This post is titled after the title of a Penny Arcade Expo 2011 panel, and I loved their title enough to use it here. Here’s one question that I haven’t answered, but I probably have been dancing around the question on and off, from Salen’s 2007 work:
What forms of participatory practices do games and gaming engender for youth; which forms of learning are present, missing, or reinforced through gaming?
My discussion reflect on my experiences in Okami and others I have played in the past. In a previous post, Okami can both encourage and discourage a sense of exploration, and a game designer who wants to develop with a basis in history of cultural mythology can learn from Okami.
For recollection of facts, games like Okami can have a strong reward system for recalling facts. If designed ever so slightly, Okami could be used to draw Japanese symbols for language. This design change can be changing out the symbols I currently draw out in the game, for Kanji’s.
For understanding, a level deeper than simply recalling facts, Okami and other video games, can bring players to understand a different culture. Okami brings in Japanese mythology and feudal culture into the game, and with minor changes, such as providing more information, a game can present different cultures and their cultural values, giving gamers a way to understand a culture.
Departing from sociology, games with an emphasis on educating physics can have a really good physics engine that encourages play. An inspiring yet amusing example of this is a hack in Grand Theft Auto that shows, when you make friction negative, and thus, moving forward speeds the car, momentum takes over.
Below is a linked video to a physics lesson. For those against virtual violence done against virtual avatars, or virtual avatars doing violence against virtual cars, don’t watch the video.
Grand Theft Auto 4 Mod – Carmaggedon 2
One of the biggest limitations of video games for the use of education is the “video” part of it. The virtual world that the game is based off of is not tangible. Moving a joystick to draw a symbol isn’t the same as physically drawing a pen on paper. Moving my thumb to push the joystick doesn’t give the same motor skill as pressing a pen against paper and moving it so the ink makes a symbol. The argument I’m making can be seen as an embodied approach in that the physical actions are different.
I can’t teach someone to knit by just showing them videos alone. For some educational contexts, tangibility is important, and video games with the current technology may not be suitable for tangible-based learning.
So the strength of video games, being in a virtual world, is also one of its weaknesses with respect to learning.