I’ve been doing some research into game design, and there’s an aspect of it that I think is really interesting in what it says about learning on the whole.
A friend of mine took a class on video game design during her undergrad, and she let me look at her notes, so I’m afraid I can’t reference a specific book on this, but the notes talk about the process of acquiring skills in games. You want people to feel challenged but not impossibly challenged. There needs to be a gradual upward curve in difficulty which, when it starts to plateau, is followed by the introduction of another skill. You don’t want to throw all of the skills at the gamer at once, it would be overwhelming, but you don’t want things to be so easy that they stop feeling challenged. You need to find that sweet spot, where things are difficult but not impossible, challenging but not overwhelming.
This makes a lot of sense to me with learning in general. Personally, I’ve always felt that I learned best and remembered most when I just jumped in with both feet. For example, right now I’m learning how to format eBooks using XML (which, if you don’t know anything about InDesign or XML, is really not as scary as it sounds). My tuition fees pay for access to lynda.com (which is a great site that offers a lot of tutorials from industry professionals in a variety of subjects, but I’m sure very expensive if I weren’t in school), and I’ve developed some playlists that I’m very excited to dig into more extensively. And I’ve only got about nine months to get through all of them, so I really should jump in with both feet.
In Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project, there was a bit that talked about how happiness is not a state that can be achieved like a trophy and then set on your mantle. Happiness can be found in the struggle, and in growth. It can be found in the process of surmounting a challenge more in the actual completion of the task you set yourself.
We just finished a big project in school and for about a day after it was over I felt like a giant weight had lifted off my shoulders. Then I felt antsy, like I was forgetting to do something, then bored. I’d gotten used to the demands on my time but, more than that, I liked the demands on my time. I like having challenges, things to figure out, things to do.
Last semester, I was in a play during the month of October (The Crucible, in case you were interested). I had … four or five performances a week, which really ate into the time I had to dedicate to my schoolwork, but the whole time the play was running, I felt like I was firing on all cylinders. I was forced to budget my time more carefully, because I didn’t have much of it. And I feel like I have to structure my different projects like that, in a series of peaks and plateaus of skill-acquisition and application. Always growing, always learning.