Video Games and the Art of Failing Creatively

by Kevin Fredericks, NCLab Game Director


At NCLab, I have been helping develop software that gives learners interesting choices and precise feedback. I think this software improves the way people learn, and a lot of this has to do with the way people fail.


In the institutions of education, one often hears about the importance of “critical thinking”. Critical thinking is the science of failure. How did this machine fail? How did this argument fail? How did this computer program fail? We have accepted the base assumption that learners should think critically, but what do we understand about failure? The truth is, we can only understand failure by experiencing it, and to fail we have to try to learn something new. We need to take a risk.

If you want to improve your ability to learn, you need to improve your ability to fail. Successes come naturally, but a useful failure takes work. I might sound like a motivational poster, but I urge you to take chance on an important challenge. There is no magic bullet for learning how to code or use computers. There is no four-week bootcamp that will ever teach you how to think critically if you haven’t already learned to fail creatively. With the right help, learners everywhere will look forward to their next failure as an opportunity, and then we might each learn what it means to succeed.