Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The World (of Warcraft) Is Not Enough

Reading the articles for this week raised a "chicken or the egg" question for me. Are we dragging eduction kicking and screaming into the world of games and gaming or are we dragging the world of games and gaming into education? It seems like either direction would yield valid arguments as educators pose objections to bringing games into the classroom, fearing a disconnect between the game and content, amongst other things. While on the flip side, the gamers might find games in educational settings as forced rather than fun. This is how my drawing for this week came to be: showing a juggling act between the game, the use of it to bridge our world and "theirs", and the usefulness as an educational technology.

The use of QA readily allows for players to interact within and outside of the virtual environment with the game being a go-between medium. It also allows for and encourages interpersonal interaction within the game with both players and NPCs. The use of player homepages involves a shareability of user experiences and achievements which not only showcases users' "work" but can also serve as a poster of possible experiences that users can take part in while playing the game. Additionally, the fact that a user has to register both with QA and with an organization (such as Boys and Girls Club, or a school) makes the system secure enough for safe educational use.

This juggling of the 3 areas that make a game like QA a success is the fact that the game, the use as an educational tool, and the bridging between the real world and the virtual world work in a synergistic to promote the continuation of the process, much like nuclear fusion would be a self sustaining process of ongoing energy. To keep the process going it will be interesting to see how the QA world adapts and develops to changing phenomena within our world. As a side thought, and of particular interest (to me that is), was the incidence of female players within QA. The fact that roughly half of the players are female and that they have contributed to around half the activity within the QA environment speaks volumes to the viability of QA as a persistent learning object. However, one thing I am curious about is whether the interest in QA by female participants has increased their interest or willingness to participate in other gaming experiences or whether it has made them more critical consumers of games in general.

Oh, and if you hadn't noticed the title, it's a ripoff of a James Bond movie title (and subsequently a Garbage track).


  1. Though I'm not a gamer, I like the idea of using games as a frame for examining educational discourse. Jim Gee argues that "little-g" games (our play experiences) are situated inside of "big-g" Games (the discourse communities that organize, and give meaning to, the games we play). It's a nice way to start talking about rules, a "win state," and how and why people are allowed to cheat.

    It's also a way to think about why some people drop out of certain Games: If the frustration level is high, or the rules don't make sense, or there doesn't appear to be a clear win state, anyone in their right mind WOULD quit the game and try another one. So the question becomes: How can we set up school as a Game that every student wants to play?

  2. (re: jenna) "how can we set up school as a Game that every student wants to play?"

    Answer: Slot machines to determine grades. Or do those not count as a game. Better Answer: If we were to transform school into a game by explicitly identifying win-states, and detailing rule sets, this would not be enough. it would only be half of Kaplan and Kaplan's equation (re: jenna, you wanted me to bring up kaplan and kaplan again), the half termed 'legibility'. We would want to still have 'mystery' built into our school activities and subjects lest we fail to utilize children's sensibilities for fascination and intrigue. In other words, turning boring math into boring math game (with explicit boring rule sets and win states) is not enough. we need to transform math into an intriguing fascinating subject. Something we've seen science educators (Wilensky's fireflies article) do, and historians (last semester's wineberg) do as well. Show students the fascinating reality that makes mathematical or scientific or historical inquiry interesting. Show them competing historical interpretations, or mathematically (mis)informed headlines such as "America's top ten happiest cities to live in."
    And don't be hardpressed to turn these subjects into actual games, the principles of legibility and mystery may be more important than the actual 'form' (real, virtual, augmented-real, etc.) the subject appears in.
    Further food for thought, i wonder how many of Jim Gee's learning principles can be captured by the two elegant concepts of legibility and mystery.