We had a bunch of teenaged boys in the house last night who introduced us to “The Jesus Game”. For the uninitiated, this is a rousing online rendition of “seven degrees of separation”, where the player is challenged to get from some remote, randomly selected topic to “Jesus“, on Wikipedia, in the least number of clicks.
So, here’s how it works. You navigate to Wikipedia. I give you a random topic – say, discrete math. You scan the article, looking for suitable links. You strategize on your best shot, click, scan the new article for a relevant path, click, and so on. When you finally arrive at the Jesus entry, you’re done. Then we go back to your browser’s history, count up the number of clicks between “discrete math” and “jesus”, and that’s your number. Then it’s my turn. Hilarity ensues.
Here’s what I loved about watching these boys play the game last night: first, they were completely intent. Focused doesn’t describe it. If the house had been on fire, I would have had trouble dragging them away. But the other thing I loved was their conversation around the choices. They were all looking over the players’ shoulder, making suggestions, shouting out advice, scanning the article for meaning. Debating whether Catholicism or Protestantism would “get them to Jesus” faster. OK, so it’s not deep learning, but it’s a darned interesting way to observe their minds at work. It was like game play narration (which I’ve blogged about earlier), they were narrating their thinking, sharing it with others, learing from each other as they carved a path and then, afterwards, reflecting on the their decisions (which paths led to traps, which were the most productive). And here’s a really interesting thing – once a player made their way to a path previously blazed by an earlier player, they opted to not “cheat” (and mimic that path), but to look for an alternative. One player announced, “No no, that would be too easy, I’ll look for something else.”
And to complete the metathinking circle, there is a wikipedia entry on The Jesus Game.