Anything is Possible Within Limits
Emergent gameplay, as wikipedia notes, is the creative use of video games for purposes beyond the creator's original intentions. It is an important concept tied to the new study of metagaming, or the manipulation of game rules, AI states, and affordances to create new and unforeseen modes of gameplay.
With all that said, I'd like to use my second blog post to share my vision of our role as game-using instructional designers.
For better or worse, EdTec'ers are designers of instruction. In our own little way, we use the tools of our trade to invent and develop new ways to teach. We do this deliberately, carefully, for real people, and with an eye for the innovative.
But design is at its best when it is self-critical as well. Recursive design opens up new possibilities by finding new uses for tools, exploring the limitations of our tools, and by turning those limitations into opportunities.
In my undergrad incarnation, I studied Art History, with a heavy emphasis on mid-to-late 20th century painting and photography. The idea that drove me during this period of intense study was a fascination with how art eats itself. That is to say, how artists used their arts during this period to undermine everyone's assumptions about what art is, what it can be, what it can do, and how people should interact with it. The greatest artists during this period turned their tools on themselves, and so revealed new possibilities. Pollock removed the hand of the artist, Warhol made painting mechanical, and Uelsmann used the darkroom to make unreal photographs.
While our design goals may not be so heroic in scope, we should still strive to follow the example of the avant guard. Spore, an upcoming game from Maxis, is a perfect example of a game that is ripe for conversion to other purposes. The game is huge in scope, and highly intelligent and adaptive. By exploring how the game adapts to the way we play it, we can wrap it in a number of different scenarios and content, and use it to teach students about how early decisions unfold into complex consequences.
I see this as our role in this new world, this new game-using educational environment. The various ways of approaching Metagaming can help us uncover the hidden possibilities within the complex machinery of games, and use these affordances to our own educational ends.