13 January 2010
Boredom: bug or feature?
I’ve played many games where you spend large chunks of time doing nothing but trudging from one location to another. Not fighting enemies, not solving puzzles, not making strategic decisions, just... walking.
And heaven help you if you miss a room in the dungeon. Back you go, tromp, tromp, tromp... Couldn’t you give me a shortcut back to places, guys?
It got me wondering if the “down-time” of boredom is actually deliberately put into the games to make the high energy moments seem more exciting.
This thought wandered out and connected with a section in Randy Olson’s Don’t Be Such a Scientist, where he argues that it’s not reasonable to expect getting an education without a certain amount of pain – including the boredom of studying.
As an instructor, I am often pursuing engagement relentlessly. I am keenly aware of the need to compete for students’ limited attention. But I wonder if students might be a more tolerant to a little bit of boredom than they’re given credit for. Can a little boredom enhance engagement? Is there some optimal level?