WHY USE GAMES? (by Julia Khan)

Characteristics of games

What is a game? Everyone feels intuitively that they know but definition is elusive. Perhaps we can say that, «A game is played when one or more players compete or co-operate for pay-offs according to a set of rules» (Jones 1986). Alternatively, «Gaming is competitive… rule-governed… goal-defined… Gaming has closure… gaming is engaging» (Rodgers 1981). The games of young children have their own special qualities: A true game is one that frees the spirit.. It allows of no cares but those fictitious ones engendered by the game itself… Play is unrestricted, games have rules. Play may merely be the enactment of a dream but in each game there is a contest governed by rules, which set up clearly defined goals. The achievement of these goals signals the end of the game. Games involve a contest either between players or between the players and the goal, and games should lead to having fun. Games are for playing, and this element of play is crucial.

Ground rules must be set for how games are played. The authority behind the rules and the contest lies in the game itself rather than with the player or teacher and the authority must be acknowledged if the game is to be played fairly. Children are usually very concerned with fairness and with preventing others from breaking the rules.

Children's games

Games are activities that children naturally and universally engage in. There is a certain timelessness in the pleasure children find in games and in how the nature of the games they play changes as they develop, ranging through fantasy, ritual, competition and luck.

Generations of children rediscover the same games and delight in playing them. Games may be seen as a route by which children come to terms with their social environment, presenting as they do a social situation which is firmly governed by rules but whose outcome is unknown. Piaget (1967) saw children's games as «the most admirable social institutions. The game of marbles for instance… contains an extremely complex system of rules… a code of laws, a jurisprudence of its own… If we wish to gain any understanding of child morality it is obviously with the analysis of such facts as these that we must begin. All morality consists in a system of rules...» It is of course not our present concern to explore morality but to remember that children play games, and to take account of these natural tendencies when developing teaching strategies for young learners.

LECTURE — Extract (by O'Connor)

Miss Tooley: How do you think we ought to start?

J. D.: My idea is this. Suppose we just say a few ordinary sentences. After that we'll go back again and notice how we've said them and what sort of tunes we've used, and then we'll try to make some clear and general rule about them.

Miss Tooley: Yes, that's a good idea. Now the first thing I said was this: «How do you think we ought to start?» I wonder if the listeners can hear the tune? «How do you think we ought to start?»

J. D.: You see, listeners, that sentence starts on a fairly high note and it continues on that same note until it reaches the word «ought». Just listen.

Miss Tooley: «How — How do you think we — How do you think we ought to start?»

J. D.: Like that, you see. The word «ought» is said on a slightly. lower note, and the sentence continues on that lower note until it gets to the very last syllable.

Miss Tooley: «How do you think we ought to start? How do you think we ought to start?»

J. D.: Again, you see, the word «start» is on a slightly lower note and not only that, it falls as you say it: «start — start».

Miss Tooley: Yes, it does. It falls right down to the bottom of my voice, listen: «How do you think we ought to start? How do you think we ought to start?»

J. D.: So the sentence is really in three parts, corresponding to the number of stressed syllables: «how», followed by four weak syllables; then «ought» followed by one weak syllable; and lastly, «start» followed by nothing at all.

Miss Too ley: How do you think we — ought to — start?

J. D.: We can make a good rule out of that. In sentences like this, the first stressed syllable and any weak, or unstressed syllables following it, are said on a fairly, high note; the second stressed syllable, and any more weak syllables after that, are said on a slightly lower note, and the same with the third, and the fourth, and so on, until you come to the last stressed syllable of all, which not only begins on a lower note than the previous one, but also falls right down until it can scarcely be heard at all. Well, now we must go back to the beginning, and see if our rule works for some of our other sentences.

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