I once made the mistake of asking a student where his attitude came from. This kid had not done so well on the midterm, so when he came sauntering into my office, I figured I knew what was coming. Hooooo boy was I wrong!
Kid: I didn’t pass the midterm.
Me: I know. Let me call up my copy of your exam and let’s talk about it.
Kid: Can’t I just re-take it?
Me: [spitting my coffee all over a stack of blue books] Whaaaaaaat?
Kid: Can I re-take the midterm?
Me: Ummmm…. no.
Kid: Why not?
Me: [goes across the street to Starbucks, purchases a venti for $7.50, comes back, sits down, sprays it all over another stack of blue books]. Well…. lots of reasons. For instance, we just went over the midterm in class, so, you know, I just gave you all the answers. Plus that, life has very few do-overs. Plus that, are you frickin’ kidding me? Where in this world are you allowed to re-take an exam you failed?
Kid: High school! We got to take exams over and over. So long as we showed improvement, our grade went up.
Me: You must’ve gone to school in California. What class was this, Saving the Rainforest?
Kid: No, history! And I went to high school in [local, seemingly sane school district].
I swear to you, this happened. I’ve since heard a version of this from a lot of professors… and a lot more students. Evidently, you are not allowed to fail in grade school anymore. No children left behind!
I’ve long held that Little League should be mandatory — how else are kids going to learn that not everyone is good at everything? But now I believe that video games should be outlawed, too – or, at least, video game manufacturers should be required to make them old-school. No Konami Code!
The problem is the “save point.” Modern games don’t have them. Back in the days, of course, you often couldn’t save your game at all, which meant that if you wanted to try to beat, say, Ninja Gaiden, you’d better have cleared an entire afternoon or three. But even when saving became common, technology (and game design!) were such that you could only save your game at a few select spots. Who hasn’t spent a tense 45 minutes staggering around Raccoon City, 95% dead, with only three bullets left in the last clip, frantically searching for one of those goddamn typewriters?
If you didn’t find one, of course, it was back to the beginning for you — all those hours lost!
It sounds trivial, I realize, but what better way to make kids realize that actions have consequences? Failing a level was painful — when you’re 12, having to go back to the start of the level hurts. Failure has consequences. Moreover, knowing that the next save point was a long way away informed every decision — charging in, guns blazing, might get you through the fist part of level 1.1, but the save point is at the very end of level 1.4, and there’s no ammo between here and there….
The Standardized Test Generation, of course, has never had to make strategic decisions about anything. You can save your game any time, so you can reload at any time… and, of course, within moments of any game’s release there’s a YouTube video of some tweenager in Singapore beating it flawlessly in record time, so you don’t even have to use trial and error to figure out a level. Just Google it!
I’m almost to the point of assigning Super Nintendo in class.