I am a gamer: In the presence of avatars.

A final reflection on Game Based Learning. #INF541

in-world explorations

i am a gamer

I began this unit of learning by stating that “my personal game history stretches waaay back.” Very tellingly this included games such as Space Invaders (released 1978) and PacMan – with many hours spent in video arcades. However, I am now thoughtful of the idea that I steered away from further immersion in digital games (no time?). And yet, I allow students to play them in the classroom, in a very unstructured way – just for the fun and social connection that games create.

We also began with the questions of which games we would explore. I naively said Minecraft, Stencyl & Storium but instead spent hours playing with Ingress, immersing in Second Life (game or not?) and learning Eve Online. Never before have I explored a MMORPG (massively-multiplayer-online-role-playing-game). Now there is no turning back. I am a gamer. In Eve Online just look for Wilson Nomesk. *smile

I have spent too many hours walking the streets with Ingress and in-world with Second Life and Eve Online intent on learning the affordances of these virtual spaces. Much time was spent customising my Second Life avatar but by doing so I learnt that these digital representations of ourselves have the power to connect us with these spaces. Many scholars study the use of avatars (a manifestation of a deity) and connect them with concepts of shared cognition and connectivism. These digital tools act as bridges into these digital realms of learning and exploration.

I now view games as beautifully designed learning experiences and their study resonates with me very tightly. I also see games as embodying tensions often felt in education. Tensions that are caused by disruptive technologies. It’s a battle between progression and change; status quo vs innovation; passive learning vs experiential learning. Perhaps games can teach us to take risks and be innovative when immersed in these battles?

Virtual Learning Space

Fig 1: A formal Space

An informal space

Fig 2: An informal space

What are we doing with these digital tools including games that are already in the hands of our students? A formal in-world learning space is shown in Figure 1. whilst an informal space is shown in Fig 2. This juxtaposition perhaps crystallises the dilemma that education is faced with. Utilising digital tools educators have the possibility to reinvent education both in-world and in the physical world. However, what we usually witness is ‘education’ replicating old structures and old pedagogies. To immerse in the learning potential of SL, OpenSims and Eve Online and other games is a fulfilling experience. To sit in a lecture theatre in 2L is a bizarre experience. *smile again

Fig 3: Custom built avatar

Fig 3: Custom built avatar

Since my days of playing Space Invaders in arcades or milk bars, digital games have evolved into a complex, multi-modal media form. These experiences are highly participatory; one example of active involvement is avatar creation, as shown in Fig 3. I had never paused to think of games as exquisitely designed experiences, customised by game designers and informed by scholarly studies in good pedagogy and game design. Why else would we all stick at playing difficult games – but to learn. Formal education can only hope to be informed by such a well researched, alternative approach to learning and engagement.

Ok… I’m off to play Eve Online… I enjoy the situated cognition.
Simon Csikszentmihalyi <----- a great avatar name. *./

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