Level Up: Presenting the Future of Education as a Game, and How It May Take the Form of a Web3-powered Metaverse
Bianca Mikaila
0x6E34
May 27th, 2022

TL;DR

If you only have a couple of minutes to spare, here’s a summary:

  • The ways that most students are learning and creating are no longer serving them. They find more value in virtual spaces than schools because they are better at empowering people in pursuing their interests, which can be seen in the rise of young creators. However, these spaces are still systematically designed against students; they can end up being finite games where only the privileged can win.
  • In the future, education will look like a game, and it’ll be embedded in our lives. We’ll not only be surrounded by endless opportunities for learning by doing, but we’ll also be able to benefit from these. This could encourage a mindset where learning is valued over earning.
  • This Game may be realized through Web3, which empowers ownership of education, and the Metaverse, which encourages deep engagement with it. A childhood of growing up online has prepared youth for these platforms.
  • By cultivating human creativity and collaboration, this Game can be considered as a digital creative tool. In order to bring out learners’ highest potential, it must be designed intentionally. Many technological, social, and economic challenges also need to be addressed so that anyone and everyone can play this Game.
  • You can’t master this Game alone. People level up by going from playing for themselves to playing for and with others. Only together will we be able to tackle our main quest: creating a world for human flourishing.

"You'll find the future wherever people are having the most fun."  — Steven Johnson, Wonderland: How Play Made the Modern World

As a kid who grew up on the Internet, playing was a way of living.  Play came in the form of creation; I remember spending hours telling stories online, whether it be through drawing fanart or roleplaying characters. It got to the point when my mother enforced a limit, worried that I was getting addicted to the computer. Now, I've found myself with an abundance of opportunities — exciting Web3 projects, international freelance gigs, a prestigious scholarship — thanks to being well-versed in design, art, and writing: skills that I primarily gained not through sitting in school, but through having fun online.

Around me, I see kids growing up the same way. At one end, there are developers learning programming through creation games like Roblox and Minecraft. At another, there are artists cultivating their craft in fandom communities on Twitter and Discord. I believe that these kids aren't just making their own futures, but the world's as well; investor Chris Dixon says that these present-day hobbies will seed future industries. Today's youth will be tomorrow's innovators.

So why aren't these hobbies taken seriously? It's because schools are still seen as the main venue for a person's development. However, there's more to learning than what can be found in school. In this essay, I'll be talking about how environments encourage or block students' growth, how existing virtual spaces fit into this, and how a giant game could become the best classroom of all.

How environments enable students

Our environment is the invisible hand that shapes our behavior.  In line with this, the best learning environments are enabling environments; according to researcher Andy Matuschak, these significantly expand its participants’ capacity to do things they find meaningful and important. To do this, the activities they provide must directly serve an intrinsically meaningful purpose. When participants are fuelled by an intense personal connection to a subject, they'll naturally partake in effortful engagement, which naturally leads to deep understanding. These activities must also focus on action. Compare reading about a sport versus actually playing the sport: the level of immersion corresponds to the amount of proficiency one can gain in the skill. Overall, enabling environments empower participants in acting on their interests by creating opportunities for personal growth and highlighting bridges to opportunities for action based on that growth.

Schools aspire to do this, but often fall short. This is because their primary purpose is knowledge/skill development, which isn't intrinsically meaningful on its own. Because of this, students depend on teachers not only for expertise but also for purpose (i.e. learning for the sake of passing the subject). This dependence hinders the cultivation of an intense personal connection, making it less likely for the students to develop a deep understanding of a subject. Meanwhile, well-designed software can create better enabling environments for youth because they empower them in pursuing their passions (e.g. expanding range of artistic expression, distributing to millions with zero marginal cost).

Games are a prime example of this. Philosopher C. Thi Nguyen describes them as an art form shaping our agency: what we do, how we do it, why we do it. Game designers accomplish this by creating rules, constraints, and affordances that make up the form of agency that players inhabit. For instance, chess is designed to focus players on calculational thinking, while Civilization focuses players on political strategy. By restricting players to various practical mindsets, games teach them new ways of inhabiting their own agency — helping them become more free. After all, you can’t break the rules without learning about them first.

Matuschak clarifies that most games aren't enabling environments. Even if they're effective at developing knowledge and skills, they rarely expand players' capacity in doing things they find meaningful and important, since the primary purpose of most games is to create an aesthetic/emotional experience. However, there are a few that do enable agency: Minecraft's creative mode enables serious creative expression, while the structured social environments of massively-multiplayer online games enable interpersonal connection and community formation. These types of games, alongside other types of well-designed software, are the new schools of today's youth.

Virtual spaces: what they give and take

So how do these virtual spaces serve as enabling environments for learners? The essay  "Video Games are the Future of Education" offers several conclusions.

One, they give students the environment and tools to make discoveries themselves. This is because they provide space, time, and autonomy, which enables students to choose what they learn and how they learn it. Schools cannot provide this level of freedom. That's why kids remember what they encounter through engaging in these spaces, and forget what is taught to them in classes. They need to feel like it's just play.

Two, these spaces provide a deep understanding of subjects. This is because they simulate reality and provide fast feedback loops, thanks to innovative features like immersive  environments and real-time communication. Outputs are tangible to students, and directly related to the skills they learn (e.g. Git repositories for code, published pieces for art). Students also receive more realistic responses to their work (e.g. comments, metrics). Compare this to the typical school experience, which is quite shallow; when you're focused on memorizing information just to pass exams, you don't have the capacity to dive deep into a topic.

In short, virtual spaces can be optimal learning environments because they provide additional context and creative freedom. Aside from this, they bring together people with diverse ideas and interests since there are no barriers of physical location. This allows for a more equitable and effective distribution of knowledge, skills, and information.

However, these spaces are still capable of exploiting or underserving youth, just like in traditional education.

For instance, real life inequality is elevated due to the digital divide. Those who can't rely on their own devices or connectivity won't be able to benefit from these spaces as much as people who can. Even worse, these spaces can also bar people financially. In many MMO games, the premium experience (i.e. exclusive items, more user privileges) is reserved for those who can afford a membership. Free members can't get these unless they work for it (a.k.a. putting in more time for less pay).

One benefit these spaces bring is that they show youth that they can find professional success with their talents by bringing them practical experience that is difficult to get in school. We see artists earning from their own merchandise and commissions and developers getting thousands of players for their games. However, most creators don't get to fully benefit from their work, since the majority of profit goes to the platforms.

For example: Roblox’s model makes it challenging for game developers to make money from their creations.  Developers only get a 25 percent cut of revenue, which is one third of the industry standard. If they want to take out their earnings, they must have a premium subscription ($5 a month) and earn a minimum of 100,000 Robux. Artists are also at the mercy of social media platforms. Feed algorithms value frequency of posting over the time and effort art takes. Consequently, artists’ careers are being defined by the number of followers and positive reactions they get. This pressures them to constantly create and market content for the sake of making a living.

Overall, these conditions make it difficult for youth to derive value not just from these spaces, but from the work they produce in them. It's why many parents and guardians discourage their kids from spending time online; they see it as a waste of time and money, and are unable to see how it could be beneficial long-term. Yet imagine how much youth would be empowered if these barriers to participation were removed.  How can we tackle these problems? It's time to get creative.

Changing the game

I believe that youth learn best when they feel like they're engaging in play; after all, we humans are Homo Ludens — born players. But I don't necessarily just mean playing video games. I'm talking about the games we play in life. According to writer James Carse, there are two types of games: finite, which is played for the purpose of winning, and infinite, which is played for the purpose of continuing play. Even if infinite games are best for learning, most of our educational environments are designed as finite games. Offline, we're optimizing for name-brand schools and 4.0 GPAs; online, we're grinding to top leaderboards and increase our reach. After spending all our youth playing in point systems, we end up  valuing  product (earning) over process (learning). So what if we approached education as an infinite game?

The Internet already serves as the venue for the biggest infinite game ever: The Great Online Game. Coined by investor Packy McCormick, this is a game where you play as yourself, racking up points, skills, and attributes that can be applied to your online and offline lives. Leveling up here is simple: the more you provide value (without expecting anything in return), the more you'll be rewarded. The best part is that anyone can play this game; it's nearly free to play, and leveling up is easier since your financial and social capital isn't tightly tied to real life credentials and connections. Playing this game is the ultimate way to experience learning by doing.

People have always learned this way, but the Internet has given this approach the spotlight it deserves. We've arrived at an age of embedded education, where learning happens everywhere instead of being limited to individual platforms. Now, people are learning through encounters they have in systems that may have been created for non-educational purposes. On one hand, it looks like teenage girls learning about HTML/CSS and feminism on Tumblr; on the other, it looks like productivity nerds creating resources and tutorials for Notion.

However, the current web isn't designed for the new ways we're learning. Standard online educational platforms like Canvas, Coursera, and Youtube see learning as consuming content; they don’t explicitly show how knowledge can be applied in actual context. This must change. In the future, I believe that the future of education will look like an infinite game that rewards learning by doing. This meta-game might be composed of multiple sub-games, where learning takes many forms: going to events (e.g. lectures, workshops, panels), creating insightful content, taking on job experiences, and working on side projects. Thus, everyone becomes a lifelong student; why would you want to stop learning when there are so many opportunities for it?

I see this vision taking the form of a Metaverse powered by Web3 because of its potential for embedding education seamlessly into our lives. Stated well by investor Tina He: "If the purpose of education is to inspire courage to expand our collective understanding of the world, the vision of Embedded Education is that every time we see something that inspires us, the path to actualizing this new-found dream starts right where we find it."

Before I illustrate what this vision looks like, I first need to explain what these innovations are and how they work together.

A Whole New Web

This future is defined by freedom; people would be free to choose what they learn and how they learn it. This may only be achievable on an open web: one that is by and for all of its users, not select figures or institutions. A closed web is an inequitable world for education; only a few people will have access to opportunities for their personal growth. Together, Web3 and the Metaverse have the potential to open the internet to all.

Web3

An open internet is one where everyone gets ownership over it, and Web3 is the infrastructure that enables this. It's a new vision for the Internet where interactions in applications are facilitated through wallets; these replace accounts by serving as both verified identities and funding sources. This mechanic empowers users to own their content, data, and assets and frees them from being shackled to any given platform like Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. Thus, Web3 shifts from  finite to infinite games unbounded by any single platform.

Web3 is reshaping education into Ed3, where learners own their education. Instead of relying on accredited institutions and centralized distributors (e.g. universities and Udemy), they gather skills from a variety of sources and validate this knowledge in their wallets. In a decentralized ecosystem, learners will no longer be as inhibited by their time, location, and money — anyone will be able to get the credentials they want and need.

In short, Web3 empowers people to own their digital identities; this in turn enables them to own their education. However, Web3 today is still too complex and confusing for the typical learner. It can't be navigated without a high degree of technical literacy. In order to make this accessible to all, this infrastructure needs a paradigm-shifting interface. McCormick writes that it needs to "...add order to the...chaos of decentralization, and give obvious and meaningful utility to digital assets...it will need to...hide complexity beneath the surface, and deliver clean experiences. It will need to create a canvas for both developers and users themselves to create the next million new apps." Basically: what interface is capable of enabling people to freely navigate Web3? Enter the Metaverse.

The Metaverse

The Metaverse can be generally defined as an Internet that creates a sense of place and facilitates rich human connection. We are already living in the early stages of the Metaverse. Encouraged by the pandemic, most of our lives have shifted online: working, talking, shopping, and more; our physical spaces have been replaced by spatial software such as games like Fortnite and platforms like Gather.

However, our digital experience is currently scattered across various spaces, making us feel disconnected. Yet the Metaverse unlocks the value of Web3. Through decentralization and interoperability, Web3 consolidates digital identity, weaves separate spaces into a cohesive universe, and gives digital assets physical characteristics (e.g. cryptocurrencies behaving like cash, NFTs behaving like physical items). The Metaverse makes these benefits feel tangible, portraying the internet as a tapestry of rich, immersive domains. This visual experience abstracts away Web3's complexity, helping people truly understand and utilize the power of ownership.

As the ultimate virtual space, the ideal Metaverse would be the perfect environment for embedding education. Its immersive nature enables learning by doing. Platform-native encounters shorten the feedback loop from theory to practice, which helps people deeply internalize their learnings. This is characteristic of an enabling environment; reading about anatomy can't compare to doing virtual surgery. The Metaverse would also help make education more accessible. Knowledge and information has often been gatekept by platforms and institutions. To tackle this problem, embedded education aims to redistribute and embed these into our everyday experience. We're already familiar with the Internet, thinking of it as a place; why not see it as one big university too? An open metaverse could be the new school campus.

To summarize: if Web3 enables people to own their education, the Metaverse encourages them to deeply engage with it. It does this by freeing people from Web3's complexity and connecting them with like-minded learners.

We’re Ready for this Future

Modern youth are already primed for a Web3-powered Metaverse; being immersed in digital worlds helps us transition to virtual systems like Web3. Founder Brian Cho discusses their advantages:

One, (value) creation/contribution: Concepts like wallets, tokens, and NFTs are intuitive to understand because of a childhood spent dealing with virtual currencies and goods in game environments. They may also already be used to working for rewards online, whether  through grinding for XP or commenting for reputation. This applies to learning too; they are willing to put up with a steep learning curve just to have fun.

Two, community: Many youths are active participants of gaming guilds and fan forums, so they might feel natural participating in decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs): mission-driven groups that coordinate through blockchain-enforced rules. For example, take community-led governance. Kids who run Minecraft servers are always thinking about the impact the design of their server has on their players (e.g. making their world free-for-all, punishing those who break the rules, using plugins to prevent damage). At the same time, they're also learning soft skills like compromising with others, balancing demands, and resolving conflict.

Three, culture: Many youths are also comfortable with having multiple identities; this can be seen not just in gaming, but also in alt accounts (i.e. finstas). This is because internet-based identities revolve around merit; what you do online is more important than who you are offline. Web3 works similarly there are many anonymous and pseudonymous participants, the most famous being Satoshi Nakamoto, the founder of Bitcoin. Virtual identities protect those who may not feel comfortable doxxing themselves online (e.g. women trying to avoid harassment) so they feel safe enough to participate in learning experiences with others. The way people communicate has also been affected. Web2 memes and language (e.g. gamer lingo like “gg” or “good game”) has been a huge influence on Web3 (e.g. “wagmi” or “we’re all going to make it”). All of this helps cultivate a sense of connection with strangers all across the globe. This feeling is vital for remote learning communities; it helps students have a shared identity despite coming from different backgrounds.

It can be difficult to see the potential of Web3 and the Metaverse because most mainstream use cases seem frivolous, from collecting expensive animal JPEGs to playing in clunky 3D worlds. However, the next big thing in technology often looks like a toy. This was the case with the Internet. It was initially dismissed by others; but after improving over time (i.e. lower cost, better UX), it achieved widespread adoption and became entrenched in our daily lives. I believe a Web3-powered Metaverse is on this same path. But we need the right principles to ensure that it's on the right track.

Designing the Game

Principles

If the future of education looks like a game, then it must also be a digital creative tool. In "Computers and Creativity", designer Molly Mielke discusses how digital creative tools can be co-creators with humans; they foster innovation by lowering the barrier to entry, making all users toolmakers and owners. Cultivating human creativity and collaboration should also be the aspiration of an ideal education. How can we tackle this with the technologies we have? Mielke names three core concepts, which I'll apply to education:

First, educational technology must be standardized. Mielke writes that technical standardization would enable interoperability,  "...allowing in more collaborators, making space for greater tooling innovation, and expanding a project's creative constraints beyond any one tool itself." For instance, research lab Ink & Switch proposed “local-first software”: a set of principles that enables both collaboration and ownership for users; Figma falls under this due to its browser-first approach, helping make design more accessible to all. The future of education cannot be built alone; standardization brings both the power and perspectives needed to bring it to life.

Next, educational technology must be moldable. Mediums can be designed, not just inherited, and learners should play a role in designing their environment. This can be done through providing them options for customization, along with support from collaborative communities. One example is Notion: its malleability enables all kinds of use cases, from students’ personal dashboards to teachers’ course wikis. The future of education cannot serve everyone if it cannot adapt to anyone's needs.

Finally, educational technology must be abstracted. By being fully responsible for executing tedious tasks, it'll allow learners to fully focus on creativity and play. This can be seen in no-code website builders like Webflow; by simplifying and optimizing web development, their visual interfaces encourage users to experiment. The future of education cannot only target an enlightened few; for maximum accessibility, it must be hands-on, comprehensible, and participatory.

Overall, educational technology must be interoperable, malleable, and efficient to promote agency in learners. A Web3-powered Metaverse can achieve this…if designed right.

Game design

If the future of education looks like a game, it must be intentionally designed. We must be wary of gamification — it often ends up as pointsification, which is all about external motivation. Examples of this are mechanics like points, badges, and leaderboards; when used carelessly, they can end up making finite games. Educator Ana Lorena Fabrega says that games are at their best when people play them out of genuine interest. The same should apply to this Game; people should be playing not primarily for earning credentials, but to enjoy learning. In order to design a true game, Fabrega states the need for the following criteria:

First, a goal or specific outcome that provides players with a sense of purpose. Players must feel like they’re doing something meaningful. Ideally,  whatever you learn should be used to help other people learn too. Communities could write their own manifestos, for instance, asking “What would Sustainable Development Goals look like in this new digital realm?”

Next, rules that place limitations on how players can achieve their goal. Games are constructed struggles; they can’t exist without constraints. Examples include game mechanics and Codes of Conduct. These ensure that players have an enjoyable experience. Without rules, players may be confused on what to do, take shortcuts that defeat the game's purpose, or offend fellow players.

Then, a feedback system that tells players how close they are to achieving their goal. Without feedback, players won’t be able to improve. Feedback should mainly be sourced from fellow players. Based on others’ responses, one must be able to tell from their actions what's working and what's not. They must also be careful of favoring quantifiable metrics; views and likes may not compare to genuine conversations.

Finally, voluntary participation. It's not a game if people don't know that they're playing. Consent isn't just agreeing to play, but also having full knowledge of the game. This can be done through Web3 wallet transactions, which must always be signed before being processed. The problem is conveying all necessary information (i.e. objectives, rules) clearly without becoming a typical lengthy Terms and Conditions. Verses’ manifestos are great examples: they not only concisely state what it means to leave a signature, but also provide guides for Web3 beginners.

I see these criteria being applied to both the sub-games that serve as learning opportunities (e.g. joining hackathons) and the meta-game itself.

Challenges

A Web3-powered Metaverse has so much potential, but there’s a lot of development that needs to be done before it can realize the future of education. The main problem barring the creation of this Metaverse concerns technology: the Internet's current infrastructure is not developed enough to support this grand vision. Both Web3 and Metaverse (i.e. AR, XR, VR) technologies are still in their early stages, so only a privileged few can benefit from using them.

But there are also big social and economic challenges that need to be tackled.

One, personal privacy. Do we really want to make everything we learn and make visible on the blockchain? Both "successes" and "failures" would be shown (i.e. mastering the Solidity language v.s. initiating an unprofitable NFT project). How can we encourage failure and growth without it being detrimental to one's prospects? If we aren't careful, this may lead to a personal branding similar to Linkedin culture, only where people are afraid of getting involved with projects that may hurt their resume.

Two, zero-sum mindsets. Many people are skeptical ofWeb3 because of problems like hyper-financialization and environmental harm, which are often caused by players who prioritize individual gains. Unfortunately, these players thrive because the space is an unequal playing field: the language isn't beginner-friendly, scams are everywhere, and minorities still struggle to be heard. If Web3 can collectively benefit humanity, we must explicitly show it: educating newbies, fighting scammers, supporting unknown creators, etc. All of these actions go towards making a positive-sum space, where all players can participate and gain.

Three, public goods. Education must be accessible to all in an open Metaverse. Video games like Minecraft and Fortnite have already served as engaging educational platforms, teaching thousands of kids all over the world. However, most companies (especially Big Tech) prefer creating walled gardens versus collaborating with others. This leads them to build proprietary products from open source software and steal features from one another (e.g. Snapchat's stories). If such companies were allowed to control this space, the Metaverse would become closed; their extractive systems that value profits over people would continue to hurt young creators. How can we incentivize working together in order to build an open Metaverse? I find hope in the culture of Web3, where collaboration is the norm.

Playing the Game

I’ve explained the form this Game may take, and the intention that should be put into its design. Now, I’ll show how I envision this Game by illustrating the player’s journey: how does one level up from student to teacher?

Single-Player Learning

In this Game, learning is hands-on. If one's objective is to master a topic, they can only prove this competency through practical experience. The Game takes on the burden of comprehension by making abstract concepts feel more concrete, leaving learners to focus on critical thinking. At the same time, it would encourage them to have fun, making the steep learning curve less excruciating.

Let's apply this to "programming by demonstration". Khan Academy already teaches like this; in their exercises, the left-hand side contains the code while the right-hand side contains the simulation of it. The Game would upgrade this simulation, turning outputs on a screen to a whole world you can interact with; like Minecraft, it encourages computational thinking in kids through their advanced elements, like redstone and command blocks. Another example is investing in crypto and NFTs: a wealth-building skill that anyone can benefit from. Why read instructional modules when you can experience trading instead? You can do this in Curious Addy's Trading Club, where players can simulate trading cryptocurrencies and NFTs risk-free.

In this Game, you can Choose Your Own Adventure. The only requirement for leveling up is practical experience, but it's up to the player to decide how they'll gain this experience. Students choose  what they want to acquire, from learned skills to supported works. This is all shown on their own profile. Wallets could serve as the basis of profiles because they enable everyone to have their own inventory; learners could bring their creations and credentials to whatever platform they go to. Thus, a profile can act as a dynamic resume or passport, where what you learn and make is shown on-chain.

For instance, you could get a badge for every educational experience you've attended. This is made possible through Proof of Attendance Protocols (POAPs), NFTs that serve as reliable records of life experiences. Imagine also earning tokens for learning. Teachers and fellow peers could send you these to attest for your skills, traits, or accomplishments; these could then be verified through peer review or an assessment of your on-chain activity. As a token holder, you'd be able to exchange your tokens for fiat, compensate students, teachers, and creators, and shape the overall educational  experience. Learners in Crypto, Culture, & Society (liberal arts education for crypto) use their tokens to vote  on the syllabus, scholarships, guests, and more. Thanks to badges and tokens, passive students become active stakeholders. By helping scale their learning platform, they increase the value of their knowledge, and can demonstrate this impact on their profile.

A speculative profile
A speculative profile

Self-expression is the path to leveling up online; McCormick writes: "... the more you signal who you are and what you care about, the more you open yourself up to new possibilities." These new possibilities are opportunities (e.g. partnerships, offers, projects) that come because people are attracted to your presence. By cultivating your profile, you're designing your own learning experience. For example, profiles may lead to the emergence of different roles; the profile of an artist will look different from a community builder. However, according to Scott Kominers and Jad Esber, people don’t have to be  restricted to one identity; they are many things at once. To allow for this, there needs to be a way to showcase parts of one’s identity in different digital spaces to distinct audiences. Profiles could be designed to be kept private overall; accessing specific parts like work experience would require specific access keys. This also tackles the problem of privacy.

Different profiles for different facets of your identity
Different profiles for different facets of your identity

Teachers of this Game also act as full-fledged designers. They'll be designing not just content and delivery, but also the environment (where are students learning?) and mechanics (what systems/rules do they follow?). In the Metaverse, the forms a classroom can take are endless: an art gallery, a theme park, a shopping district. With more people from diverse backgrounds becoming teachers, classrooms will be greatly transformed in order to fit a variety of learning styles (see Azlen Elza's classroom design explorations).

Teachers could also incorporate tokens into the learning experience; these can track almost anything that can be tracked with a smart contract (e.g. reputation on a social platform, skills of a video game character). They could apply this to scaffolded learning: the gradual decrease of support for learners as they increase their understanding. For example, learning opportunities could come in the form of quests and bounties; teachers could choose to offer these for specified difficulty levels and adjust rewards accordingly.

Example of a learning experience designed as a game
Example of a learning experience designed as a game

Teachers also act as toolmakers: pioneering users that share their creations and advocate for a tool's promise. No matter what form teachers come in (e.g. content creators, community builders), they inspire learners to mold their education themselves.

But how does one become a teacher in the first place? This isn't just the result of gaining experience; it happens by engaging with a community. After all, what is a teacher without their students? In this Game, you can't level up without playing with others.

Multiplayer Learning

In the future, learning will be a multiplayer game. Passionate communities are vital to the learning experiences of gaming and SaaS platforms; imagine Minecraft without its creative builders or Notion without its productivity nerds. Navigating your own education is difficult without having guides and peers supporting you. Thus, it's vital that one's learning experience has a social component; from casual cohorts to intense accelerators. In this Game, choosing your own adventure involves choosing your party — the people you're learning with.

In a Web3-powered Metaverse, communities would look like DAOs; their decentralized structure enables learners and educators alike to collaboratively steward their education. DAOs could act as guilds, onboarding newbies and helping them level up in this game. A niche could exist for every type of person (e.g. artists, developers, gamers, investors), and students can choose what best suits their adventure. Membership could be signified with an NFT on their profile, which would give them access to the guild's content and community. Students would grow by acquiring experience points and tokens through completing learning bounties or sharing knowledge with others.

The player onboarding experience
The player onboarding experience

In this Game, we can co-create our classrooms. Education can learn from the open-source movement's remixing culture, where people are always building upon each other's creations. This is made possible through open standards, which ensure compatibility (e.g. extensive documentation and free licensing). Creativity also thrives because of an efficient development process (i.e. less time spent on repetitive workflows). One way to increase efficiency is by offering predefined elements. Many open-source projects serve as frameworks for builders, helping them reduce set-up time and increasing the rate of experimentation and innovation.

When put together, open-source building blocks form foundational structures. Teachers can find a template for any learning experience, like starting environments for classrooms, social mixers, and conferences. Or imagine collaboratively creating curricula through open-source educational materials (i.e. syllabi, playbooks, journals). The culture of remixing persists as these materials stay open to edits, comments, and updates from the public. To ensure quality control, curators will be needed more than ever. Profiles can be used to determine if a person has enough experience to become a curator for a certain topic.

A teacher designing a learning experience
A teacher designing a learning experience

In the Game, there must be fair ways to provide attribution and compensation for creators.For example, Web3 has mechanisms that ensure recognition. One example is ENS domains: usernames that creators can use across services. Another example is Quadratic Funding: a mathematically optimal model that prioritizes projects based on how many people contributed; this encourages people to make contributions (no matter how small they are) and facilitates democratic funding allocation. Gitcoin Grants, a Web3-native Kickstarter, uses quadratic funding for  funding public goods projects.

In the Game, learners can be selected for projects based on their network of contributions and relationships. However, before a learner can start getting involved, it's likely that they'd have to go through a selection process. Players could look for the guild/s that suit them by exploring a map, which can be filtered depending on one's interests. Each guild would have its own quest board, which explicitly states what they're looking for; players could determine if they're a fit by matching their profiles to available quests.

Finding the quest most fit for you
Finding the quest most fit for you

One Web3 startup working on this solution is Station, which is building "on-chain infrastructure for onboarding & coordinating contributors of the future." Each DAO has a Station terminal, which features all their initiatives and information on required commitment, reward(s) for contribution, recommended skills, etc. After someone applies to an initiative, they can get endorsed by existing contributors.

By enabling co-creation, the Game shows learners that they have the power to create their own universe. A major inspiration for this vision is Loot Project, the first community-owned NFT gaming platform. It started out as loot bags: NFTs that only consisted of 8 phrases, which depicted "randomized adventurer gear".  The community built on top of this, creating everything from visual renditions of their gear to complex systems they can play in (e.g. leveling infrastructure, society and politics). This project is why I'm a believer in Web3-powered Metaverse, showing its potential in community creation, storytelling, and world-building. This is the kind of environment that best fosters learning.

Our Main Quest

Overall, this Game is all about owning our education. Gaining the power to design our own learning experience — what, where, when, and how we learn — frees us to pursue intrinsically meaningful endeavors. Whether these endeavors look like “work” or “play”, they’re the only way we can find our ikigai: our reason for living. Without this, how can we make the most out of our lives? You want to feel like a player, not an NPC, in your own life.

If life is a game, we all want to level up. And we level up the more that people benefit from our learning experiences — from designing for yourself to designing for others. We're playing an infinite game where school never ends; we'll always be students and teachers, learning from each other. Only together will we be able to take on our main quest: creating a world where everyone is free to flourish.

So how will you play this Game? Will you play against others, aiming to upgrade only yourself? Or will you play with them, working together to upgrade our world? Your success is up to you.


Special thanks to Jasmine, Caryn, and Rachel for helping with the draft, along with Scott, Bhaumik, David, Avery, Sam, Nancy, and Jamie for the ideas and support.

#1
Become the first collector
Support the creator of this entry… and get all the bragging rights, too.
This entry has been permanently stored on-chain and signed by its creator.