I've been really quiet for the last several months, but just wanted to drop a quick line and say I'm helping out with the Video Games, Learning and Literacy class I took last spring. Among other things, I've setup a site for the class that we're using in place of Blackboard. I used Drupal and, while it's still under pretty heavy construction theme-wise, the site should prove to be a great resource for the students. Check out the Spring 2009 VGLL site, if you're interested.
When I signed up for EDT791, Video Games, Literacy, and Learning, I was cautiously optimistic. I had heard James Gee speak about literacy in gaming at ASU before he became a professor, and he really caught my attention with his discussion of the language skills being used and gained in everything from World of Warcraft to Yu-Gi-Oh!, so I knew both he and this semester's professor, Betty Hayes, were serious about learning concepts present in games.
In my mind, gaming has historically been social in nature. Chess, soccer, Chinese checkers, poker, basketball, hide-and-seek, horseshoes and Dungeons and Dragons all exist as activities that enable and facilitate social interaction. As games, they nearly cease to exist without the presence of others.
A few months ago, I started trying to talk my dad into buying an XBOX 360. I worked on him for months, occasionally feeding him little tidbits of motivation by telling him about such treats as Gears of War or Forza Motorsport 2. These were games I was certain he would revel in, but the experiences were too familiar to him and, therefore, failed to inspire the desired action.
Wow, I've really fallen behind in posting my entries for class. I've been working on several different pieces, though, and I'm just having a hard time finishing them up. So, you can expect a steady stream of posts over the next few days about Rock Band, Gamestar Mechanic and a semi-related piece on podcasting.
For what it's worth, I mostly blame my procrastination on a re-discovered love for World of Warcraft...
In the first meeting of EDT791 this semester, we were told that one of our assignments would be to play a game for at least fifty hours and write about it while we did so. In that moment, I heard a sweet, subconscious whisper, "... World... of... Warcraft." It was uttered in that same way I hear "...coffee," each morning, or "...popcorn," whenever I walk through the doors of a movie theater. I hadn't logged into WoW in nearly nine months, and it was pulling at me. Strongly.
Lost Odyssey is a traditional Japanese role-playing game (JRPG), similar in play mechanics and style to dozens of games that have preceded it, but its presentation and quality of execution are among the finest in the genre. As such, it makes a great case study for games of its style in the context of literacy and learning.
"I'm much better. Yes, I'm going to make it and you will, too. Just do what you think is right."
- Paul Denton, Deus Ex
Spoiler warning: This article contains spoilers of key moments in Deus Ex, Baldur's Gate II, Jeanne d'Arc and BioShock.
Ten hours in to Persona 3, I felt like I had picked a truly special game to study for this class. Atlus had melded a dating / relationship simulator, a genre I thought I'd venture in to, and a role-playing game into what felt like a fresh, new experience. Up to that point, the game's story and premise was, well... weird, but I like challenging narrative in my entertainment. So, a tale of quirky J-pop teenagers mixing night-time demon hunting with day-time high school romance wasn't so much a problem as a challenge. The mechanics of actually playing the game were quite strong.