Recently I came across a four video series where Dag Svanaes discusses how the philosophy of Heidegger and Merleau-Ponty could advice better understanding of interaction design. The first of the videos below, with a couple of quotes that I found especially basic and useful.
“To actually experience interactivity, you have to engage in some kind of interaction. And it is only through this interaction that the interactivity of the object appears to you. That you perceive it. Objects have various affordances, interaction is created by you in the interaction with the gadget.”
From video 2: “What it is (for example a pen), is just matter in space. It becomes something through use and social negotiation.”
I find this as a very important notion, especially when I’ve been reading more and more studies that have taken existing game engines to be used “seriously” in professional training, such as in mining. Often video games have certain affordances, such as exploration and interaction in general (naturally there are differences between Tetris and Halo). Such affordances are always restricted by the underlying programming and choices by the developers (invisible walls, I can’t go and eat a burger in Halo and in Borderlands I cannot die hitting the ground even jumping from the tallest building). Still, it seems to me, something is always stripped away even more when games are “assimilated” into education. In worst cases, they become something else than games. Through actual use, they become mere powerpoints.