John NA Brown is a wandering polymath who has spent years trying to write the perfect autobiographical blurb. In this quest, he has become a research scientist, public speaker, author, designer, human factors specialist, cartoonist, bricklayer, encyclopedist, storyboard artist, and much more. He has written and taught university courses in Scientific Thinking, Research Methods, Computer Animation & Storytelling, and Applied Biomechanics, and has solved problems for Google, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Along the way he picked up a few PhDs and an embarrassing number of other academic degrees, as well as awards for animation, teaching, applied mathematics, and haiku. Currently at Evolv Technologies in San Francisco, Dr Dr Dr Brown has previously worked in a dozen countries, in the private and public sectors, in serious games, in recreational sports, and in his pyjamas.
He has yet to win an award for any of his autobiographical blurbs.
Video games require the player to iterate; to repeat their behaviour over and over again, making slight progressive changes each time. This is how the player learns how to move through and interact with the gamespace, and it is also how humans learn and master new skills in the real world. In both cases, new skills are first performed slowly and deliberately, with conscious and
thoughtful reflection. Eventually, through iteration, these new skills are mastered and become pre-attentive: either predictions and reactions based on high-speed pattern recognition, or bursts of incredibly fast previously-learned coordinated reflexes called muscle memory. After the right kind of reinforcement, the conditioned behaviours can be triggered unconsciously. When someone’s pre-attentive and reflexive skills are repeatedly triggered, forcing them to respond too quickly for conscious and thoughtful reflection, they enter into a state of performance called Flow. In gameplay and in real life, this is where distractions disappear, and mastery of multiple overlapping skills can be developed. As with real life skill mastery, time spent in “gameflow” changes the player’s mind and body at an unconscious level. Application-specific gamification has been used to condition and reinforce pre-attentive behaviours that allow people to be put to more efficient use as a resource for military, political, and commercial interests. Gamejams could become the testing ground for games that develop unconscious skills that will help players level up in the real world.