Remember Halloween parties as a kid? Did you ever stick your hand, blindfolded, into a bowl of real squishy human eye-balls? GROSSSS!
I mean, they were peeled grapes, but inside that dark box, they totally could have been!
Educational games are like that.
You can tell people about success. You can talk about what it’s like to achieve your mission - to clean the ocean of plastics and stop poaching lions, but it’s not the same. And I could tell you what it feels like to stick your hand in a bowl of grapes.
I’m doing it right now! Probably you feel some kind of way about it - gross, cold, squirmy.
And yet, it’s still not the same.
It’s not the same as that moment your outstretched fingers, groping in the dark, first make contact with those slimy, unknown globs of grape.
When you touch it, you know.
That’s the magic of games. They’re experiential. They’re all sorts of other good things (safe, forgiving, identity-making, etc.) but they work because you’re doing things. You inhabit them.
And when you’re trying to make a difference in the world, it can be hard to imagine success. Lowering greenhouse gases or achieving financial equality can feel so far away.
For me at least, big goals like that can feel disturbingly far away at times.
What games can do is make those goals real. They can let players taste the success. They can let people touch the cool, peeled, grapes.