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Learning by dying

July 26th, 2004 · 2 Comments

Through Doc Searls’ post Survival of the Funnest I enjoyed an essay by Bernie DeKoven. I love his Funlog description

This funlog, on the other hand, is Bernie DeKoven’s weblog, about Bernie’s search for signs of fun on the Internet.

In his piece titled e-playing and e-learning: integral fun and meaningful failure Bernie DeKoven wrote:

I call it “learning by dying” and I think it’s probably one of the most powerful contributions that eplaying has for elearning. The most fun and efficient way to master most computer games is to play until you get killed, and remember what killed you. You usually have a few lives to sacrifice to learning. And you can always start over. This approach to learning has given most young people so much confidence in their competencies that, when confronted by a new game or new technology, they hardly ever need to look at the instructions.

The idea of meaningful failure is powerful and true. Especially as a mother and teacher, I wonder how this acquired confidence has affected the younger generation…and whether we should encourage our girls to play computer games.

But when I saw this quote on Saturday, and in Doc’s context, I immediately thought that “learning by dying” should be a principle for life. Perhaps it was the dream I had had earlier that morning, an intense nightmare that haunted me for hours afterwards. I was driving a car, our van I think, down the narrow one-lane highway on the island. Suddenly, as I crossed an intersection, I saw a car in my lane driving towards me. It was white and reminded me of Stephen King’s Christine. I tried to move my vehicle but there was nowhere to go. I drove right into the horror car and flew through the windshield. As I was dying, I woke up.

Analyzing my dream, I realized that it symbolized where I’ve been in the past year. Along with our family, I was in a collision, an unavoidable head-on, and it killed us. The process of the past year has been a process of grieving these deaths. Who we thought we were has died. Hopes and dreams have died. It has been a nightmare.

Death forces one to face what has been lost. Dying to some of our dreams and hopes has taught Ted and me truths during the years we’ve been together. It has given us grace, strength and gratitude.

But the only way to learn by dying in life is to believe in resurrection. To know that there is power beyond oneself. In games, one can always start over and get a new character. Life doesn’t work like that. As I wrote on Easter, slowly I feel I am being resurrected. But it is me who is being resurrected. Not someone else. Not a new me. It’s me with my scars and flaws. I may be healed but I still have the history. I can’t pretend. I can’t role play. I’m me. Here. Learning to live by dying.

Tags: journal

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Bernie // Jul 27, 2004 at 8:02 am

    What a wonderful, valuable, deep connection between game design and life design! Thank you, Julie. Your insight is a real gift to everyone it touches.

  • 2 Rod Kratochwill's Weblog // Jul 31, 2004 at 6:05 am

    Learning By Dying

    The St.