When she was an adolescent, I watched my daughter play an app game that includes candy on a rope, spikes, an open-mouthed frog, little spidery things, and flatulence noises. I was struck by how intensely focused she was on the game, and how it seemed to keep her motivated in ways that were appreciably different from activities in the “real” world. So I paid closer attention and noticed:
- The role of musical and other aural cues — the sound effects were as evocative as the visuals. You could tell instantly whether the candy was lost or had fallen satisfyingly into the frog’s open mouth, no matter where you were looking on screen.
- The value of cute — nothing about the game was dull or stodgy. It was all appeal and charm.
- My daughter’s willingness to ask me for help even though I was absolutely clueless (both about the necessary special properties and the actual mechanics of the game). In fact, she was figuring everything out herself through a kind of “guess-and-check” or trial and error process; the request for “help” was actually a request for encouragement and a kind of loyal support.
- Great shows of satisfaction, triumph, and even real joy whenever my daughter completed a round successfully. The celebrations included fist pumps, air guitar riffs, hugs (part of the loyal support gig), and cries of, “Yes! I did it!”
- Most amazing — she was willing to keep trying over and over again with the clear expectation that if she kept at it she’d figure it out eventually. This was true even though she expressed her frustration at almost every error: “Gosh darn it,” “Poopy!” and “What? No!” were the most frequent forms of protest — and then, undeterred, she went on.
So here’s the question: Is there a way for us to use the same skills of open-mindedness, persistence, and joy as we deal with adolescent interactions, homework problems, and the rest of life? Will the same kinds of “magic” work for adults? Would we all be better off if life was more like a noisy app?
Onward and upward,