An Interview with Jesse Kemp

Jesse Kemp, the Bad Boy of Education, has travelled the world educating people for the past 7 years. He has trained new professors, experienced teachers, corporate trainers, willing and unwilling participants with great success. He has recently settled on Vancouver Island and is now training people in employment services for GT Hiring Solutions. 

Thiagi: What is specialty your area?

I would say my specialty area is engagement. In all of my training sessions I fight for the participant’s attention. In this day and age we have so many distractions from so many devices that as a facilitator or educator it is a challenge to get and keep people’s attention. I’m trying to master attention grabbing!

Thiagi: How did you get into designing and using games?

I started in University, a good friend and I were in a Psychology course but the professor was so monotonous, predictable, and downright boring that we started a game. We started to write a book, one paragraph at a time each, during the lecture. The goal of the game was to make the other person laugh out loud during the lecture and make the professor pause in confusion. We succeed often, and when we did everyone seemed to perk up and pay more attention, not only to us but the whole class in general. I learned a few valuable lessons from that, promised myself I’d never be boring, and figured a way to use those same principles in design.

Thiagi: How long have you been designing and using games?

My whole life! I think everyone has as a child in order to pass the time. I’m trying to remain a child at heart, keep that imagination and find ways to turn anything and everything into a fun game! Does it work all of the time? Of course it does for me, I’m a genius! LOL.

Thiagi: Where do you use games?

In my current role I conduct workshops frequently to people who are mandated to attend, in other words they don’t want to be there. This creates a great challenge for me as I ultimately strive to have them want more and games really assist with that. Games and fun are connected. A good game is fun and who doesn’t like fun?

Thiagi: How do your participants respond?

They really enjoy it! They often begin as skeptical, but after they see how it ties into what we are learning, they become excited and generally end up wanting more!

Thiagi: What is the most horrible or embarrassing moment you had in conducting games?

I learned very early in my teaching career how to turn embarrassments into learning. The classic example is misspelling something on the board and then having students laugh and inform me. I would retort that I was just testing to see who was paying attention and then give a prize to them for being the first to catch it! So my embarrassment turned into more engagement as everyone tried to find my mistakes!

Thiagi: What advice do you have to newcomers about interactive training?

Be creative and patient. Try things, and if they work, examine why they worked. If they didn’t work, examine why. Give your participants the opportunity to find the analogy or discover the learning outcome, Quite often someone in the room is cleverer than you!

Thiagi: What types of games do you use most frequently?

I like games that involve movement because movement really increases engagement! However, I use magic tricks, bingo, role-plays and more. My goal is to be very unpredictable because predictable patterns become boring so I always look to try something different.

Thiagi: What is your most favorite game?

The one I am enjoying at the moment is a paper airplane competition! I tell the group we are going to have a paper airplane competition and see who can design the plane that flies the furthest and they have 5 minutes to complete the task! After everyone designs their plane we arrange the starting point and throw! After all participants are finished I take my turn. I grab a roll of masking tape and wrap the paper around it and win every time! Not only does this help inflate my already large ego but it allows me discuss why everyone constructed their planes in the same fashion. Generally, we get focused so much on what things usually look like that we forget the goal: to have a piece of paper travel the farthest. I am currently using this in a job search workshop. I find most people conduct their job searches in the same way, waiting for an opening online and then apply. Is this the best way?

Thiagi: Who are your favorite game designers?

Well, Thiagi is a major inspiration to me and I have incorporated a lot of his techniques. My other two favorite designers are my children. Watching them take a piece of rope and turn it into a game they play for hours on end demonstrates the power of imagination.

Thiagi: Do you have any book recommendations?

One of my favorite books is Brain Rules by John Medina

Thiagi: What is your prediction about the future of games?

With technology advancing at a fast rate, I think we’ll see more elaborate online learning sites that are games. Virtual reality will gain in popularity for their authenticiy. Lastly, I foresee more and more collaborative games being used because that is what life is, a collaborative game. The only way to win is we all win, not just some of us.