My Best Teaching Is One-on-One


Of course, I team teach and do special lessons, etc.


But my best work in the classroom is after the lesson is over --
going one-on-one,
helping individual students with their assignments.


It's kind of like with computer programs, walking the client through hands-on.
The job isn't really done until the customer is using the program.


Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Playing Games with Our Children's Emotional Well-being

I've spent a lot of time watching my children playing video games these last few weeks. It's something I've needed to do for a long time. Parents should play with their children, even if the games the children are playing are no longer interesting to the parents like they used to be.

My son's main game is Star Wars Battlefront. Or whatever.

My daughter's main game is Dragon's Dogma.

Dragon's Dogma has a lot of realism, in that you can see the relationship between what you have done in the past building up what you can do now and in the future.

But it is missing some important realism. After a certain point, which my daughter passed long ago (well, about a month ago, but a month is a long time for kids), beating and killing every apparent enemy in sight should start burning your game karma.

She did recently get a quest to go help a goblin king, but this goblin king is not related to the goblins she kills on a regular basis to improve her experience points and get money so she can get into the harder parts of the dungeon Dragon's Dogma world.

Well, now that her experience points are getting on up there, the goblins die too cheaply now to pay as much attention as she used to. She just runs past them more, now.

I'm thinking that, at her level, killing domestic pigs and wild rabbits for sport and practice should produce negative experience points. Likewise, killing weaker enemies should begin to carry negative experience points, and running past them should yield positive points.

Or maybe the game should begin to track karma in addition to experience at some point, such that unnecessary violence would negate experience.

One more thing, there ought to be ways to actually help enemies constructively, in a way that would give bonus karma or something.

If you've read this far, maybe you can guess what critiques I have for Star Wars Battlefront.

The game, as it exists (or, perhaps, as my son plays it) runs in a "Bang! You're dead!" -- "I'm a new man now!" mode that is typical of young children's cops-and-robbers games. You attack or hide and snipe. You get killed. You come back to life at sort-of random places in the battlefield and continue until time runs out or one team hits the points target. Points for kills and points for assists and points for taking out automated weapons, etc.

Beginners' strategy. It's good for practicing the controls.

I'd personally rather they called "kills" "takedowns", and called "coming back to life" "extraction and re-insertion", but that's not my primary concern.

There is an attempt to capitalize on strategy-building game play, and some of the games look like they should push the players towards cooperative strategies, but I don't really see that happening. That is, it seems like you have to pay to join the parts where strategy building can occur and where real cooperation can occur. Since I'm a cheapskate and not paying all of his college tuition, he doesn't have enough money to get into those parts, and I can't see if that really happens.

It's hard for me at this point to be too critical of EA about their marketing strategies. The laborer is worthy of her hire. And thou shalt not muzzle the ox. Etc. But I have the impression that paying to play just gets you more weapons and armor, and entrance to more battlegrounds.

I want to see play modes other than I'm-a-new-man. I'm-a-new-man mode should only be the most basic practice mode.

There could be a slightly advanced tag mode where, instead of killing, you freeze the enemy. And if you touch a frozen player on your team, he is unfrozen.

This alone would expand the strategies and significantly reduce the emotional isolation my son plays in. And it would be more realistic, better echoing the need to get wounded soldiers out of the battlefield in real war conditions.

I think there is a built-in audio chat function, but it costs money. If that's the case, maybe I should subsidize that part of my son's play. Chat could help him learn more cooperative strategies.

And he needs to learn to talk with the other guys he's playing with. Anonymous fighting is not good for a person's emotional health.

I'd like to see a standard battle mode where soldiers are responsible for getting downed soldiers to the battlefield hospital. It would be really cool to have players taking turns as medics and carrying the downed players off the battlefield, but even requiring a simple tag from a teammate to bring the downed players out would be an improvement.

Having to spend too long recuperating would impact the play-action, but coming back to life takes about fifteen seconds anyway. That might as well be visualized as being in the battlefield hospital.

I know enough about games programming to know it would not be easy to do the part about carrying the downed players off the battlefield. The rest of what I've described above should not be too hard.

Not really changing the subject, ...

Yesterday, we heard news about a high school boy who killed his grandparents because he was stressed out at school. It is not clear that he had any ill-will towards his grandparents.

What follows is a bit speculative, but I think it's stuff that needs to be considered more carefully.  

Watching my son play his game, I could see how easily a boy could get lost in the play of the game and not really be able to understand that killing people in the real world means they are really taken out. Permanently.

I feel sad for that boy's family, but I also feel sad for that boy. He has lost his grandparents to his own lack of judgement, he has lost a normal relationship with his parents, and he has lost a huge piece of his own life.

My son has the advantage of a Christian background. He understands that the Japanese/Buddhist traditions about re-incarnation are not to be taken too seriously.

I'm not sure that he recognizes that the apparent cruelty of many historic samurai was in part due to the belief that everyone gets recycled anyway.

I'm not saying that the current crop of video games train children to be killers.

I'm not saying we have a duty to make all the games fit some goody-two-shoes helicopter parents' point of view. Taking all the violence and gore out is not a good idea.

I am saying we are not teaching our children some good things that we could be teaching them.

I am saying that the question
Will it sell like hotcakes and make my company the number one company in the world?
as a marketing question is in the same class of thinking as I'm-a-new-man-again games. Managers who talk like that should be retired if they are old enough. If ther are too young to retire, they should be sent back down the ladder or temporarily taken out of the game, to learn more about what's really important.

(Everyone is too young to retire, really.)

We can and should do better, not for today's bottom line, and not for tomorrow.

We must learn to do better for all of our children's tomorrows that may not be.

(I plan to translate this into Japanese, but I have no time today.)

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