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Why We Should Pay Attention To Jesse Schell And His New Project Lexica
by Eugene Sheely on 05/31/14 08:17:00 pm

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 

Why We Should Pay Attention To Jesse Schell And His New Project Lexica

 

Jesse Schell has been developing a new action game called Lexica with the intention of developing life-long reading habits in children. Click here for a more detail description on what Lexica is. I’ll focus in this short article on  why people should take this educational project very serious.

 

There has been a lot of debates on the effects technology is having on our brains and how it affects the way we think and act. One of the current concerns is that these changes in our brains caused by technology, along with a decline in reading long forms of literature is turning our thinking shallow and superficial. If we can’t think deeply we are to becoming a generation of “idiots.”

 

In some circles of anthropology games, stories and art are all bundled as “play.” Play is an evolutionary activity that supercharges our brain connections with the purpose of better understanding the complexities of our world. This happens through something called implicit learning. This is where you learn relationships between different objects without being aware that you’re learning. The dopamine releases in the brain (hormone that makes activities “fun”) amplifies implicit learning.

 

 

When you’re reading fiction your brain undergoes serious structural changes that helps you better perform in the social complexities of the world. Professor of cognitive psychology at the University of Toronto Keith Oatley has done an amazing job in researching the cognitive effects fiction has on our brains. If you want more details on his research here’s a great article. In one paper Keith Oatley writers:

 

“This is why I liken fiction to a simulation that runs on the software of our minds. And it is a particularly useful simulation because negotiating the social world effectively is extremely tricky, requiring us to weigh up myriad interacting instances of cause and effect. Just as computer simulations can help us get to grips with complex problems such as flying a plane or forecasting the weather, so novels, stories and dramas can help us understand the complexities of social life.”

 

Fiction helps us understand the complexities of the social world. The book Grand Strategies: Literature, Statecraft and World Order by Charles Hill argues that a big part of educating statmen should be reading literature. Charles Hill explains that long forms of literature trains the mind to be able to see the complex interrelationships between different disciplines. Courses on Grand Strategy at Yale University focus on teaching students the humanities, since understanding the social complexities in literature will help them navigate the complexities of international politics. (A one minute Youtube clip of Charles Hill explaining the concept).

 

 

Reading fiction is a necessary activity for the development of strategic skills. In a Business Insider article the CEO of Amazon Jeff Bezos is quoted as saying that he learns more from novels than from nonfiction. As our worlds problems become more complex, we need to train our brains to understand social complexity, and reading long forms of literature seems to be the best way to achieve this. Jesse Schell is attempting to foster an intrinsic life-long love for reading literature in children, and this is why we should all be supporting him! Best of luck to you Jesse.

 


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