What Has INF541 Taught Me About Myself, Games And Game-Based Learning?

When chickens attack

‘When chickens attack’ by Dan Jones available at https://www.flickr.com/photos/dragfyre/56774984 under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

This subject has been a real eye opener for me. I used to do a lot of gaming about twenty years ago and at one point for a period of about 6 months to a year became quite obsessed with it. Last year I had the pleasure of reading Jane McGonigal’s fabulous book Reality is broken: Why games make us better and how they can change the world.

As an ex-gamer, much of McGonigal’s (2010) book made perfect sense to me. When McGonigal described the feeling of fiero gamers sometimes experience I knew exactly what she meant because I had experienced an emotional high two or three times whilst playing computer games in the 1990s.

On one particular occasion when I had won a cultural victory after playing a very long game as the Egyptians in Civilization. This particular game seemed to go on forever but it culminated in my achieving a cultural victory over the other six or seven civilizations. I can distinctly remember being very excited and feeling like I wanted everyone to know about my achievement.

Like Gee (2004) who made a conscious decision to play online games in order to be authentic, I fervently believe that no-one can really write about games and gaming unless and until they’ve actually done it. Afterall, how can someone convincingly write about World of Warcraft or Grand Theft Auto if they’ve never played it? Anyhow, up until last year, I had barely played any computer games other than the occasional short game of Civilization which I still had on my computer but which had lost much of its shine.

As a direct result of this subject (INF541), as well as playing some cool games including Ingress, Plague Inc, Fate of the World and World of Warcraft, I have been exposed to some of the theories of learning that intersect with game-based learning including social constructionism. In fact, I can honestly say that I witnessed social constructionism first hand when I researched and subsequently played World of Warcraft. What an amazing game.

The thing I liked most about this subject is that it has given me permission to play games again. Not only that but it has given me permission to feel good about doing so. Up until recently, like many others my age (over 50 and proud of it), I would have felt guilty about wasting my time when I could have been doing something more productive.

This subject has actually helped to change my mind about game-based learning. In the past, like many educators I had never really given much thought to the implications of playing games in the classroom. Having played several different games over the last 10 weeks or so I am convinced that there’s definitely a place for game-based learning in education. It has saved me from myself. It has reawakened my interest in playing games.

But its not just the young who can benefit from playing video games. I’ve seen a few journal articles recently which state that video games boost the brain power of the elderly and make them feel better about themselves in general. I fully intend to do whatever I can to safeguard cognition in my later years and I honestly believe that I will still be playing games for medicinal purposes and otherwise. How about you?

GJC

References

McGonigal, J. (2011). Reality is broken: Why games make us better and how they can change the world. Penguin.

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