Friday, May 18, 2007

Video Game Learning

I am a firm believer in the educational value of video games. Video games have been integral to the shaping of my persona into who I am today, and video games have been the stimulus for much of the knowledge and understanding I hold today. Successfully playing video games involves a learning process, and for many games that learning process can be very difficult. As one plays more and more video games, one learns more and more useful strategies, problem-solving methods, creative processes, and leadership skills. Also, video games have a useful physical aspect as well, quickening reflexes and improving hand-eye coordination.

One of the most useful and educational experiences I have had in the video gaming world is one of those mentioned by the "Game-Informed Learning" article: communication amidst the social structure of a game. When I first discovered online gaming, I was often looked upon because not only did I act like a 13 year old (I have an excuse: I was 11 years old! <_<) but I also communicated like one too. Flaming, insults, and arbitrary bans were common occurrences to me. If I wanted to be accepted and not remain a "newbie" forever, I would have to learn to communicate, and learn fast. So not only under the conditions of the game, but also under the conditions of the community, I learned both the game and the society surrounding it, and soon became one of those elitists lording over the newer players. While the end result was not as noble as a result could be, I picked up many useful skills along the way such as interpersonal communication skills, a knowledge of online etiquette, and a dramatic improvement of my writing skills.

Of course, this kind of learning also creates conformity and a homogeneous culture. Everyone wants to be like the elite, and everyone strives towards that, because the culture of gaming is skewed towards "if you're not an elite, you're a scrub", and all gamers know the inherent horror of being labeled a scrub. Thus, everyone seeks to escape from that "scrub" role and aspire to the "elite" role, and the easiest way to do that is by emulating the current elite, resulting in a culture in which everyone can look the same.


I spent quite a long time on the Social Impact Games site. The three games and categories of games that I found most notable were...

The Anti-Bush Game

This game was actually entertaining to play - and I learned a lot. At first I thought the stuff in this game couldn't possibly be true, but I did a bit of research and every single fact corroborated. This administration has truly been one of the worst ever in the nation's history in terms of economics, international prestige, civil rights, common sense, and just many other areas. The creatively named Anti-Bush game presents all these facts in an easily understandable and interesting way... although the portrayal of some of the characters is just completely over the top.

Also, Voltron would never deign to serve Bush.

Eyewitness - The Nanking Massacre

While this game hasn't been released yet, I can't wait for it to be released. Now who here has actually heard of the Nanking Massacre? No one? That's around right. US history textbooks commonly leave out or downplay the importance of the Asian theater of World War II. Whenever people think of WWII, they think of the cruelty and barbarism of the Nazis, but never think of the Japanese, whose actions definitely were as horrible as the Nazis. The Japanese "3 All" strategy (Loot All, Burn All, Kill All) in China led to the deaths of over 2.7 million Chinese citizens. How many more were wounded, displaced, and had their lives irrevocably ruined is a countless number. The most horrible action of the Japanese was the Rape of Nanking, which was, quite literally, a 2 week long killing spree illustrating the worst of human nature. Over 300,000 civilians lost their lives as Japanese soldiers burned, looted, and raped their way through the Chinese southern capital of Nanking. Tens of thousands of women were raped and brutalized, and there were confirmed accounts of "beheading contests" in which Japanese officers would compete to see who could behead the most civilians with their swords.

And so many people don't even know about this, or the Japanese's governments efforts to hide the fact that it ever happened. In the latest edition of the standard Japanese history textbook, no mention of this or other Japanese wartime atrocities are even MADE.

It's good to see video game developers creatively fighting against the ignorance propagated by the Japanese government and trying to bring awareness of this horrifying event to the world. Never forget.

The last game I found interesting wasn't really a game, but a genre of games. The little "Christian quest to heaven" genre of games was sort of amusing. They weren't very good, and it seems like a mockery of the Christian faith at times... reminds me of a game I saw a few days ago which was a take-off of the Mortal Kombat style of fighting games - except the characters were the Biblical characters. Both types of games achieve the same purpose: cheapening the religion and relegating it to a silly little video game.

Video games can be serious business, but these are just awful.


Social Impact Game Proposal

My idea for a social impact game would be similar to the photography game of the Nanking Massacre I covered above. The concept would be similar, but the stage would be several other events that have escaped the public's eye. There are many tragedies that have gone unseen, and a video game would be a good way to expose those tragedies to the public.

Of course the easiest tragedy to create a game out of is the Iraq War - and there's realism there, as "embedded" journalists take fire every day just like the United States troops. It wouldn't be a stretch to have a video game based on the journalistic experience as the player would take photographs of the gradually unfolding disaster that Iraq has become.

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