Educational video games are often terrible. If there is a plot, it is often clichéd and boring. The graphics are usually outdated, there’s nothing to shoot, and usually it’s just boring. It really does seem like video games are the next “big thing.” Everything has to be fun and easy to learn. Is this next generation really going to be that much smarter because they grew up with iPads rather than Hotwheels and Dr. Seuss? I can’t help but feel like the people behind those games are trying to convince students that learning should be effortless and fun. It certainly can be, but not all the time. I don’t think it’s necessarily about making everything fun for students. I think Gee said it best with his “better principles of learning.” Depending on their motivation, students’ attention span will always be what it is. They are not going to learn just because school subjects suddenly became fun. He is suggesting that teachers should teach smarter; they should try new and innovative teaching strategies for a changing student population. One of those strategies, coincidentally, happens to be video games.
As I mentioned before, I think purely educational video games tend to be boring. No student would play them for fun. I did, however, find this list, and I think it is excellent. Most if not all the games on the list are great because they weren’t meant to be didactic. But they do emphasize valuable skills such as resource management, problem solving, and careful decision making while immersing players in an incredible universe. According to Gee, “good” games are designed so that they emphasize active and critical learning and thinking.” This is where those games succeed. While not on the list, one of the first video games I played was Age of Empires. It taught me that there was a right way and a wrong way to attac
k enemy fortifications. I learned that the Phoenician navy could fire faster than enemy ships and the Egyptian chariots were sturdy and maneuverable for quick attacks. That game made me want to learn more about the depicted civilizations. Rice University is doing something similar and interesting by
actually offering a course using Skyrim as a way to teach Scandinavian and Norse mythology. This wouldn’t be the first time either; apparently the University of Florida once used Starcraft as a way of teaching management skills.
Bogost made an interesting point when he said that the association of video games with leisure is not entirely true. He stated that it is “a by-product of a misunderstanding of the nature of play.” His idea of play reminded me of our earlier classroom discussion regarding amateur remixes. I like to think that students can learn from other sources other than texts. Recently, new and improved games with much more powerful graphics engines and seamless AI such as Assassin’s Creed III have been released (Assassin’s Creed, however, is a historical-fantasy game so using that to study the American revolution would be a bit like watching Braveheart to study Scottish independence). And at the end of the day, I highly doubt that other popular games such as Call of Duty or Halo are going to find a niche in the classroom; students can’t shoot comma splices in the face or blow up bad writing. While I’m thrilled to learn that video games are now being looked at as a possible learning tool rather than an incredible waste of time, I’m still not sure how video games could transfer over into a composition classroom without ruining the genre.