Games Readings Reflection
I admit it, I was a game-hater. I was that person who looked down on everyone playing Guitar Hero, Street Racer, World of WarCraft and others. I saw the emergence of video games directly correlating with a rise in obesity, with a decline in children actually going outside to play, and instead “dumbing” themselves down by playing video games and eating Doritos.
There was a second side to my disdain. The games that “played” at warfare dismayed me. How could we create video games with so much violence, where people “live” and “die” so randomly and haphazardly? They also come back to “life” with the push of a reset button, and the blood, gore and shooting start all over again. How could we expect children to understand the horrors of real war, if video games were not only innocuous, but also FUN? Killing is fun! Let’s go shoot the bad guys! I think that is a dangerous habit and do not support much of what is out there today.
So video games represented “the enemy” to me, leaving me skeptical about this week’s reading and practicum. But, as usual in Clio I, I have been swayed to see the good in (some) video games, and may even find myself touting the benefits of gaming in the classroom.
This week’s readings left little room for me to think otherwise. Gee made succinct points about games. A skeptic himself, he found himself drawn to gaming because of his son. I could relate. My eighteen-month-old goddaughter plays “Good Night Moon” to get ready for bed each night.
I could not agree more with Gee’s point that “humans actually enjoy learning”, and the traditional routes of rote memorization do not stimulate learning. Learning facts and repeating them on a test does not prepare any student to apply concepts or to solve problems in reality. I was a case in point: straight-A student all through high school (in physics, biology, calculus), I could not solve one physics problem independent of the week we were learning the concepts; nor could I use calculus in any other facet than repeating formulas back to the teacher.
His idea that a student must identify intrigues me. How different might my physics classes have been if I had imagined myself the physicist? Perhaps not at all, if other aspects of learning had not been present. Well-ordered problems, and the “cycle of expertise” appealed to me particularly. Doing things over and over again made perfect sense to me. Only after multiple attempts at something new, in varied contexts, do I actually learn how to problem solve. If there is only one scenario, or one method, then I learn that one method and nothing more.
Therefore, context is also critical. “Doable but challenging” is also critical. How many times have we (I) struggled to accomplish some task, but give up when it appeared too difficult? The key seems to making tasks just hard enough to keep students involved, feel like they are accomplishing something significant when they succeed, but not make it too hard.
Perhaps most important: Gee changes the definition of success. Traditionally, learning meant “moving as fast as possible” toward a goal. Gaming forces students to think laterally as well as linearly, and encourages students “reconceive goals”. He actually wants students to slow down and think – what am I trying to accomplish? Why? For what purpose?
In “Pox and the City”, the authors encounter the challenges of including all of these aspects in a good game. I read this article after I had played the game: Mission US, and I could see the similarities. I recognized immediately the format of Mission US, and why imaginary scenarios based upon real events worked better in a learning game format than real events.
P.S. I like to think I would have been one of those mischievous students who eliminated slavery in 1787! I would have made it my goal to outsmart the game. So, creators of the game need to have scenarios that cannot be “wrong”. The goal is learning, not getting to a specific endpoint.
I also appreciated considerations for software applications, and the relative merits of using Flash or not using Flash. I think this article will prove especially useful in planning my game. Stay tuned for more!