School Introduction

Dialog with an Uncertain Future / Excerp (Irregular updates)

Fig. 1: Cyclic learning model (Created by the author based on Kolb, David A. Experiential Learning. Prentice Hall, 1984)

Fig. 2: Learning model of the second type of players (Created by the author based on Kolb, David A. Experiential Learning. Prentice Hall, 1984)

Fig. 3: How can you take this picture?

The 37th Installment“Network Games, Photography and Learning”

by Tsuyoshi Aziro,
Assistant Professor, Master's Program of Innovation for Design and Engineering

Network games, photography, and learning

The second cycle of this column series has started. In this column entitled "Network games, photography, and learning," I would like to describe the image of learning that I pursue by observing network games from the viewpoint of a learning model and talking about photography.

Let's begin with network games. Network games are the type of games that multiple players can play together over communication lines such as the Internet. They include a wide variety of games, from the online versions of traditional games like go and shogi to games based on very elaborate fictitious worlds. I also enjoy them myself in spite of my age in trying to keep up with the times, which is an excuse.

Now let's move to learning models. One of the roots of the PBL (Project Based Learning) at the Advanced Institute of Industrial Technology is a cyclic learning model (see Fig. 1). In this model, learners improve their skills by repeating the following four processes autonomously. The model is linked to continuous learning, one of our core competencies.

(1) Observe a phenomenon, (2) make a hypothesis (based on the observation), (3) set up an action plan (to verify the hypothesis), and (4) act.

Network games and learning models
Here I will observe network games from the viewpoint of the cyclic learning model. In a network game we meet different players. They are roughly divided into two types, depending on how they acquire their game strategies. The first type of player finds strategies by trial and error. They are exact examples of the cyclic learning model (Fig. 1). The second type of player acquires strategies discovered by a third party as a knowledge set. Fig. 2 shows the learning model compared with the cyclic learning model.

But, we have Wiki
Network games of today are very large. It is already unrealistic for one player to unlock all the secrets in a game as in simulation games a decade ago. Both players and game developers presume the sharing of knowledge at SNSs. In this environment, some players can offer information to the media (they can search for and theorize partial strategies, such as the whereabouts of the treasures under specific conditions), and some players cannot.

Power of Wiki
Of course you can win in a game if you know the winning strategies. Unlike go and shogi, many of today's network games seem to have winning strategies that can be provided as information. Therefore, for many network games, all you have to do to win is to acquire the latest strategies. Meanwhile, we can enjoy games by trying to discover the strategies for ourselves. I try to find them, but some people have already discovered the laws far more refined than mine. It is too difficult for me. I am often reproached by a player who seems to be a high school student writing, "You don't even know that!" with a face mark. (It sounds like sour grapes, but I want to lecture him someday: "You heard it from someone. You can't distinguish between what you find yourself and what you hear from someone else. Can you say you play games?") However, the harsh reality is that I cannot beat those players. I realize "the power of education" that delivers up-to-date knowledge promptly.

What is the purpose?
Now, let's go back to the main topic. If our purpose is "to win the game," we must only continue to acquire the latest information. Many type two players (who only acquire information) can develop overwhelming power. Then, if our purpose is "the training of people who can develop winning strategies," it is a different story. I think that educational support is reasonable. The context is different from victory in a game.

Now, let's pay attention to the number of type one players. As the number of games increases, the more type one players are required. I know that it is a large leap to apply what happens in network games to the real world. However, if the creation of new industries for the future is set as one of the purposes in our society, research on how to train type one players is fairly significant. On the other hand, the training of type one players is a developing topic, and is also my interest in research. I continue trial and error to develop a method to effectively support the intentional, not accidental, training of type one players (people who can learn autonomously).

Photography x ambition
Finally, I want to talk about photography. In our Master Program of Innovation for Design and Engineering, a photography studio was built in Yumekobo this spring. It is designed to store works by our students and to provide opportunities for trial and error to discover compositions and lighting techniques that make photographs beautiful. If the purpose of photography is to "take beautiful pictures" (victory in a game), I think it is possible to raise our students to a certain level through textbooks. However, our goal is not to train students to be cameramen. I would definitely like them to try to discover their own strategies by trial and error. (Of course, photography is sufficiently trial and error.) I am glad to see yet a small number of students absorbed in taking pictures in the studio for a long time. When I visit the studio, they say: "I have never thought lights and angles change expressions so much," "Now I can see the flaws in my work that I overlooked with the naked eye," and "It is difficult but enjoyable." It is the moment when I think that the studio is a success and that our students are promising.

However, simply providing equipment and recommending trial and error is far from sufficient as an educational program. (Probably the ending is the same as that in a network game.) How can more students discover problems from observation? How can victory in a game (offering of information) and the training of skills be divided properly? Cutting-edge competition may require communication skills to participate in the system of knowledge properly. Creative team power is also required to acquire new ideas as a team instead of individually. As an educational program, objectivity and efficiency must be improved. While thus worrying, I want to advance with a spirit that opens a new frontier.

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  • The 38th Installment

    “The Ability to Look Ahead”

    by Yuka Kato,
    Professor, Master's Program of Information Systems Architecture
  • The 37th Installment

    “Network Games, Photography and Learning”

    by Tsuyoshi Aziro,
    Assistant Professor, Master's Program of Innovation for Design and Engineering
  • The 36th Installment

    “The World of the Model and the World of Code”

    by Chuzo Akiguchi,
    Professor, Masters Program of Information Systems Architecture