How Games Inspire Breakthrough Thinking—And How Publishing Can Benefit
At the heart of any good game are mechanisms to help deliver enjoyment, the stuff that makes a game a game. They need to have what game designer Chelsea Howe describes as a "fractal elegance," which means "self-similar," that the pattern at the beginning of a game is the same at the end. That makes it eminently graspable to virtually anyone. Because we humans are, in Cook's words, "infovores" who "are wired to solve black boxes," a "fundamental aspect of our neurological learning wetware," these game mechanics play on our innate need to learn. They are "rule-based systems" that encourage a user to explore and learn through feedback mechanisms how to navigate a simulated environment. At its essence, a game is simply "a set of interlinked puzzles where solutions to one puzzle lead to clues that help on additional puzzles."
Perhaps Albert Einstein was right when he said, "Play is the highest form of research."
The Big Takeaway For Book Publishers
What, you might ask, does this have to do with book publishing? Plenty.
As a journalist and author I have been covering technology for 20 years, and it's clear to me that the ebook is simply a stopgap measure to something far greater. Here's why: Technology marches on through predictable patterns of development, with the initial form of a new technology mirroring what came before, until innovation and consumer demand drive it far beyond initial incremental improvements. We are on the verge of re-imagining the book and transforming it into something far beyond mere words.
Take note: The first battlefield tanks looked like heavily armored tractors equipped with cannons; early automobiles were called "horseless carriages" for a reason; the first motorcycles were based on bicycles; the first satellite phones were as clunky as your household telephone. A decade ago, when newspapers began serving up stories over the Web, the content mirrored what was offered in the print edition. What the tank, car and newspaper have in common is they blossomed into something far beyond their initial prototypes. In the same way that an engineer wouldn't dream of starting with the raw materials for a carriage to design a rad new sports car today, newspapers won't use paper or ink anymore.