Designed Information Behaviour

From a reflective prompt in Module 4:

Can you identify critical elements of information behaviour, and how those elements would apply to game narrative and construction?

When we talk about knowledge networks, it’s often in relation to social networks, collaborative authoring, curation, Web 2.0 tools, meta-data etc; our massive web of connections and information flow, as enabled through technology. As the scale of these networks grow and more nodes become connected and connecting, so the value of the network increases – the information is amplified, the learning possibilities exponentially growing (although not without it’s quality, copyright, and privacy issues).

The information is worth accessing, therefore. It allows old information to be paired in new ways, and creativity to flourish amidst the torrent of burgeoning connections while taking advantage of the “wisdom of the crowds”. It’s a new way to look at knowledge, and your role in it, and therefore requires new kinds of literacies to make sense of, access, critically appraise, and contribute to this information web.

It’s getting harder and harder to justify an independent, transmission based, written word based, education model, as students are growing up into a knowledge ecology which is collaborative, participatory, and multimodal.

Apologies – I digress…

What I really wanted to talk about was the additional layer of information behaviour which digital games activate, in addition to the ones we normally talk about – the social networks / knowledge tools and platforms both in and out of games / Web 2.0 stuff. Actually, we probably don’t talk about those enough, but regardless, I want to venture into this “designed” aspect of digital games.

The mechanics of a game add to the information ecology circulating around the experience. The game designers want you to learn as you progress, and there are particular ways this is designed into games – either diegetically or non-diegetically (I’m pretty sure those are proper words). Gradually drip-feeding in more challenging content is the classic way this occurs; players become overwhelmed with information if it is all just introduced at the start. Smart design of challenges and encounters allows you to naturally learn what you need to do to progress, whereas (in my opinion) a more cumbersome approach is through popups and tooltips and tutorials running you through things, breaking the immersion.

When you think about it like this, you can make parallels with what “good learning” can look like in schools – naturally introduced, purposeful, part of a bigger picture, intergrated, not siloed, part of an authentic experience.

Teachers have a role to play, just as game designers do – to “tilt the landscape” of learning towards discovery rather than overt knowledge transmission. We can choose to set the learning amidst natural, authentic, purposeful progression, or be the kinds of teachers which break immersion by constantly “popping up” and giving unneeded tutorials.

What I’m saying is that I think it’s always better to learn something yourself or go out and seek it yourself, rather than a higher power teaching you it, and good teachers can make this happen, just like good game designers can in effective, immersive digital games.