Herding Code 126: Jeff Atwood on the overlap of Video Games and Learning

On this episode of Herding Code, the guys talk to Jeff Atwood about the intersection of video games and learning, along the way discussing music, learning to program, casual games, bleeding edge games about bleeding (Battlefield 3), Kinect, Wii, and retro games.

  • Jeff talks about video games as a gateway to programming. Jon and Jeff talk about how video games teach a skill which is valuable in programming – the ability to accept and work with arbitrary rules.
  • Jeff talks about the crappy games he has created.
  • The guys talk about how Rocksmith can teach you how to actually play a real guitar. The guys compare Rocksmith to Rock Band and Guitar Hero, and Jeff talks about how really learning guitar skills takes work, and Rocksmith and Rock Band take two very different approaches.
  • There’s a discussion of how well Rocksmith senses what you’re playing, and how musical performances are by nature interpretive and imprecise.
  • The guys talk about how video games can lead to real world knowledge and skills.
  • Jeff brings up the concept of gamification and how it can be used to get people to learn something worthwhile. He discusses the balance of fun and learning, and the importance of keeping learning fun.
  • Jeff talks about Khan Academy, and how it leverages gamification.
  • Jon talks about Codecademy – free, interactive programming classes with some game-like features.
  • K. Scott talks about the Roblox game and using Roblox Studio to do some basic programming.
  • Jon talks about the World of Goo, and how he’d helped his own daughters build their own levels in World of Goo.
  • Jeff talks about incidental learning and how games can encourage it.
  • Jeff says programmers need more points of reference than XKCD to explain things.
  • Jeff and Kevin talks about the power of gamification as a psychology hack, and how it can be used for good and evil.
  • Kevin brings up the idea of addiction to Stack Overflow. Jeff talks about the ways that Stack Overflow tries to prevent burnout of contributors.
  • Jeff talks about the balance of effort and reward, and how Stack Overflow sometimes over-rewards people for minimal work on their part.
  • The guys talk about video games that encourage teamwork, such as World of Warcraft, Battlefield 3, and Half-Life.
  • The guys discuss Microsoft Kinect and compare it to the Nintendo Wii. There’s a discussion of the controller responsiveness and selection gestures for these systems, and the importance of writing a game that’s native to these new platforms as opposed to simple ports.
  • Jon takes from questions from Twitter about Jeff’s favorite retro games, and Jeff says video game nostalgia is overrated – he’s really excited about the new games like Battlefield 3.
  • Kevin asks about MAME and home arcades. Jeff says it was interesting to have build two home arcade machines, but it’s not something he’d want to spend anymore time on.
  • Jon talks about Braid, and the hidden insanely tough extra game of finding all 8 stars.
  • The guys congratulate Jeff on his recent news that he’s expecting twins, and he signs off to play Battlefield 3.

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Herding Code 126: Jeff Atwood on Video Games and Gamification


This week’s show notes were typed up by @rossfuhrman – Thanks!!!