Minds on fire: how role-immersion games transform college

Lest academic readers slam this book (or iPad) down in fury, I hasten to acknowledge that the case against bad play is formidably strong. I agree with much of it. In fact, Chapter 2 (“Subversive Play: The Bane of Higher Education”) contents that for the past two centuries higher learning has suffered precisely because American students have been fully immersed in bad play — the boozy debates and theatricals of the early literary societies, the hazings and initiations of fraternities, the football craze, beer pong and binge drinking, and a host of competitive, role-playing online worlds, among other obsessions. But this book also contends (Chapter 3: “Creating An Academic Subversive Play World”) that the motivational power of bad play — of “subversive play”, as I have termed it — can energize students and help them flourish — in college and in life …

… The rationalist merits of higher education are well known, intoned by college presidents and commencement speakers, reiterated in institutional mission statements, and endorsed by most professors — including me. There’s no need to restate them here. This book instead advances what might be called the anti-rationalist perspective. The central argument is not that higher education is all wrong, but that it’s only half-right. Our predominant pedagogical system — rational, hierarchical, individualistic, and well-ordered — often ignores aspects of the self relating to emotion, mischievous subversion, social engagement, and creative disorder.

— “Debate at Dawn”, “Minds on fire: how role-immersion games transform college“, Mark C. Carnes