Where society fails, videogames win

Society and errors

Society conceives error as undesirable, inferior, and those who err as weak, unprepared, lazy or intelligence lacking actors.

No one can make a mistake; we all thrive for success and the patronized steps to achieve it. Millions of books are written under this existential linearity assumption, as if one single recipe was enough para instruct any/all human beings the steps necessary to hit success in any area of life: academic success, corporate success, romantic success, financial success.

Even the academic path is linear, with errors more punished than understood as a result of human creativity. Society as macro organism contains defense mechanisms against errors, and as errors are seen as a result of weak behavior and attitudes, society obliterates socially those who dare to experiment and err, for it is imperative to eradicate the weakest link. Before errors irreversibility, human beings tend to develop, not so uncommonly, and mainly into adulthood, an error aversion (and to failure). Then, this phobia is projected and continued through their children: "don't touch there, you're gonna brake it!","don't do that, it will go wrong!", forever feeding a perpetual cycle of existential paralysis.

Still, there are some cases were some light is cast upon this problem, such as the International Day for Failure (October 13th), an event started in Finland, with the purpose of changing the failure social paradigm to a view where failure is understood as a valuable learning experience.

Videogames and errors (failure)

Games provide an alternative to this social conditioning.

They offer that which we cannot obtain in our daily lives and society (McGonigal, 2011): a safe and nonthreatening environment characterized by its total openness to errors exploration, through direct action without major consequences (Costikyan, 2013) and where perseverance and effort are directly rewarded (Fujimoto, 2012).

Although failure in videogames reveal our own inadequacy, being not only experienced as real but also personal and clear to those around us (Crockett, 2015), games promise a fair chance for redemption, as they are designed to provide that fairness, as opposed to the society where we all live (Juul, 2013). Games, contrary to the real world, celebrate failure (Ramirez, Seyler, Squire, & Berland, 2014).

In my next article I'll be talking about some failure studies conducted by UX and videogame researchers, and about how failure is a fundamental aspect (dimension) of the player experience.


Aalto Entrepreneurship Society. (2012). Celebrate the failure - The International Day for Failure. Retrieved April 29, 2016, from http://www.slideshare.net/aaltoes/celebrate-the-failure-the-international-day-for-failure

Fujimoto, R. (2012). Games and Failure. Retrieved December 14, 2015, from https://shoyulearning.wordpress.com/2012/05/20/games-and-failure

Costikyan, G. (2013). Uncertainty in games. London: Mit Press.

Crockett, L. (2015). Failure’s Paradoxical Relation to Success: What Games can Teach us That the Academy Misses. In European Conference on Games Based Learning (p. 144). Academic Conferences International Limited.

Juul, J. (2013). The art of failure: An essay on the pain of playing video games (Playful Thinking Series). Mit Press.

McGonigal, J. (2011). Reality is broken: Why games make us better and how they can change the world. Penguin.

Ramirez, D., Seyler, S., Squire, K., & Berland, M. (2014). I’m a Loser, Baby: Gamer Identity & Failure. In Proceedings of DiGRA 2014: Verb that ends in “ing”> the noun> of Game plural noun>.

Also check out this article about games and failure.

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