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Beach, Beer, and Bra(u)ts

by Jonathan Peters, PhD
Chief Motivation Officer, Sententia Gamification

Remember back before the Virus? How did you spend summer holidays?  

For many people, summer celebration and recreation involve the family—specifically, their children. They can’t understand why you would picnic in a park or lounge on a beach without children running around, shrieking, and splashing.  

But there are also those of us for whom roaming bands of noisy brats ruin a perfectly good day of sand and surf. 

In his landmark study, Steven Reiss, PhD, noted, among other things, that people have different levels of motivation when it comes to raising children. While we certainly have biological drives to procreate, actually raising children is a different and specific desire. For some people, their children are central to their lives; others are content to be childless.    

This article is not about raising children; instead, it’s about people’s different definitions of fun and what this might mean for the gamification of learning. 

As children, we learned through play, not just in the social sense, but studies have shown that the connections between our neurons were developed through play (and continue to be developed through play as adults). Therefore, it is advantageous for our offspring if we and other adults engage with them in play. And this play with children also stimulates learning in our brains as well. 

However, it’s important to point out that when it comes to satiating Core Desires, playing with children has a specific dynamic that is unlike playing games with your peers or by yourself. These types of play appeal to other Core Desires. 

Since I have a low motivation for Family, I overlooked how caring for and playing with children is a type of fun. But for our book, Deliberate Fun, I associated specific game mechanics with different Core Desires. Previously, it was my belief that, like the Core Desire for Eating, Family could only be satisfied by actually raising children. Once again, I was “Self-hugging.” 

It turns out, the type of neurochemical rewards we get from playing with children can be simulated with certain game mechanics. The most closely associated is the mechanic of mentorship. In a game, mentorship is when a more experienced player (or an avatar with more skills or lives) takes care of, shields, or guides a newer or weaker player. While not actually a parent, the mentor is experiencing fun, at least from a brain-chemical perspective, the same as an adult playing with children. Therefore, mechanic of mentorship satiates the desire to raise children, at least for the duration of play. 

If you perceive that your learners may be motivated by raising and playing with children, how can you implement the game mechanic of mentorship in your learning programs? This does require a mechanism for differentiating between skilled or experienced learners and those who are newer to the process, but it may be worth engaging and supporting your learners who have a strong desire for Family. 

How about you? When you’re at the beach, do you join in with the children? Do you enjoy their exuberance? Or do you roll your eyes wishing parents would better regulate their offspring? It’s all a matter of different levels of motivation.

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