Happy 2016!

Happy New Year! I hope the holiday season’s been memorable for everyone. This week, it’s time to set new goals for the upcoming 12 months.

I do have some big plans for the days ahead, but I’ll be honest – I’ve never been much of a planner. I don’t like planning beyond a certain period of time because even the best laid-out plans have a way of going south. If the contingencies fail too, then I’d just be setting myself up for a disappointment.

Planning isn’t for everyone, but everyone does it to some degree

I used to think that I was just no good at planning. Some circumstance or the lack of willpower would result in me breaking a resolution. It was only until recently, when the GF mentioned instances in which I’d planned extensively, that got me thinking about what that word in question encapsulated.

Planning is not merely about setting goals – the latter is a subset of planning. We plan in many aspects of our life, and as most students these days are gamers, I can say with great certainty that many of them do plan in their own way.

planning games
Planning takes place at many levels, from breaching a room to designing a base/castle.

A lot of games, be they casual or hardcore, allow for some planning on strategic/tactical levels. We just don’t think of them as ‘planning’ in that traditional sense, but the process is still similar. Have a look at the following checklist:

1) Consider situation
2) Work out an optimal solution
3) Execute
4) Repeat Steps 1-3 if things fall apart

You can apply the above checklist to a variety of games including: Minecraft, Clash of Clans, Counter-Strike, Quake, Command & Conquer. The mechanics may differ from game to game, but these are the processes we often go through on a subconscious level while playing.

Quake: mega-health spotted ===> camping mega-health spawn could be a smart move ===> guard corners while waiting for mega-health to spawn.

Minecraft: we come to a dead-end; venture? ===> venture ahead as there may be a cave nearby ===> break 2×1 blocks at a time, slowly but resolutely.

While in such cases players don’t plan too far ahead, they’re still engaged in some form of predictive play. They’re actively considering a few steps ahead. That’s planning in itself.

Adapting game planning to actual planning

As adults, we take planning for granted because our minds are capable of handling multiple facets of the process – the time, place, task, etc – with precision. Kids, however, are still developing cognitively, and may need alternative methods as learning crutches to help them see the bigger picture. I speak for myself when I say this, but I’ve found it easier to see the importance of planning when drawing metaphors from games. I could liken lesson planning to strategic assaults from Jagged Alliance 2, for example; as well, Fallout’s amazingly dialogues have shown that it’s possible to think about the direction in which a response will likely lead towards.

In that sense, we could link the planning processes of gaming to story-writing, to assist kids with difficulties in laying out a road map for their protagonists. Talk to them about how they feel when playing their favourite games. How do they descend ravines in Minecraft? What contingencies do they produce to mitigate a possible series of bad dice rolls when board gaming? Help them see that the same methodologies that they use for developing plans in games can be used for crafting brilliant stories too. Getting better at planning narrative arcs before committing the pen to paper will help our learners create distinct, memorable stories. It is easier to construct dynamic scenes or establish narrative hooks by thinking ahead what our characters will do in specific scenarios.

Do you agree with the above, that most of us have an innate capacity to plan even when playing games that seemingly require little thought? Feel free to share your views in the comments. Until next time, happy gaming in 2016! 🙂

-Jim

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