As a life-long, but not particularly avid, gamer I, like some others, have come to believe the future of the university will be built on role-playing games. In fact a lot of this blog reflects this theme and I've done a few YouTube videos trying to garner support for this idea. The other day I came across a fascinating talk on TED that added some mind-blowing numbers to the ones I've already collected:
- Active online gamers spend 10,000 hours of play by the time they are 21 (almost as much as the time spent in school). Note that ten thousand hours is the time estimated to master new skills and the time spent in school from 5th to 12th grade.
- There are 500 million active online gamers worldwide (that will grow to 1.5 billion in the next 10 years). The Pew Charitable Trust sponsored a study looking at the age distribution of gamers.
- In the game World of Warcraft a total of 5.93 million man-years has been invested by players around the globe.
- 3 billion hours a week are spent playing online games
- Assume NASA spent 13 years, from 1960 to 1972, working on Apollo.
- Lets say everyone on the program worked 261 days a year (weekends off but no vacation) for eight hours per day.
- The number of personnel stays constant over the 13 years at the 1965 number from the quote above- about 377,000.
Most people, particularly academics, would consider this a waste of time. As a gamer, I don't. We've created alternative worlds that are more fun, and at some level rewarding, to play in than our real world. It is not surprising many of our best minds, most creative students, seek reward through play since the motivations to game are the same motivations to create. This is not a problem of individuals, but is a problem of society and rewards for effort. A problem that needs to be solved both by individuals, by institutions, and by policy. And in all the discussion of policy the word "fun" is rarely heard.
Here is a challenge for engineering educators... Imagine a education system where your courses and programs weren't required, where there wasn't the carrot and stick of grades to goad students. How in this system would you fill your classes, motivate your students, and engage their long term interest?