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iFEST Re-cap – John Krajewski

On the scene at iFEST

“You have died of dysentery!”

John Krajewski Studio Head of Strange Loop Games, is convinced that games will revolutionize education. He cites the Oregon Trail game of the 1980’s as an exemplar of games that give students the experience of being a pioneer making the choices of what to stock in their covered wagon and then living (or dying) with their choices as they move over the oxen trail to Oregon Territory.

Some serious games are not as successful, for example those that force the player to complete math problems in order to play a game, or “stealthy” games that push information at players rather than letting them “pull” it. The award-winning game “Papers Please,” where the player has to decide whether or not to approve entry, is cited as an example of a game that makes the player care about the subject, not just practice recognizing documents.

Krajewski feels that textbooks are going away, so this is an opportunity for indies and other makers of serious games to redefine the goal of supplemental materials: learning is the tool, not the goal. Games should not push, but let the player pull. Create the need for the player to seek information. Dynamic systems are best. Let the player be part of it; allow dry subjects to become rich by creating curiosity.

The reward of developing a serious game is illustrated by the middle-schooler who was playing SimCell at the Strange Loop Games table on the iFEST floor who turned to his father to ask, “Is all this stuff really in me?” Arousing this curiosity is the real reward.