Games Can Inspire Creative Thinking

This really became an accidental series, but I think it reflects some of what’s often in the back of my mind when I’m playing a game or watching others game.

So far, the series has covered games as:

  1. a means to develop a better self-image while building team skills
  2. a means to learn how to interact with others fairly
  3. a means to learn how to best utilize resources and develop patience

Now, we have a skill I think I probably developed from playing all sorts of games when I was younger- the ability to solve problems, think outside the box, and innovate.

I know this is going to sound crazy, but for me thinking creatively really starts with thinking logically. What’s the procedure here? What are the absolutes? What’s the goal here? What’s the common sense here? And then I start looking at what I have and where I really need to go, and I make a decision from there.

Sometimes, it’s not so clear how I’m going to put things together to solve my problem, and that’s when the creative thinking comes in. I start theorizing ways to get where I’m going and pick the simplest or most effective one. When the first doesn’t work, I pick a solution that accounts for what caused the first to fail and go with that. I keep trying until something works.

It turns out I’m not so odd in my thinking. Researchers are finding that there are gamers who make guesses, execute their guesses, and then alter them to better fit the situation when they fail. They also document their data from earlier trials to help them later on. They apply the Scientific Method to their gaming. (You knew there was a reason you should pay more attention in science class.)

Sometimes, I’ll get stuck while playing a game, and then I have to resort to walkthroughs. I have found, though, that a walkthrough is really just an account of someone else’s trip through the game, and no two walkthroughs are ever the same. So, I’ll look at how they did it to see if I’ve overlooked something, and then I continue on. What’s really interesting is that Nintendo has a patent for the “Kind Code”, an in-game walkthrough of sorts so you don’t have to go looking for outside resources when you’re stuck (and so you won’t quit the game in frustration). But you can use the in-game hint, and then decide to resolve the problem your own way if you see something that would work just as well, if not better than the game developers’ solution.

With a little experimentation and a nudge when you need it, you can actually develop some well-honed problem solving skills simply by playing games.

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