80% errors, 20% success

80% errors, 20% success

80% errors, 20% success

“Many of life”s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.” ~ Thomas Edison

There is no need for detailed research to know just how many children play computer games. At the same time, there is something interesting in research carried out by the NPD Group: ninety percent of children in the 2-17 year age range (~64 million children) play computer games. This is an increase of 9% over the figure from 2009. Another, more interesting, fact is that the game playing population in the 2-5 year old group has grown by 17% in the past two years!

Coping with failure is one of the most difficult things for us, as human beings, to do. At times, we won’t even attempt something, because we fear failure. An educational games designer named Randall Fujimoto , and how game based learning encourages children to learn through failure. Fujimoto argues that the most computer games are based on repeated tries. For example, when you play a computer game, you fail 80% of the time. He uses the example of Angry Birds to demonstrate that you have to lose a number of times until you can understand how to win or to move up one level. Every time you fail, you learn something new. Sometimes, he argues, the right strategy is to try an approach in which you know that you will almost certainly fail, but from which you know that you will learn something significant.

Games create a comfortable environment in which not only is it safe to fail, but it is also expected that you fail, because if you don’t fail you won’t learn how to get to the next level. Fujimoto argues that, in effect, one should look upon failure as a partial success.

This approach is the complete opposite of the way in which schools operate. Most schools are not a safe environment for failure; it is very hard to take risks there. When you receive a “Fail” grade, it stays with you till the next test. In computer games, on the other hand, you can take as many risks as you want, and demonstrate creativity as much as you want. Their environments allow – and encourage – failure after failure, but at the same time allow consistent learning, and an (almost) constant attempt to advance, to go up level by level, and to win.

Cracking those elements in computer games that encourage experimentation and perseverance, as well as offering a safe environment for failure, and their integration in education and learning, could lead to fundamental changes in the way in which students cope with failure.


By: Ran Magen