Monday, June 17, 2013

To Game or not to Game?

Lately, when I have been talking to other teachers about how I and other educators in the TDSB, namely Liam and Diana, have been using Minecraft in our classes.  I hear a lot of people say: "I would love to do that, but I'm not a gamer."  What I felt they really meant was: "I am not a stereotypical video gamer who has bad hygiene and few interpersonal relation skills beyond the fantasy world of a video game, be it FPS, MMORPG, or arcade game."  Which, admittedly is a mouthful.  Then after after some sober second thoughts (thank in part to Melanie), I thought that I might be judging others to quickly.  Maybe they just don't know they are gamers yet.  Either way though, I believe that if you play games you are a gamer.

Perhaps the issue here really is how avid a person has to be in order feel comfortable or justified in calling themselves a gamer.

For insitance, when I was a teacher librarian it use to drive me crazy when people would announce to be that they are not readers.  Can you read?  Do you surf the internet?  Like comics/magazines/newspapers/blogs...? Play any video games? I would ask. If the answer was yes to any of these questions, then yes friend, you  indeed, are a reader.  The problem here being that many people believe that if they aren't reading the latest top selling book, or up on the classics then they are not really a reader, and if they are not an avid reader (read: always with their nose in a book) then they have no right to call themselves a reader.

I believe the same is true in gaming: If you built a farm on Facebook, or play Crush Candy, or Words with Friends, then you're a gamer.  If you have ever play Plants vs. Zombies, 4 Pictures 1 Word, you're a gamer.  If you enjoy the occasional game of Monopoly, Scategories, cards or chess... etc then, -you guessed it-, you are a gamer.  Being a 'gamer' shouldn't be an exclusive club for a select group of players.

Playing games in the class should not be a scary, or intimidating thing either.  If you truly do not enjoy games, then fine, I get it.  I won't shame you or think you are 'less than' because you don't want to play.  But, if the fear is that, you cannot introduce games to students unless you yourself are an expert at the game being taught, then I say this: relax.  Half the fun of gaming is discovering something new.  And what better way to allow students to be leaders, develop inquiry skills, class community, and build teacher/student relationships,  than to explore the unknown together?

For example, I may have a long computer gaming history, but I really only know how to accomplish a fraction of what is possible in Minecraft.  I know the basics of the game, and I introduced the bare minimum to students and then we played.  Students share knowledge freely, get excited when they discover something new, or solve a problem, and they especially love it when they can teach others what they have now become experts in.

(Incidentally, this is also how I feel about teaching using web 2.0 tools.  I teach the basics of Prezi or Google docs, or whatever tool would work well with what we are learning in class, and challenge my students to see where, and how far they can take it.  The age of the 'Sage on the stage' is ending (or over), and while I still often play that role in content areas I don't have the energy, or time to be the expert in everything, and I don't have to be.)

And really, when you know everything there is to know about a game, isn't that when you stop playing it?  If there is no challenge or mystery left then 'The Thrill is Gone.'

To sum up:

  • to game you don't have to be an expert, you just need to like playing games. 
  • expert knowledge is not required to play
  • have as much fun as you can

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