At first glance it doesn’t seem that a game titled “Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes” and education would be a good marriage. But if we take a deeper look at what the game requires for success it begins to make more sense.
Let me start by laying out the objective of the game. There are two people involved: the bomb defusal specialist in the headset(we will call BDS) and the defusal manual expert (DME) who is not in the headset. The DME has the Bomb Defusing Manual. The BDS is placed in a virtual room with a briefcase style bomb. You and your partner must disarm a set number of modules to successfully dismantle the bomb. It’s a race against time and an exercise in precision. There is one other detail. Absolute care must be taken, because three mistakes and it is all over.
What role would a game like this play in education? Simple. The bomb defusal duo’s success relies 100% on effective communication, a skill that every future employer would rank as a must. Let’s take a look at three specific areas of effective communication and how the game addresses them: listening, clarity and concise statements, and confidence.
Listening between the BDS and DME is vital to conquer the task at hand. The game uses modules that are structured with patterns, sequences, symbols, and color-coded components. While trying to communicate information, the game disrupts this communication part by the incessant music in the background that speeds up as a reminder time is ticking. And if that’s not enough to unnerve you, there is an alarm clock that randomly goes off. Victory over the game will only happen if partners can listen closely, block out distractions, and relay information.
Keeping what needs to be said clear and concise is important to success when in high intensity situations. The DME is just as crucial to success at the BDS. Anything that is not the voice of your partner is a distraction. Although it’s just a game, Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes creates a high intensity environment. Between the alarm clock, lights flickering off, and a timer that seems to pick up speed, you will almost feel sweat beads on your forehead. Keeping your statements short, and accurate, and descriptive is the difference between defusing the bomb and it defusing you.
Confidence is also fundamental of communication and a key to victory. The clock is running and there isn’t time for hesitation. The BDS must describe clearly what they see in the headset. This information is taken and processed by the DME. Then with calm confidence, the DME instructs their partner the steps needed to proceed. Any doubt in communication will form uncertainty and waste valuable seconds.
This game is a favorite with my students, who by the way, helped write this summary. When we have free days they are eager to jump into the headset, bust out the Bomb Defusal Manual, and start cutting wires. When you first see students attempt the game, communication is choppy and imprecise. Between games they review their successes and failures and build strategies for the next round. By the time they have played a half a dozen times you witness active listening, clarity in their descriptions, and confidence in their voices. Once they have begun to master these three skills of effective communication, you then begin to see success. This success usually looks like high-fives and fist bumps.
Special thanks to my students who contributed to this write-up: Cara McKeown, Sean Sutter, Robert Hamilton, Santino Fox, and Chedomir Bundalo