“…it is easier and better to design games around understanding that it is around memorizing.”
This from an interview with Eric Klopfer of The Education Arcade on Henry Jenkins’ blog. It was made in the context of a discussion about what kinds of topics make for good games, and it is connected to the concept of abstraction that some game theorists have discussed. Specifically, if the focus of a game is on enhancing understanding of a concept, group, or event, then the designers necessarily begin by arranging those principles in the abstract and then shaping their game around them.
Or maybe they don’t. I’ve never designed a game; it just seems like the process would be similar to writing or video production, and in both those endeavors, with which I do have some familiarity, having a concept at the center of your work tends to entail development through abstract lines.
(As an aside, I just stumbled on a blog about study habits in college, studyhacks.com, in which the author discussed the importance of taking notes in class very lightly, combined with mp3 recordings for subsequent listening, in order to be able to focus on the big picture of the lecture. This is instead of getting lost in the minutia of writing everything down. There is more than a passing relationship between this concept and Klopfer’s comment as well.)
Overall, it makes sense to me to think about game design as an opportunity to transform the abstract characteristics of something into concrete–though still paradoxically abstract–simulation media in the form of an “educational” game. This surely must make the process of learning, through doing–even if abstract doing, much more effective than traditional techniques.