At Bloomsburg University, the commencement address is provided by a member of the faculty instead of hiring an outside speaker. This means the presentation is more focused on Bloomsburg and the faculty member is someone that many of the students know.
This year, I had the honor of speaking at the morning ceremony to the College of Liberal Arts and the College of Science and Technology. I spoke to over 500 graduates and twice as many parents, friends and relatives.
Here is the transcript of my speech.
First of all I would like to extend my greeting to the parents, friends and relatives of the graduates. You should all be very proud. I am honored to be here today.
To the graduates, you are graduating at a time of unprecedented technological advances. Research is finding cures for diseases. Laboratories are creating products to improve our daily lives and the Internet has changed everything from how we shop to how we consume media. (In fact, I think I have seen a couple of you in a video on YouTube with Green Day or something like that.)
Today, I want to talk to you about a technology that impacts your daily lives, a technology that many of you have embraced and continue to embrace.
That technology is video games…that’s right, video games.
- How many of you graduates have played a video game?
- How many of you have played a video game to relieve stress?
- How many of you have played a video game when you were supposed to be studying?
As 2007 college graduates you are truly products of the video game age just as your baby boomer parents were products of the televisions age. In fact, last December I was standing in Rongos behind two students and one student said to the other, what are you asking your parents for this Christmas. The student said, “I’m letting them off easy this year, I’m only asking for three things.”
“Three things”, the other answers…”what are they?” He said, “a PlayStation 3, a Nintendo Wii and an Xbox 360.” The other student said, “Yeah, me too.”
At any given moment over 1.6 million people are playing a video game. Some claim that the video game industry is bigger then even Hollywood.
Many of the graduates in this audience were born in 1985, not coincidentally, the same year as the Nintendo Entertainment System, the puzzle game Tetras and the fun and quirky game Dig Dug and the same year “Where in the World is Carman Sandiego” hit schools across the country [Speakers note: This got a huge round of applause.]
As you have grown from the terrible twos into brooding teenagers and finally into fine young men and women, video games have grown from the early beginnings of Pong into games with more sophisticated graphics, content and interactions among players. Today, video games are everywhere. In fact many of you have video games on your cell phones…If I am not mistaken; I think some of you are playing a video game right now on your cell phone. Or maybe you are just texting your friends about where to meet after graduation. Tell them ttyl and focus up here. [Speaker’s note: I actually said tyyl and then the graduates shouted out it’s ttyl and I said, “See I continuously learn from my students.”]
As children of the video game age, you have grown playing games like Civilization, Super Mario Brothers, Roller Coaster Tycoon, Halo and Halo2 as well as the game The Sims.
Fortunately and unknowingly, these electronic games, regardless of their content have taught you many valuable lessons.
In the next few moments I want to share those lessons with you and your parents who are, by now, shaking their heads in disbelief. The lessons you learned playing video games will serve you well in the future and I implore you to apply these lessons as you move through life.
First, video games teach that failure and disappointment are opportunities for learning and growth. They teach you to be resilient. Let me give you an example from some of the rigorous, scientific research I did for my book. One day in my basement my wife and two boys were playing a video game based on the movie, the Incredibles…you know with Mr Fantastic, his wife stretch, and his invisible daughter and the little boy Dash. At this point in the game we were controlling Dash who was running around a tree and down a path. My wife picked up the controller and proceeded to run Dash directly into the tree. She tried again and ran Dash directly into the tree again with out veering. She did this 15 times and on the 16th time, she got around the tree and down the path.
How can you not learn to be resilient when a video game gives you multiple chances to try the same thing over and over again until you get it right. Video games teach you that if you work hard enough, you will learn the skill, technique or knowledge you are seeking.
As a video game player you must use every mistake or set back as an opportunity to get it right on the next try. And, when you do…that success gives you confidence to try an even more difficult task which in turn encourages you to try an even more difficulty task. The act of succeeding at difficult tasks is highly motivational.
As anyone can tell you, mistakes are inevitable. It is how you handle them that make the difference. View every mistake, set back and failure as a chance to learn, improve and move on. Do not dwell on mistakes.
Next, video games teach you to problem solve. Every time you pick up a controller, you are confronted with a problem. Much of the time spent in the game requires to you work through mazes, solve puzzles find objects and figure out what your Sim character really wants when its says “rello, rah rah, raha rah.” And to find clues. When you are confronted with a problem in the video game, you must break the problem in to its elements, reconstruct those elements and put them back together again to win.
You will be confronted with all kinds of problems in life. The first is how to get out of the parking lot after graduation. But you will also be confronted with problems like “how to pay the rent?” or which job to take or where to live. People will also confront you with problems, from your boss, relatives, co-workers and maybe even the IRS. Some problems you will need to solve independently but other problems you will need to solve in a group or a team. Be a person who solves problems.
Third, and this might be counter intuitive but video games to you how to cooperate and work in teams. There are even games specifically designed to teach you to work in teams. These are called Massively Multiplayer Online Role-play games or MMORPGs (there will be a quiz afterward). These games require team work and cooperation. Each person is assigned a specific role and they must accomplish that role. Life is similar
Let’s look at how you play a game in your dorm or apartment. You get a group of friends together and decide the best trade off the controllers, you might say to one friend, “Hey I know you are good at driving so you do that level and I’m good at solving puzzles so I will do that level.”
In life you must work on teams and joining with people that shore up your weaknesses and magnify your strengths. Be a team player
Finally games teach you to be life long learners. Well made video games require you to take knowledge from one level and apply it to the next. Life is the same way. Be a life long learner.
Know that Bloomsburg university has prepared you to move to progressively more difficult levels in your life.
Today, you complete the college level but don’t put down that controller yet, tomorrow you move to the next level. For some of you it may be the “graduate school Level” for some it is the “undecided level” (and as an aside if you are undecided Bloomsburg has a great masters’ program in instructional technology you may want to consider, the professors are a little quirky but) for others it maybe the “Professional Level” or the “Premed Level” for other still it might be the “move back home level” (this hopefully is a short level)
But regardless of what level, know that Bloomsburg university, actually more than video games has taught you to be resilient, a problem solver, to work cooperatively and to become life long learners. Those lessons will help you to be successful
And finally remember, today is not “Game over” instead, its “Congratulations, you’ve made it to the next level!”
It was an honor to speak and I really enjoyed the graduates. I hope they had as much fun listening to the speech as I did presenting it.