77: Maxis: Reflections on the Early Years


New member
Dec 14, 2006
You know this article, for me, hit entirely on a point that I feel is overlooked. People have curiosity. Naturally.

Going through school all the way from kindergarten through four years of college is enough to make anyone link learning with stress, frustration, and boredom. I think that this feeling is unnatural. People enjoy learning new things if it is presented properly. The History Channel, Discovery Channel, and many other of that ilk are popular among a wide range of people. It is a diverse demographic that can reach those that are often educational outcasts. Textbooks are great for knowledge, but the system we have installed currently creates an illusion that they are the only process of absorbing important information. When it comes to learning I don't think there is any greater fallacy than such a belief.

My first realization that I actually LIKE to learn came to me recently. I have been battling my hatred for school for years. I can actually remember, fairly vividly, when I realized I didn't like the way things were going. I was in first grade, already showing the signs of a poor student at the age of seven. I was bored. That is what I told the school Psychologist when I spoke to him about it: just simply bored. At the time I had no idea my sentiment would lead me to my current state of understanding about the world of knowledge. However, for years, I believed that I was just a lazy student with no desire to know anything.

Just recently something odd happened. I was playing a game. Tales of Symphonia, I think. I remember seeing a name: Yggdrasil. I thought, "hmm, that?s odd, I've heard that name before." I figured it must not just be a name they came up with, but a name with a root found outside of the text (note: I regard games, movies, music, books, etc. as texts) I was currently engaged in. Throwing up a two browser windows I brought up Google and Wikipedia. Typing the name in to both search fields led me to an immense number of hits regarding Norse mythology. Suddenly my game was more than a diversion, it was something more. All of the names in the game seemed to link back to various characters throughout the myths. The biggest plot device of the story, the world tree, was now so much more epic to me. The importance of what was once just some tree in the middle of the world was now something I understood to symbolize a great power: a power that reaches back to the very beginning of the world.

It was then that I realized that I was actually ENJOYING what I was reading. The information that I was taking in was interesting, and I wanted to know more. The game became, for me, what I believe education should be. Learning should be guided, not forced. Students naturally try to learn when they are given the opportunity. There are some schools, though they are small in number, that have embraced this philosophy. Thus far they have produced wonderful results.

For me, games and other new media are a means of integrating new information. I have been taking a more active stance to understand words I hear in shows and films that I watch. I feel strongly that my real educational journey has just begun.

This article gave me a new respect for Maxis by showing me an aspect of their games that I had no idea existed. I was learning naturally without even knowing it. I hope that there are developers out there that understand that their games can be so much more than simple fun; they can be part of a growing educational experience.

Russ Pitts

The Boss of You
May 1, 2006
If I had a nickel for every time I've seen a story of Phil's prompt such a meaty, lengthy reply ... I'd probably be on a beach in the Mediterranean right now.

But I totally agree with you Blax. Both about the story and about the way we should learn to approach learning. I think if more of my schooling had been conducted "The Maxis Way," I'd have had a higher tolerance for the process, and would have learned more through it as a result. Instead, I tended to tune out my educators and learn on my own time. I'm pleased with the results, but regret the waste of everyone's time.