Why computer games make us smarter

While traveling a lot lately I have had the time to read some wonderful books, and will try to share some good thoughts and quotes here. 

Took three very different books with me to London and all though the Paul Arden “God explained in a taxi ride” and Advertising Age’s “Madison and Vine” were some easy reads, I especially enjoyed the last (but also more demanding, so better for hotel room than for airplane) “Everything Bad is Good for You” by Steven Johnson. 

While parents often tend to judge the unfamiliar habits of the next generation, this book challenge (among a lot of other interesting subjects) the tendency to dumb down the emerging gaming culture. While gaming is evolving from being perceived as a child activity to an emerging cross demographic activity, stealing time from TV, reading and other media consumption, this is an important discussion.

Johnson starts with the much used (but even more current than ever) McLuhan quote “The student of media soon comes to expect the new media of any period whatever to be classed as psedo by those who acquired the patterns of earlier media, whatever they may happen to be”

This clearly defines the ongoing discussions on the gaming culture, with the tendency to evaluate the gains from spending time on games with the gains from reading linear text. 

I will recommend all with an interest in this, to read the book, but here’s the main conclusions. 

Reading is teaching the child some elementary skills on imagination, interpretation and concentration based on the premises of following a plot. Gaming on the other hand is teaching the involved to lead a plot and make decisions. 

This is just as important skills for the engaged participant. 

Even though the decision making process for outsiders will seem as a basic pushing of buttons, the major key to making the way through most games, is based on the ability to figure out what the right thing to do is.

This decision making skill set is basically developed around two techniques; probing and telescoping. Probing is learning the concept of inductive reasoning with trial and error as driver for the progression in the storyline of the game. Telescoping is defined as the ability to act on complex task solving with the final goal embedded in an impressive amount of layers of tasks, each interdependent. 

So even though killing the Dwarf in WoW or leading Marcus safely through GoW isn’t important to get through life, the skills of learning how to take decisions and lead a proces, must be recognized as some of the most important human skills. 

Johnson compares the lack of this level in the discussion with the concept of teaching kids algebra. It is more likely than not, that the kids will never use this skill after graduating. The reason for teaching algebra (and a lot of other things) is to learn how to think. The same as when people playing computer games learn how to take decisions. 

Instead of learning how to follow a narrative thread, the gamers learn to solve tasks and lead the plot. 

This is just one of the insights on gaming. Johnson also discusses why games are so addictive, taking the much hyped  (these days too hyped) discussion on neuroscience into the discussion and challenges the common understanding of the next generations love of instant gratification to court, by pointing out the attraction in games exactly based on the opposite concept of delayed gratification, activating our basic reward system sending dopamine into the body when solving a challenging task.  

So games do not dumb us down. The activates the brain in a new way, they teach us to take decisions and navigate through complex situations. And I’ll end this with a quote from John Dewey’s book “Experience and Education”.

“Perhaps the greatest of all pedagogical fallacies is the notion that a person learns only that particular thing he is studying at the time. Collateral learning in the way of formation of enduring attitudes, of likes and dislikes, may be and often is much more important than the spelling lesson or lesson in geography or history that is learned. For these attitudes are fundamentally what count in the future.”


Twitter explained in plain english

I know a lot of people not being on twitter and are quite curious about all the fuss about it. I saw this little simple video explaining the core concept. 

So everybody here it is:

It is simple and nice  – but do not entirely agree on usage. I use facebook for the personal everyday connections to friends and family – and twitter is for me more discovering and listening to likeminded people from all over the world. Which makes the use so different. I think that’s what a lot of people I know do to. That also why it makes sense that on twitter I follow people – on Facebook I’m friends with people. 

If I write at 11 pm on Facebook that I’m working on presentation on a shoe brand I get 10 comments or mail with “go home”, “do not work that much” or “ambitious crazy girl” – if I write the same on twitter, in 5 minutes I receive a dozen of links, ideas or cases for making a better presentation. 

That’s for me the difference! 

..but still this video will save my a lot of hours explaining twitter to the not so likeminded.

Please get out of the box into some boxes

Friday I was involved in an inspiration day for Sparekassen Kronjylland and besides doing an ideation session with them at the end of the day, I had the pleasure of opening the day with a short presentation on how to work with creativity and innovation.  Earlier this year I did the same to our Aegis Media Client Board together with Morten Albæk from Danske Bank (now Vestas), and it hits me how interesting it is every time you have to sit down and reflect on this subject.

One issue I spend some time thinking about is how much it annoys me every time I hear people say “let’s do some brainstorming” or ”we really need to think out of the box here”, as these often just represent a lot of people wasting their time sitting and talking in all kind of directions with no goal besides from the “hotness” of being creative.  In the best case they waste a lot of time, in the worst case they spend this time convincing each other on the implementation of a stupid idea, which in the end will cost the company a lot of money. 

Brainstorming isn’t just something you do. It is a difficult, structured and strategic discipline. And it isn’t just done in the moment of facetime between colleagues. It has to be planned, ignited and facilitated in a useful way by people being sharp and precise on the goals of the exercise, as well as the company’s objectives for initiating this activity.

Brainstorming out of the box is often just crazy ideas, with no objective, often off brand and off strategy. So please stop calling creativity in the name of “out of the box-thinking” and start focusing on how to create frames, boxes and structures to better create true creativity. It does have to be a colored room or a green hat or so. It could just be a simple way to enhance the effect of combining skills, a structure which makes it easier to talk about this or a simple planning process that ensures that all angles and combinations in an idea or a concept can be easily explored, prototyped or evaluated up against the overall objectives. Because in the end innovation and creativity isn’t worth much if it doesn’t help fulfill the objectives set for the company.

Is digital a chapter in the book on communication or a layer on all the exiting pages?

On Wednesday I had my first visit ever at a publisher. I was excited and thrilled, but also a little overwhelmed by the great trust laid on my shoulders by my old thesis supervisor who kindly asked my to join in on the next edition of his legendary book “Tilrettelæggelse af information: Kommunikations- og kampagneplanlægning”. Even though the last book was published in 2006, the evolution in the field and especially on the digital front makes even yesterday feel old. So we have been talking for a while about re-writing it with a more digital perspective, and with a more cross-media campaign overall view.

This  lead to this meeting Wednesday and it looks like we are starting up with the project right now. But our first big issue will be handling how to integrate the whole digital perspective on a book which doesn’t really discuss media, but more ground theory on how to plan.  Where does digital fit in here?  If it is awarded a chapter it will look like an area isolated from the overall strategy, which is the main attitude I try to fight everyday working with strategy and comms planning. But if we don’t address the digital issue of planning directly, will the readers be able to understand how the theory applies to digital?

This really is a hard question and we been back and forth a couple of times, but I think the solution will be to address digital as just another channel, and use cases and exercises to highlight how the discussions and theories can be used just as well on digital media. This is the solution. I’m happy about it. But means I have to write up a whole lot of digital cases during the weekends to come.



I’m sorry….

Dear all readers. Sorry I haven’t updated for a while. Got involved in a lot of interesting projects and suddenly time ran off. 

We just launched a new division in Aegis Media Denmark being the strategic, innovation and consumer insight forefront of the company and I have got the pleasure of taking the responsibility of Creative Director, so the launch here in january took all focus. But now we are up and running. See the deep blue blog which is also our website here. 

And then we won Playstation and Nordisk Film in the Nordics which is wonderful! A great client and interesting product. We just launched the campaign for the Stieg Larsson movie Men who hates women in Denmark and it was very interesting and the movie is already after 3 weeks a blockbuster. 

In my regular blogging hours (around nine pm or sundays:)) I started up a new project, having the honour of re-writing the legendary Communications Planning book “Tilrettelæggelse af information – kommunikations- og kampagneplanlægning” together with the author Preben Sepstrup. It will take most of my sparetime the next half year – but it will be a great learning experience and great inspiration working with Preben Sepstrup. 

So the blogging will lay a bit low for a while. I will try to keep up some micro blogging and link sharing on twitter and Facebook – so please connect with me there if you want to.

Join me at my Facebook Profile or Twitter

Whopper Virgins Campaign meets criticism

Controversial Ad on Global Financial Crisis

Our client Bianco always loves to provoke and often gets attention on very daring ads.

Now they made a comment on the crisis. And their attitude towards this subject is quite like the one of the danish government. Keep spending money. We have to buy ourselves out of the crisis.

Interesting point. I have to reflect on that for a while, before making a stand. At least I agree on this. Buy more shoes. Always!