Observe, orient, decide, and act: using gaming strategies to succeed IRL

From left to right, Justin Swain, a podcaster and blogger, and Elizabeth Kilmer, Adam Davis and Jared Kilmer of Game to Grow spoke at the panel The Player is Evolving! Using Games to Foster Growth Mindset at PAX East Friday. Photo by Miriam Fauzia / BU News Service

By Lillian Eden
BU News Service

“How many of you believe that games can improve your lives?”

To begin a panel discussing growth mindset, Adam Davis, the executive director and therapeutic game master of Game to Grow, posed this question to the crowd.

Many hands in the Arachnid Theater at PAX East went up to answer Friday night.

Jared Kilmer, a psychologist and another therapeutic game master at Game to Grow, defined growth mindset as the attitude that one’s skill can grow in response to “increased effort and positive learning strategies.”

Elizabeth Kilmer, also a therapeutic game master at Game to Grow, added that a growth mindset involves not assuming one’s abilities can’t be changed.

“I think it’s a lot about having the skill and belief that something is flexible and changeable instead of static. So I can get better at math, instead of I’m just good at math or bad at math,” she said.

Adam Davis used a specific example of the growth mindset in practice with a notoriously difficult game.

“I look at my life in two phases: before and after Dark Souls,” he said, to laughter from the audience.

Learning the game required hours of work, practice and frequent failure. He even researched the game on Wikipedia and watched YouTube tutorials. Despite the difficulty, he persisted and practiced until he finally beat the game.

Elizabeth Kilmer explained that tackling difficult projects or tests can be done the same way as one would improve their skills or level up in a game: with time and effort.

“The work and the dedication and whatever you’re doing to trick your brain into trying harder … all of those skills are directly applicable to your math test,” she said. “Let me set a measurable goal for getting this project done. Let me break it down into smaller pieces. Let me reward myself when I’ve gotten some of those pieces done right. I’m going to reward myself for time and I’m also going to reward myself for actually getting stuff done.”

The moderator, Jared Kilmer, explained that assuming skills and abilities are static may mean having a fixed mindset.

“A lot of the systems in our lives are perpetuating a fixed mindset. So sometimes having a growth mindset is like an act of defiance against the systems that try to keep us down,” said Davis.

Justin Swain, a podcaster, culinary manager and blogger, explained that in games and in life one can also use an OODA loop for guidance. The loop is a decision-making technique that originated with the U.S military and is now used across many disciplines.

OODA stands for observe, orient, decide and act, both individually and while working in a group.

Jared Kilmer also encouraged the crowd to use the word “yet” and that skills and abilities are always works in progress, both in games and in life.

“There is a massive difference between I can’t do this, and I can’t do this yet,” he said. “I think a big key with growth mindset is that the response to the outcome is more important than whether or not you were successful or you failed.”   

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