Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Games for ecolo-evolution; my papers and presentations for WEEC2013

Human cultures are evolving “universal” concepts of human rights and resilient response to shared challenges. Essential life-priorities must move beyond human centered sustainability and social justice to inclusive/ecocentric ethics, valuing diversity of ecosystems and species-cultures, aware of limited/renewable resources, and of the relative position of human kind within the ecosystems of interdependent Earth.

Multiple Language, interactive online and low/no-tech (board and role-play) learning games and real-world challenges can teach children/adults/communities about sustainability, interdependence, innovation/solution-design, and crisis management (e.g. health, weather, earthquakes, hypoxic ocean zones, food security, water security, etc) in fun and challenging games/forums. A board game version I could demonstrate is “dogs, cats, rats, cockroaches (or relevant regional insects: mosquitos, fleas, spiders, etc), which balances interdependent habitats, waste management and chaos/pest-infestations.

Environmental interaction/habitat games like my “Dogs, Cats, Rats and Cockroaches” help players of all ages explore concepts including:
 (how many times do you rescue the same creatures? Do you maintain the spaces in a sustainable manner, or just dump as many animals as possible, to “own” the ephemeral “value” of head-count?),
shared value (does your play provide healthy shelter and adoption opportunities for the animals; does your play enable interdependent work? is your use of available resources sustainable, or access/power driven? etc),
value differentiation, risk assessment and management, and  future-strategic play in a sustainable-or-win-at-all-costs strategy (many short-term gains with animals repeatedly returning to endangered/feral status, rather than slow, steady progress which improves conditions and expectations for majority of “stakeholders,” etc) and
knowledge-building (the online game should be able to increase the “stakes” of the shared responsibilities/value, enable expansion financial responsibility for older players…)
could be developed through data gathered during game play.

No man is an island, and my games are not “island” concepts, but interdependent games which I hope can add fun and meaningful celebrations of accomplishment to meeting real-life challenges, green, sustainability and resiliency issues. Value-differentiation, Risk/consequence-management, and Future/strategic-sustainability play games focus on building understanding and finding solutions, as well as providing fun– because, logically, stray animals don’t really find their lives to be very play-filled, game-like, or even safe, secure, or sustainable (although arguably, feral and viral populations can manifest a biologic footprint which can overtake many of the other organisms within their path/field-of-affect), nor do the other at-risk and underserved plant, animal, and human populations around the world.

Games can add tolerance, understanding, contribute ideas to the pool of solutions, and increase social interaction and Human/Gaia values as well as provide individualized entertainment and learning platforms, as well as highlight the extreme battles, obstacles, and daily tasks of life in a fun, meaningfully interactive environment. 

Of course, developmental Value-differentiation, Risk/consequence-management and Future/strategic-sustainability games can be challenging, engaging, and lots of fun, on a surface level, as “simple games,” too.  Games, like sports, have, indeed, provided a unifying balm, a focal point for disparate energies and loyalties, throughout the long centuries of our shared history. Sports and other types of games add greatly to the resilience of our lives. And, yes, gaming should be about fun, play, entertainment, and enjoyment. But that does not preclude games from including other benefits and raisons-d’etre, as well.

Some proponents of Edu-gaming tout games as a crucial determinant to the success of global progress into an interdependent 21st Century. Edu-gaming can become a tool for peace, an aid for development, a source of education, well-spring of inclusion, of emergent and indigenous knowledge, skills, and culture. Fred Donaldson, Play Practitioner, has adapted many of his successful healing techniques by decoding play signals, and observing and measuring the concessions pf behavior which overcome asymmetries of power and skill, trust and conflict.

Games can assist with learning or accomplishment, to lighten the drudgery of daily ‘devoirs’ and repetitive tasks. And, actually, I think that if social change or humanitarian groups could incorporate more games into their efforts, it might make charitable involvement and contributions more fun, the work more accessible and understandable, and the leadership/choices more transparent (concomitant to increased awareness).

Games can embrace social awareness, while not requiring huge investments time, affirmations of loyalty, or attempting to dictate mores, culture, or choices. Introductory play among mainstream, differently- and dis-abled children, preliminary liaison between hostile gangs and other groups locked in spiraling lose-lose battles, and other “intervention” meetings frequently exhibit gestures of measured social trust, “permission” to drop stances imposed by conflict, efforts to communicate, interact, and, finally, even to play.

The philosopher Plato said “you can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.” People play games not only to build bonds of understanding and trust, but to break rules, explore old concepts and new opportunities, to feel powerful, have both freedom and control, to create complex or even counter-intuitive solutions and systems to build order from chaos.

Stuart Brown, a physician and clinical researcher who founded the National Institute for Play _
http://www.nifplay.org/vision.html (play+science=transformation) discussed the primal levels at which play exists even in the wild, presenting a photo essay with a polar bear who befriended a husky dog at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iHj82otCi7U

Historically, children have had society’s “permission” to play (except in situations of deprivation). Resumption of play, or, better, continuation of play at the adult level has been shown to establish, or re-establish security, balance, and flexibility, enabling individuals and groups, human and animal, across species, and within, to react and adapt positively to the unexpected, to challenges and changes of social/community order, of the environment, of life.

Across the global financial sector, “play” earns billions a year, organized sports billions more. And yet, in urban and rural spaces all around the world, children and adults also play low- and no-tech games, requiring little more than a few sticks, or recycled scraps, a ball or two, and creativity.

Our children’s favorite games reflect this simpler approach. Most of my/our children’s games are born of necessity. Many people work long hours and have very little free time,. Many others have little or no extra income to spend on expensive entertainments. After all, for adults and children alike, life would be pretty harshly boring and inflexible without games and fun to liven things up.

And, in some of the urban and remote places we have lived, my children and I love to invent playground games, like “Octopus” (modified freeze tag, dodgeball and base-stealing game I play with my little guys) and “Lava Vulture” (modified black-swan resilience/emergency-management technique-building qua hide-and-seek, requiring participants to dodge or react to seemingly-impassible “magma” and flood zones, to establish safe habits and safe spaces and codes for run-lanes, large-bouncy-dodge-balls and tag-outs, which is enjoyed by my little guys and willing adult athletes; the game can be as simple or complex as players can handle).

Actually, home-grown sports-games like Octopus, Lava Vulture, hopscotch, musical chairs (which some scholars liken to the survival games which were born of the hunt-hide-survive and plague-eras, and the resilience-building and coping techniques the adults and children of the times developed, hundreds of years ago), and all the other games of children and care-takers worldwide will probably never have the cache, branding, and huge profits of soccer, cricket, football, and stadium sports, or online and board games. But they are fun, require little equipment, cross cultural and language barriers (for example, our children/we seldom live where we speak our mother tongue), give great exercise, challenge, team-building/rapport, and lots of laughing, wherever we play them.

Across species, play is a universal means of building trust, interaction and cooperation, creativity, growth and development. Psychiatrists and zoologists have measured the dangerous, long-term consequences of play deprivation, which include lack of social skills, lack of optimism, perceived lack of alternatives, and tendencies to meet stressful situations with violence. Like the games born of necessity, whether no-tech, low-tech, or high-tech, MMOPG, ARG, or other format–  playing games seems to be beneficial for all moving species (and maybe even plants, for all I know… climbing trees always seem to grow stronger, not weaker, with repeated interactive play from children, or climbing animals…).

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