Monday, May 28, 2007

Video Gaming for Education: My mom would never believe this!

When it comes to Video games I thought I had run the gamut and seen all there is too see but now I'm not so sure. After playing around with Social impact games I saw that there are many different applications for video games. When I had originally conceived video games in my mind they are always very linear, in terms of plot line, and object. The object is to win: the player learns the parameters of the game and adapts accordingly. Social impact games incorporate this concept but also apply another goal; that the gamer walk away from the game with some new knowledge that is applicable outside of the game. For me this was a shocking concept because, as a man who loves games, I had never even believed that games could be used to teach. For me the concepts within games offered an escape from the confines of reality and a venue in which to break the law; both of physics and of society.
The games I chose to write about in my diary are the ones that affected me the most. These games were "Waste of Space" an educational game that teaches players the basic laws of physics, "The Anti-Bush Game" a political game that highlighted points/effects of the Bush Administration, and "Darfur is Dying" a game about the escalating situation in Darfur, Sudan.
"Waste of Space" was interesting to me because it reminded me of some of the reading computer games I played when I was a child. However this game presented much more complicated material in a way that was easy to follow and actively reinforced through game play. I think that this game would be a great tool to place in to elementary school classrooms, because it makes the concepts fun, however my one critique is that at time the important concepts about physics are overshadowed by the aspect of fun in the game. What I mean by that is that although the point is to impart knowledge of the concepts of inertia, at time these lessons are easy to ignore in anticipation of playing a game, regardless of the properties of science that is utilizes.
The game that I enjoyed the most but also had the most problems with was "The Anti-Bush Game." This game was focused on highlighting the social repercussion of the Bush Administration. One thing that I found interesting is that the game itself was tied to an clothing company, American Fear (AMFR). My major point of contention with this game was its method of presenting the politics. It was obviously going to be heavily biased and slanted against Bush, but I feel that by presenting its facts in game form it makes them seem very strange. The inclusion of superhero's and politics seems like a combination of iconography that appeals to two different demographics. The message being sent here I find potentially dangerous, I personally am not a supporter of Bush but I have reasons for this that I have discovered on my own. I feel that this game is attempting to appeal to the youth who may not know too much about the political situation surrounding the Bush administration and that that group would take the "facts" presented in this game as the end all of facts. I just feel uncomfortable because the game seems to be using scare tactics to coerce the ideas of the youth with facts that are not cited.
The third and final game was "Darfur is Dying." This game was especially memorable because you can't win. The game does have a "high score" wall but the only goal is to stay alive. The repetitive nature of the game seemed indicative of the the daily struggle of the people in Darfur. The most powerful part of this game was that every time that the militia attacked you, as the player, had the option to contact the Bush administration, local government, or sign a petition to make movements to help with the problem in Darfur. I feel that this game has the most potential to have a direct social impact, more so that the other ones because of it's tie to a contemporary problem and direct method of affecting said problem.

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