How Game Design Fosters a Growth Mindset
By Video Game Designer Jake Parmley
Growth Mindset, in large part pioneered by Psychology Professor Carol Dweck, is the concept that intelligence can be developed and strengthened. The opposite is Fixed Mindset, the belief that intelligence or talent is a fixed trait, embodied by comments such as, “I guess I’m just not very good at math.”
Perhaps one of the most exciting opportunities to foster a Growth Mindset in students is through Game Design. Alongside instructors, students will discover and embrace this mindset by developing new strategies and demonstrating resilience in the face of failure.
As students overcome challenges, they’ll actively grow their minds, unlocking and strengthening problem solving abilities. They’ll view “failures” as temporary setbacks, instead of insurmountable truths.
For example, when using the Scratch game engine in Level Up Village’s Global Video Game Designers course, children introduce bugs into their designs. During our re-creation of the classic game Pong, our failure to accurately track points scored made it impossible to determine a winner. This setback meant reworking Player Two’s entire logic to uncover why points weren’t being added – a small failure that turned into a growth opportunity.
Designing games is challenging, so setbacks like the one in Pong are expected. Students will wrestle with their own creative visions and the perceived limitations of the tools available to them. In many cases, they must design within the confines of a given assignment. As a result, students identify how they want a game to play, discover how that design satisfies the assignment, and then teach themselves how to execute using available technology.
Balancing these requirements means students develop new strategies for success. The trials involved with devising new plans often means failing and trying again. Multiple attempts teach students resilience and grit in the face of failure. This grit and the ability to devise new strategies in the first place, are key components for a healthy growth mindset. As students overcome challenges, they’ll actively grow their minds, unlocking and strengthening problem solving abilities. They’ll view “failures” as temporary setbacks, instead of insurmountable truths.
With Growth Mindset, students gain confidence by pushing into the unfamiliar, which ensures they are always learning. The set of challenges listed above illustrate how Game Design exists almost entirely within the unfamiliar and engages the fundamental ideas of Growth Mindset. Like other forms of art, Game Design is about discovery, where “the point isn’t to get it all right away. The point is to grow your understanding step by step.” – Carol Dweck
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