CultureNet has been invited back to co-sponsor a Chat Live session for the Spring 2011 term: “Video Games in the Classroom”. Session is tentatively scheduled for March 17, 2011. Mark your calendars!
Tag Archives: Video Games
While looking for more sources I stumbled on a rather good article by Scott Rettberg, about the future of E-lit within academic study. He is a professor at Richard Stockton College of New Jersey. Late in the post he says that it’s more likely to end up in the domain of studio art programs as opposed to creative writing. He offers a good argument for the issues facing e-lit and where and why it may end up fitting into the academic world. He mentions a few of the pieces and some of the others we dealt with in the ELC1. Although it isn’t totally on topic for my paper, it was a good read none the less and may be of use to someone else. Rettberg actually has quite a few good articles online about digital literature and video games among other things. Here’s the link if anyone is interested, First Person, Games, and the Place of Electronic Literature. If you go up a level to the posting board there are a lot more articles on similar subjects too.
I think that this subject can be argued both in the positive and the negative ways, however I am definitely more on the side that video games have academic merit. Video games do have a place in contemporary post-secondary classroom content, maybe even in a number of places. Depending on the context in which they are studied, video games could be found in multiple disciplines.
Perhaps the most obvious one to the naked eye is fine arts. Many of today’s video games are designed extremely thoughtfully down to every last feature and facet. More recent developments in video game industry graphics have created incredibly detailed and complex effects that have revolutionized visual expression in games. I also think that video games can be discussed in any classroom that refers to pop culture content. From a psychological or sociological perspective we could examine the kind of impact video games have on individuals, on our society as a whole, as well as the stigmas and stereotypes that surround the people who play them. The study of video games could also involve more scientific disciplines such as math or physics, as they are filled with calculated movements and algorithms that help to represent actions and movements from the real world.
I think those who are on the negative side of this argument are perhaps the same people who had a hard time considering electronic literature as “literature”, as electronic literature contains similar features to that of a video game, such as visuals and interactive elements. Instead of reading text on a page, text is now on a screen with a variety of different engaging factors; some are safe and controlled, while others take you for an intense visual ride. However, video games also have many similarities to literature in the traditional sense as well.
Like books, video games can take us into another world, whether it is for pure leisure, or for escape, or to achieve some sort of goal or outcome by the end. In the world of a book however, we get to exercise the creativity within our imaginations a lot more so, while the visual content of a video game is already presented for us. As was shown in today’s class notes, courtesy of Marie-Laure Ryan, “Narrative consists of a world (setting), populated by individuals (characters), who participate in actions and happenings (events, plot), through which they undergo change (temporal dimension)”. Video games contain all of these elements as well, some to a greater degree than others. Like literature in the traditional sense, the creator, whether it is a single person or a team of people, determines the outcome for the narrative in the early stages of development, well before the user/reader comes into contact with it. In video games, the ultimate goal or challenge for the majority of the time is to move through the game on a narrative continuum until completion, but it is the skill of the player that determines whether or not you reach the end. Unlike most traditional literature, more recent video games often give the user different opportunities to follow different paths in order to reach that final destination.
If we ignore video games as a relevant subject to be studied, we could be turning our backs on an entire realm of story telling that is not expressed in “traditional” academia. At the same time, if there is an integration with academic study on the impacts and opportunities of this new media, think of the amazing games that could be developed!
Do video games have a place in the post secondary classroom? If so, in which department should courses examining video games be taught?
Yes, video games do have a place in the post secondary classroom. They have a lot to offer and in recent times have really been refined to give an entertaining and educational experience.
Braid is a good example of a game worthy to be taught. It doesn’t have any spoken words, just a nice classical soundtrack that is perfectly matched to the game. It has a nice written story that is so unique that it hasn’t occurred ever before and wouldn’t be easily replicated in the future. The unique part of the story is that it’s non-linear. You can go through it and skip parts, as it’s a puzzle game this is a nice feature, and some parts require intense thinking to put the story line in order. This is one of a select few games that can be rated 10/10 for being so coherent. When you finish it you feel very satisfied.
There are also games like Portal, a 3D puzzle game, which strive less for story and more for character development. In this game you are main character and you have to perform various puzzle tasks. There is an AI voice that helps you through the game. Throughout the game this AI talks to you and tells you certain things. It’s a one way street with this character since it does all the talking and you, being the main character, do all the listening. Being as good listener is essential in this game. After a while you pick up that his AI isn’t so innocent and is trying to kill you. This game is good at giving you shuttle hints that you have to pay attention on. This is another 10/10 game. When you finish it you get a satisfied feeling.
Both games don’t even have a happy ending but still provide satisfaction. So games that are fulfilling throughout the game are good. They don’t need to have all aspects that a normal literary piece to be good. Sometime with less there is more. I think having video games in post secondary classrooms will be a good learning resource.