Bernie DeKoven: Adults, Learning, and Fun: Its more than a game

Adults have a hard time letting ourselves have fun

even serious fun

Bernie DeKoven empowers adults to acknowledge the enjoyment we get out of doing something meaningful – he calls it “Deep Fun.”

BernieDeKovenI discovered Bernie thru the MacArthur dialog, “Pathways to Gaming:” how people come to games in the first place.

  Bernie suggests that “adults need games even more than kids.”   For adults, the pathway to games, and play, and fun is a hard road.  We’re concerned that if we look like we’re enjoying ourselves, we won’t be taken seriously.

Bernie says, “no organization suffers more from the ‘serious syndrome’ than nonprofits.”  We get so focused on the problem, the goal of alleviating the problem — we forget how much fun it is to work together from the heart.

Deep Fun 

Bernie’s “Deep Fun” oeuvre includes several key points that we can use for nonprofit social entrepreneurs making an elearning game together to solve the mystery of earned income profitability:

  1. When we give ourselves permission to have fun in our work — our work becomes more supportive, tolerant, open, giving, and more intrinsically rewarding
  2. Fun is more fun when you’re not the only one having it
  3. Collaboration is fun for us when:
    1.  we get to be in charge — at least part of making the agenda of what we’re going to do in the first place
    2. what we do engages our abilities, skills, expertise and challenges us to perform
    3. we are listened to — and our competence contributes to our collaborative work product

Collective Competency is Fun 

Collective competency is an increased collective capacity to meet greater challenges.  Bernie concludes that the experience of collective competency is fun for adults because it is mutually empowering. 

  1. Each individual increases the abilities of the collective. 
  2. The collective increases the abilities of the individual.

Technology is Fun

Technology is fun when we use it to support our collaborative work.  Technology can support collaborative work fun because:

  1. tech tools can separate an idea from its originator
  2. the tech tool then “owns” the idea and we can manipulate it freely
  3. we manipulate ideas thru the medium of what we are creating together
  4. the medium listens — we see ourselves heard by the medium
  5. the technological medium becomes a form of play in and of itself

Pathways to Gaming

Back to how people get to gaming in the first place, generally.  The primary gyst of pathways to gaming that emerged from the MacArthur dialog are SOCIAL.  Since, as I have pointed out, the MacArthur initiative is focused on kids — I’m gonna turn some of this around a bit.  How can adults get game?

  • Other people you know play: first contact with games arises from your social context – peers, role models, mentors (do your kids play games? do you play with them?)
  • You are “invited” to play (remember how it was while you waited to be picked for the Red Rover side? have your kids asked you to play with them?)
  • You are exposed to discussions about games that are infectious: linguistic frames posit gaming as a non-trivial learning space (anybody you know talking about learning games, serious games, games for social change?)
  • You use technology for any purpose: Web2.0 tools themselves are a platform for social play — its the tools themselves, not any particular game ( I mean, if you are reading this blog post, you are way past using email – corporate knowledge management system? customer relationship management system?…?)
  • Your personal values connect with game activity (do you value self-expression? challenge? making a difference? learning? collaboration?)

What if: Questioning Game + Duck-Duck-Goose

     Bernie has made a couple of games that I think we could combine in a cool way to serve our purpose.  The Questioning Game is for making meetings more fun.  His version of Duck-Duck-Goose is for those of us whose “olderness” makes it not so much fun to physically run around the circle.

      In the Questioning Game, each person’s answer to the previous person’s question ends with their own question.  And it passes to the next person, who answers and asks another question.  An issue is explored far beyond the initial question – as new questions keep emerging, drawn from our collective wisdom.

     In Duck-Duck-Goose, one person starts and turns to the person on their right and says “duck.”  That person turns to their right, and says “duck.”  And so on.  At some point, somebody turns to the person on their left and says “goose.”  Then we get “duck” going around the circle to the right, and “goose” going around the circle to the left.  The object of the game is not to be the one stuck with both Duck & Goose.

So — what if — we get “Questions” going around to the right and “Answers” going around to the left.  Object of the game = don’t be the one to get stuck with both Q&A.

Point is — each of us knows some questions.  Each of use knows some answers.  No one of us can make this game solving the mystery of nonprofit earned income profitability alone.

 Bernie says that we adults need to give ourselves permission to have fun in our work.  And he literally means “we.”  Bernie says our “group” is the only body that can provide and sustain the necessary permission.  In general, one pathway to games is “you get invited to play.”

I invite you to use this blog technology to play “Question/Duck + Goose/Answer.”

I invite you to invite others you know to play with us.

I invite us to give ourselves permission to have collaborative fun with profitability


9 Responses to “Bernie DeKoven: Adults, Learning, and Fun: Its more than a game”

  1. Bernie DeKoven Says:

    “So — what if — we get “Questions” going around to the right and “Answers” going around to the left. Object of the game = don’t be the one to get stuck with both Q&A.” – ! You are at least as wacky as the Oaqui! Playing on the very edge of chaos. Which, actually, is where it’s usually the most fun.

    Should I respond with a question or an answer?

    Here’s my answer: “because, in the beginning, it WAS fun.”

  2. steve sherlck Says:

    okay, I this But in the playground, it is easy to know who is to your right and left, as we are all choosing to stand in the circle. In this electronic blogosphere, how do we make that determination? Or is it by default i.e. those who read and reply, which could be the equivalent of choosing to stand in the circle?

    Assuming the later…

    Since it will be so much fun, how do we get others involved?

  3. Sandra Dickinson Says:

    Gotcha Steve — in the blogoshpere — it seems like its a little chaotic — whoever catches onto your question or your answer is the one who is to your “right” or your “left” — that busts it wide open, doesn’t it? Hope that’s even more fun.

    And — since this is so fun – we get others involved by INVITATION.

  4. Bernie DeKoven Says:


    So the way it works on that Questions site is:

    you answer the post before you
    you ask a question

    then whoever makes the second post answers your question, etc.

    were it to be reversed, then, the second poster would be asking you, the first poster, a question. so, it would be up to the first person to be the next poster, don’t you see?

  5. Sandra Dickinson Says:

    Yes I see, Bernie — we are playing right now.

    It might be useful to clarify WHO’s question one is answering, by name. Or WHO you are asking a question of, by name. That way we have a little bit more sense of who is where around the circle, so to speak. If we really get going, we might break the “rules” and not “go in order” :-).

    I’m thinking folks will answer whichever question that interests them, and they feel they have an interesting answer. We might get more than one answer to some questions!!!

    So Steve, do you think we can play this question game in the blogoshpere and even keep track of our answers so we can put them to use in a practical way? (maybe not fair, kinda two questions)

  6. steve sherlock Says:

    thanks for the explanation. that helps. Someone coming along could jump in to answer almost any question and start multiple threads that way, sort of a multi dimensional circle and a virtual duck-duck-goose.

    Yes, I think we can play the game out here in the blogosphere. If we used CoComment, we could keep track of the answers/questions whether they were answered in the original place or on one’s own blog. For example, if the question is easy to answer, I would answer here. If the question required a longer response than a commenter would prefer, then it could be answered over at their place. Naming whose question is being answered would be key to keeping track. Especially if more people get involved and multiple threads develop. It could get viral like a meme.

    As for using them in a practical way, the nature of the question (and therefore the answers) would help determine. We would have the trail in CoComment (for example) or it could get captured somewhere else, like on a wiki. You already have a wiki, you could set up a new page for the quesion/answer thread.

    If we ask the next question by a specific invitation, it might be like a tag/mem but we limit the circle. If we advertise that there is a question then it would open the question to anyone for an answer.

    What do you think would be good?

  7. sandradickinson Says:

    Steve, I really like the tag/meme thing. I was thinking along those lines myself 🙂 And if we invite them to spread the invitation, there is no limit to the circle. Especially if folks get a thread going on their own blog too.

    I will set up a wiki page. That would be a place where anyone could copy and paste a Q&A or a summary that they feel should be preserved longterm, with links to multiple threads that may be evolving.

    One thing that has been nagging at the back of my mind: the ‘rules of play’ that we have sorted out here have the elements of the Questioning Game — but not the elements of Duck-Duck-Goose. I mean, that little edge of thrill where you might get “stuck” being the Goose. My initial thought was don’t get stuck with both Q and A — but we are setting it up so each layer’s turn consists of both Q and A.

    Is there a way for us to put in that little edge of thrill? Or should I stop worrying about it?

  8. Initial Playtest Results — Collaborative Next Step Iterative Design « selearninggames Says:

    […] example of actually playing the making-the-game game can be found in the comments to my earlier post (where myself, Bernie DeKoven, and Steve Sherlock play with making a Question/Answer + […]

  9. it consulting denver Says:

    it consulting denver

    Bernie DeKoven: Adults, Learning, and Fun: Its more than a game | selearninggames

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