Is School Really a Game?

I have sometimes heard life referred to as a game. Well, there actually is the game called LIFE. I’ve heard people say they’re gaming the system, jumping through hoops, she’s playing the field, if you play your cards right, make sure you have all your bases covered, he’s a real winner/loser. Life is filled with game references, or is it that games are full of life? 

GameLife      I often wonder if school is a game? According to Dr. Jane McGonigal, in her seminal book Reality is Broken: Why Games Make us Better and How They Can Change the World, all games essentially have four main components: “a goal, rules, a feedback system, and voluntary participation.” Many other bloggers have written posts about the components of games, but I want to point out that these game components are with us throughout life’s different stages.

School is a Game

Have you played the game of school? Now I don’t mean pretending to be a teacher in the basement with your friends type of game. I would argue that school is a game we all played or are playing. Are you skeptical? Ready to stop reading because this seems ludicrous? DON’T!

Reality is Broken

Think about it for a minute. The goal of school is to graduate. I know this is simplistic, but ask any senior right now, and they just want it to end. We have rules in school. Classroom rules, school rules, playground rules, writing rules, math rules (even rulers here). Rules, rules, rules! Most schools have a feedback system called grades. Oftentimes these grades represent A, Excellent; B, Above Average; C, Average; D, Below Average; and F, Failing. Speaking of failing, I would posit that one of the problems with the game of school is that of voluntary participation. Many kids simply would not choose to go to school if they were given the choice. So, school has all the main components of a game, but it’s not a very good game.

I am sure that you can find the four components of games in other life endeavors. What changes would you make to the game of school to make it a game that all students want to play?


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