|We all have the capacity to think critically|
Recently a fair few companies and individuals have actually asked me to look at some specific things critically, and tell them what I think. You might think that it'd be easy for me, what with all the reviews I do. I'd certainly think most people who know me well enough would confirm that critical thought is one of my 'strong suits'. However, with the things I've been asked to cast my critical and beady eyes over recently, the people doing the 'asking' weren't asking for a review as such. Thing is there are many different types of critical thought, despite what certain academics and business management guru's might have you believe. When the critical thought requires you to actually solve a problem, or asses a system it's very different to simply giving my reasoned opinion. While I'm not claiming my reviews are anywhere near as profound in their deliberations as many scholarly thinkers, I do take my time and seriously consider my deliberations. While not everyone will agree with my reviews, and indeed many will disagree with them vehemently, I believe I articulate my views well. I state my case and give responses to the products that end up on my reviewing desk. I think I'm good at it too.
But I am a great believer in being honest with people, even to the point of offending them if necessary. But, I do so while always trying to be constructive. I also believe that critical thought is something we all posses to varying degrees, whether you think you do or not. There are some basic similarities though between reviewing a product and play testing a game, or helping during the design phase. So what are the similarities between the various forms of critical thinking? Well I believe all critical thought is about examining assumptions, evaluating evidence or intrinsic values. I think it's important that critical thought has a purpose or a value to it as well, a goal if you will. Because without a target or a reason for the critical thought it becomes aimless and meandering. Your critique should therefore always be aiming at these goals, seeking to accomplish a level of understanding and ultimately to test your own conclusions to ensure their robustness. When I look at the set of skills required of a good critical thinker I actually see many of the things that make the best gamers I know so very good at what they do.
So I have often pondered this question in my head, am I a good critical thinker because I play games? Or am I a good gamer because I'm a critical thinker? Sadly there isn't a twin Frontline Gamer acting as a controlled experiment who was locked away from all gaming activity to see how he would develop. I'd pity the poor sod if there was. So I'll never truly know, but I do think that war gaming in particular does enhance our critical thought skills. As gamers we're all trained to think critically, to asses systems. To make snap judgements about decisions on the board via observation of it, and the 'evidence' such critical observation might bring. Think about it, we try and accomplish actions or goals via manipulation and understanding of the mechanics of any given system. We use different methods, techniques or strategies for formulating our judgements on how to proceed. Ultimately any game we play is a problem that has to be or can be solved. Obviously there's a lot of contextual analysis that goes on when any of us play the various games we do too. I think gaming in all it's varieties actually teaches us all some pretty good critical thought skills.
|Look that's me under playtesting|
So I know I'm not in any way unique, or I shouldn't be. So to be specifically asked to employ my critical thought by others is an honour. The first time somebody asked me to critique something in this way was well over a decade ago now. Like now, back then I was surprised anybody actually valued my opinion enough to ask. I'm always glad people do though. Why? Because I like problem solving and systems analysis. In short I'm a very sad individual. I'm a nerd and I don't pretend otherwise. Play testing board games and war games is also a lot of fun. Don't get me wrong, at the Alpha and Beta stages there are normally more than the odd 'kink' in the system to sort out and it's not always fun to play a half finished product. But there is reward in it. You get to advise people on where to go next and what to do. You also see the evolution of a product, be that a game or a HDF building. You see it grow and change. Hopefully for the better if you've taken your time and done your task properly. The biggest buzz though is actually from seeing cool stuff way before it's released. It's a privilege and an honour that people trust you with their 'baby' so to speak, or more pointedly commercially sensitive information.
|Just in case you're wandering I'm still taking it easy|
Anyone who knows me well will also know that this last bit, or the situation it puts me in is a bit of a personal conundrum for me. Insofar that I love to talk about hobby things... a lot! My Blog is testament to this, yet I'm insanely loyal and honourable. So having lots of cool hobby related goodies dangled in front of me and then to be asked not to talk about them is complete and utter torture for me. Some of my friends haven't seen some of the things I have because I take the phrase 'in strictest confidence' very seriously. Honestly, it's like purgatory for me. Or maybe a certain circle of hell that Dante forgot to mention in his Divine Comedy, a circle reserved specifically for me it seems! So how am I getting around all of this? How am I managing to keep my sanity, while keeping my trap shut? Well I guess my will to see more new cool things in the future definitely outweighs my desire to blab about the stuff I have seen so far. Because if I open my big trap now I know people will stop trusting me with all this stuff, and that would make me a very sad panda indeed. But hey, on the plus side I have found a use for my Blog, I'm using it as a way of writing loads of articles about the stuff I'm seeing. It's turning into a pressure release valve now. I won't publish them yet but being able to vent and pour my thoughts into these articles is helping, I guess that's a bit like some people use a diary. Sort of. All I can say though is that you guys are in for some treats over the coming months. Peace out!