Monday, January 31, 2011

Review: Why Video Games are Good for Your Soul by James Paul Gee

Video Games Are Good For Your Soul
Despite the outcry that gaming is a waste of time, video games make us feel good, Gee says, and what’s more they are a great learning tool.
There’s no question that people get pleasure from such gaming, that’s why they buy them but are they “good” for you? We know young children learn through play and Gee argues that video games provide learning within a structured environment, with contextual help on demand, and positive reinforcement for success. But can games teach you … anything? Can they teach you math, geography, economics…archaeology?
Gee largely focuses on immersive games. Some of what he says could equally be applied to all games – simpler computer games, but also board, card games and role play games. But the new breed of immersive worlds, he notes, let you take on a blended personality with your avatar, harnessing a set of developing skills and role playing different situations. Read Neal Stephenson’s excellent the Diamond Age to glimpse the future possibilities. Potentially games, through re-play and structured contextual environments can provide information, but more importantly learning, empathy, long term planning and critical thinking skills. And they allow failure and the possibility to try again - something often absent from public education.
It’s an interesting book, though a little repetitive in place for such a short volume, and I’d have like to have seen more educational and learning theory. (He has since published further volumes). I’d argue that there are elements in these games that can be taken advantage of quite simply – creative use of multimedia, interactive content, built in rewards and social learning. If our classrooms aren’t ready for Call of Duty can we at least develop web-enabled text books with interactive content?