When I was reading Frost and Yarrow’s Improvisation in Drama, Theatre and Performance: History, Practice, Theory, I was particularly drawn in by the claim that to Neva Boyd, “games… condense time and space to promote more rapid and freer learning” (Frost and Yarrow, 50). While it seems obvious why the condensing of time would result in increased pressure to learn faster, I was curious as to how condensing time and space is done by games (particularly non-electronic games) and how that condensing allowed for a greater range of learning.
The condensing of time and space is easy to imagine in video games – like how Grand Theft Auto IV is based on New York City, but everything’s closer together or how The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask has a three day cycle that does not actually span 72-hours – but imagining a decrease of time or space was difficult for me at first. However, as I write this I think I’m understanding it better. What pops into my mind is those old games of “House” that I would play with friends in elementary school that, in retrospect, were definitely improv games. We each had our characters in the family. Our house with its different rooms were designated by the lines of the Four-Square painted on the playground gravel and any other structures (the grocery store, work, school [woah meta]) were mimed a few steps outside of the Four-Square. Designations were key to condensed space. As for time, much like in Majora’s Mask, our days lasted minutes.
But did that allow us “freer learning”? Well the game certainly would have been boring if there were never any conflicts in our little made-up family. After a normal “day” or two in our game world, suddenly the dog will go missing or a murder would ensue and the game was on. Perhaps, the idea of “freer learning” has more to do with Sawyer’s emphases on the creative process and problem finding (152). In our little improv games, the fun was certainly first in finding one or more interesting-enough problems and then in playing at how to solve the problem. I suppose this could be called learning how to problem solve on subjects that we were interested in.
But how else can time and space be messed with to improve games? Is condensing time and/or space the only way to improve games or can increasing time or space lead to any positive outcomes? Let me know what you guys think!