not been given the tools to think in that way.  They are tuned in to immediate reality, they see a video and move on, they do not read books where your imagination needs to fill in the blanks, to visualize what you are reading.  It’s not the game designers fault, they have been guided by people from an older generation that had a different thought process.  They are building based on a template.   But they are not creating something out of a general idea.  They go to work, are handed a pile of notes, and told build it.  They look at the manual for how it is to be constructed and just do it.  They are not given the freedom to be artistic, to find alternative ways to present what is required.  And I think that may be why some say the games have lost their soul.

Just a thought for a Monday


2 thoughts on “Critical Thinking and game design

    1. I saw an article that college professors are starting to just do a short discussion, then encouraging looking at different ways to solve a problem, and, gasp, for students to actually talk to each other and work things out. Rather than go on for an hour spelling out how to solve a problem.

      So I guess if parents hand a hand in giving their child some problem solving challenges, then maybe not aced, but certainly enable to look outside the box for a solution.


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