Amy's Story -How a Philosopher Wandered into Gaming
A Gamer Story by Amy Leask
I’m a philosopher. Yeah, you heard me right. I’ve got a BA and a MA in philosophy. If someone had told me when I graduated that I would one day be involved in digital media of any kind, well, I would have asked them what digital media was (yeah, I’m that old). The truth is, over the years I’ve not only figured out that philosophy belongs in games and apps, but for the past few years, it’s been how I’ve made my living.
I taught philosophy to high school kids, and then to college kids. It was incredibly rewarding, but I quickly realized that there were a lot of very intelligent young minds who made it into their twenties without ever learning to put together an argument, or express themselves clearly, or even disagree with something their teacher or their peers said. My initial solution was to write a book of philosophy for kids, so that thinkers could get a much earlier start, but when I co-founded an online learning company with my husband (yeah, who knew?) and was surrounded by all kinds of gifted programmers, a lot of new possibilities popped up.
First, we made interactive eBooks out of the print books we produced. I was amazed at how adding a few simple games and activities to a narrative could help philosophy reach a much broader audience. Kids who wouldn’t normally sit still to read a story were playing with ideas. Younger readers had access to it because it was narrated and hands-on. Kids with special needs found it more accessible. Teachers were making them part of their classroom resources as well. I couldn’t imagine writing any more books without making them into apps.
A few years later, with the help of a friend who had a background in television and film, we animated some of our characters. We took our animated shorts and made them into an app, bolstered by mini games and other activities. Then we did a second app, chock full of even more mini games to help kids develop solid thinking skills. We played with 2D and 3D and augmented reality. I saw it as being like putting apples in the vending machine. If kids were going to spend time in front of screens, they should have something that packed an educational wallop, while still being fun and entertaining. Yes, we were taking philosophy on a trip far away from the comfort of the academy, but we found there was an audience of little thinkers who were waiting for it there.
I loved that we were bringing little thinkers into the philosophical fold through gaming, but I also loved the community of creators we were building at work. Just as I never thought I’d be involved in producing interactive digital content like this, some of our programmers never thought they’d be turning their gaming skills to aid in the sharing of questions that were thousands of years old.
Have we taken the world by storm with this unusual combination of elements? No, not quite, but pretty much every day, I see evidence that people need to learn to think deeper. I feel pretty good knowing that we’re feeding this need. I have to say that although I never intended to get into game design, I’m thrilled at the possibilities it holds for young thinkers. I can’t image producing anything new without an interactive digital component to it.