Graduation Speech

Bloomsburg University Students in Line to Receive Diplomas.

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.

Thank you.

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.

Recommended Games and Gadgets
Recommended Books
Content Guide

Posted in: Out and About

Leave a Comment (6) ↓


  1. chelyn February 7, 2008

    very nice. i love mario brothers. i was an avid player of family computer down to pc games but due to my parents’ restrictions/rules it has not become a problem prior to my education. and the set rules has become a way of life.

  2. BJ May 31, 2007

    Hey – since you’re a YouTuber, you might want to check this out… There’s a video company that’s recruiting
    YouTubers and if they like your stuff, (and they should) they will actually pay you when your video gets a hit.
    Here’s their link… It’s about time the people who make
    the videos get some of the money instead of it all going to YouTube!

  3. Karl Kapp May 20, 2007


    What can I say? Thank you for your kind comments. It is really the students and the alumni who inspire me and who are doing really great work in the field.

    Also, I didn’t know you had a blog and I am adding it now to my blog roll.


  4. BARTON May 16, 2007

    Wow…I don’t think I’d have the guts to do something like this in rural PA at a graduation ceremony with hundreds of parents, many of which probably threatened their kids to keep their consoles at home when they left for BU 🙂

    Kudos, sounds like it went very well.

  5. FaitsHound May 16, 2007

    You’re simply awesome.

  6. Cole May 16, 2007

    Karl … great speech and it appears as though you felt it was real honor to be able to share your thoughts with a collection of BU grads, but their parents and friends. It thrilled me to read your talk and made me think just how much the work that you and the rest of the people in the IIT are impacting the world at large.

    I can say that my time as an IIT graduate student prepared me for the road ahead … seeing your insights and leadership played out here at your blog and through the work you do throughout the community makes me very proud. I am obviously proud of my degree and former Institution, but I have to say to see you take a risk and bring your passion and area of expertise to the surface in this venue is just great.

    At the end of the day a talk like this — one that contextualizes the experiences of your students and my fellow alumni is an outstanding move. I really enjoyed reading your talk and could feel the enthusiasm you have for enriching the lives of future grads. Nice work!

Karl Kapp
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