Video game theory

Consider how the most recent authors we’ve covered view video games in unexpected ways: Sherry Turkle cites examples of therapeutic uses and describes games through the lens of child developmental psychology, Ian Bogost explores their educational potential in terms of cognitive and behavioral psychology, and Jane McGonigal creates games that tap into the collective intelligence of players to address real-world problems.  Using examples from the readings, what’s your position on these creative approaches to video game development and use?

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7 responses to “Video game theory

  1. Video games have become a part of everyday life for many people. When I say people, I do not mean just the children who have grown up with this technology, but also adults. Studies have shown that adults with high-stress jobs play video games as a way to relax and escape while still feeling constructive. There are goals, challenges, and puzzles in video games. There is always a point to what the player is doing. This is a comforting thing to gamers who may not have the same feeling of purpose in real life. In the second chapter of Sherry Turkle’s book, The Second Self she states, “The games are not a reminder of a feeling of control over challenge. They are a primary source for developing it” (92). Turkle recognizes the major role that video games can play in developing life skills.
    There are people on both sides of the debate over whether or not video games are constructive and beneficial to society. For my part, I think there are different factors that contribute to the issue. It depends on the type of game. Ian Bogost discusses this in his book, Persuasive Games. He discusses epistemic games such as Flight Simulator and Sims City. Epistemic games are video games that deal with real-life situations and concepts. Some think that Flight Simulator is a useful tool for aspiring pilots. These games more obviously develop skills that can transfer to real life. I believe video games can be a wonderful learning tool, but it depends on the individual and the type of video game.

  2. My position on video games is that I am completely for the creative approaches to their development and use. Video games are good for development, meditation, and education purposes. Video games can teach players many things. In her book, ‘The Second Self’, Sherry Turkle explains the procedure of making video games. It takes a lot of logic to create a video game. With logic, designers have more freedom and are able to create more ways of capturing the attention of the player. She then goes on to explain how video games appear to be useful when it comes to meditation. She uses David as an example by showing that he uses video games to recenter himself. “… David describes the sense in which the highest degree of focus and concentration comes from a letting go of both” (Turkle 86). Video games allow a person to escape from the real world for a little while and allow the player to have a sense of accomplishment.
    Video games can also be educational in different ways. In Ian Bogost’s book, he explains how we can learn from video games and how behaviorists and constructivists have different opinions about them. While behaviorists believe that if video games “teach their content, and if that content ought to be negatively reinforced, then exposure to such games positively reinforces negative content” (Bogost 237). And on the other hand, constructivists believe that video games “teach abstract principles that service general problem-solving skills and learning values” (Bogost 239). I agree with both groups. I believe that negative content is sometimes too positively reinforced, but I also believe that games can be very helpful with building life skills. In playing video games, you may have to work together with other characters or players, which helps you learn communication and team skills. Playing video games also requires a lot of attention, so it helps build focus and even problem-solving skills.
    Not only do games help teach life lessons, but with all the possibilities of digital gaming, “gamers may be the world’s most literate and practiced community when it comes to developing these new, real-world skills of collaboration and collective intelligence” as seen by Jane McGonigal. Her game World Without Oil went so far as to force people to learn how to change their entire way of living. Video games can be very beneficial in many ways and I completely support the use of them because of their ability to be used for education, development, and meditation.

  3. Video games are the closest things we have to virtual realities, or “The Matrix”. The technologies that are being developed in video games will directly translate into the creation of simulated worlds.

    So of course we can use video games to teach kids things. Of course we can use video games for therapeutic purposes. Of course people toying with a simulated world can solve problems in it!

    Jane McGonigal’s thoughts on how and why video games can hold people’s attention really interest me. Why do we feel more fufillment from defeating a level of Angry Birds than we do from living? But McGonigal’s idea that games can help prepare the mind, kind of a warm up, also rang true with me.

  4. Bogost’s “procedural literacy” consists of two distinct ways of learning through the interaction with video games. First, behaviorists learn by reinforcing the same idea incorporated in games and they learn best in the “‘traditional’ classroom” (235). Second, constructivists gravitate towards more hands-on activities and their best learning environments are “relativistic playpens” (236). Bogost implies that both of these styles teach material that can be used in reality. Technology, specifically video games, has changed the nature of learning because children and teens have the knowledge at their fingertips. Video games such as Flight Simulator “teaches something about aviation;” (237) and others such as Sim City and Ninja Gaiden teach players about the construction of houses and Japanese culture. Bogost also addresses the gender issue in video games; Why are there less girl players than guys? To solve this, Bogost invents a program, Rapunsel, to interest girls. Overall, Bogost’s argument is that video games help players’ learning ability and can teach them compassion if played correct games.
    Turkle allows her audience to depict video games with a more emotional twist; “It’s more than thinking-in a way it is beyond thinking” (68). She incorporates several stories of people who have been aided by the therapeutic powers of video games. For example, Jarish seems to use games as a crutch or curtain to escape the harsh reality that he has no best friend, girlfriend, and that his parents have divorced. Video games are there for these kids or adults when nothing else is, or when everything else is going badly. She also sides with Bogost in that video games teach players empathy; “In this kind of play children have to learn to put themselves in the place of another person, to imagine what is going on inside someone else’s head” (83). She also mentions only on girl, in the beginning of the chapter, that plays video games which seems to address the gender issue. (more male players than female)
    I agree with Bogost that some video games can teach certain skills to players, but I am weary of other video games; not all games teach necessary skills because some are just strictly for fun or entertainment. As for Turkle, I am in agreement with; video games are there for comfort. People play them to escape reality and have ‘me-time.’ They can be therapeutic in ways unimaginable and are used for victims of PTSD, but are also used for those who haven’t been diagnosed. I also agree that video games can teach empathy; whether its fighting crime, building a house, or killing zombies.

  5. When someone sees a person playing a video game, their first reaction is to say that the player is accomplishing nothing. The onlooker believes that the player is engaged in useless, mindless activity in order to waste time. However, research has begun to show that the act of playing video games is quite beneficial and requires brain power. In fact Sherry Turkle, author of The Second Self, Computers and the Human Spirit says that “There is nothing mindless about mastering a video game” (67). Turkle contends that mastering a video game requires a great deal of skill and concentration.
    “You interact with a program, you learn how to learn what it can do, you get used to assimilating large amounts of information about structure and strategy by interacting with a dynamic screen display. And when one game is mastered, there is thinking about how to generalize strategies to other games. There is learning how to learn. (Turkle 67)”

    Turkle is not alone in her ideas of the links between video games and learning. In Ian Bogost’s book Persuasive Games Bogost explores video games’ potential role in learning. Bogost refers to two modes of education: behaviorist and constructivist. Behaviorists believe in learning through repetition and reinforcement of a series of actions. Constructivists believe in “learning by doing” and by adapting and reacting based on previous reactions (Bogost 233). Bogost then goes on to describe how these two types of learning relate to video games and suggests that video games should play a larger role in education.
    With technology’s growing role in our daily lives, it clear that technology needs to incorporated into education. Also, students from the younger generation are becoming increasingly more comfortable with technology and feel at ease with video games. Both Turkle and Bogost seek to prove that video games are valuable tools that should be used in education. Video games utilize modes of learning that the traditional educational system struggles with. In fact, writer Jane McGonigal says that “Thanks to the unique nature of digital gaming, gamers may be the world’s most literate and practiced community when it comes to developing these new, real-world skills of collaboration and collective intelligence” (1). McGonigal has an optimistic outlook for video games in the future and believes they can be further utilized in society as long as the “spirit of the game” is preserved. In one of McGonigal’s lectures she spoke of companies misusing games by incorporating them into their marketing strategies. Companies attempt to take advantage of their gaming customers and assume that these customers will do anything if it is game. As a member of the “Born Digital” generation, I have also run into similar problems with so-called “games” in school. I can remember in first and second grade being dragged to the computer lab and forced to play educational video games. The class hated the games and the teachers were puzzled; they were video games on the computer and we were the digital generation , why didn’t we like them? The answer was simple, the spirit of the game was missing. The creators of the games had obviously assumed that simply because something was on the computer or called a game, we would be fascinated. Also, the games did not utilize their full potential and just replicated what we did in class. Now that further research is being done on the uses of video games I am confident that games can be better utilized to teach a variety of material and still preserve the spirit of the game.

  6. Videogames are one of the sources of entertainment that are deemed controversial due to their addictive influence on many people. They are mainly shunned for promoting “unpleasant traits” on the players. Their “intellectual” aspect is mostly ignored, because it is unexplored. Few people realize that videogames could mean something more than a medium to kill time and provide escapism from daily hectic lives. Sherry Turkle and Ian Bogost present the unconventional aspects of videogames in their articles. They shed light on the possibility of videogames being educational, intellectual and therapeutic.
    Turkle mainly focuses on the different skills that video games are able to instill in their players by presenting them with challenges which require logical thinking and problem-solving strategies. Turkle gives the example of Pacman while demonstrating the idea. She states that a game considered as trivial and “simple” as Pacman can pose a big challenge on the player. Pacman basically demands the player to display trickery, decision making, time management and problem-solving, skills that people would least expect from “games”. Many adults regard videogames with ignorance because they think that such games are not tailored for their age groups. However, some adults have effectively used video games to their advantages like gaining a sense of control over their lives, balancing their personal and professional lives and so on. Therefore, video games not only makes one digitally shrewd, but helps him/her to apply such skills in real lives. The fact that many video games require players’ full concentration leads to the “meditative qualities” (Turkle 85) of video games. We get the idea from “Video Games and Computer Holding Powers” that not only teenagers and youngsters, but adults can also benefit from the intellectual and meditative aspect of video games. The main reason for the adults’ reluctance towards accepting video games as educational is that they are intimidated by the excessive digitalization and complication associated with the games, making them feel technically lacking in this area.
    Bogost, on the other hand, presents two forms of education techniques and associates their relevance with video games. Behaviorism, he states, holds that learners typically learn by heart and the instructor follows rote-learning. Such technique leaves little room for creativity. Hence, the readers bluntly repeat the materials they were taught. People who think that video games follow the behaviorist model tend to think that people who play violent and “inappropriate” video games are necessarily violent their real lives. Constructivism, on the other hand, holds that learning involves creativity and opinions of the students. In the case of video games, it implies that players adopt the practical and logical aspects of video games and apply them in their real lives.
    After reading the two articles, I think that video games do promote skills that are not limited to the digital world but can also be applied in real lives. The concept of procedural literacy applied by Bogost while discussing video games is highly effective. “Behaviorist approaches to games foreclose what I have called the simulation gap, the breach between the game’s procedural representation of a topic and the player’s interpretation of it” (Bogost 239). The belief that video game players mindlessly repeat the activities in the games is questioning human conscience and institution.

  7. soon-to-be-wifey

    Both Sherry Turkle and Ian Bogost assert that video games have a variety of positive repercussions on the players: used for therapeutic ways and for learning. Turkle explains that video games can actually be somewhat of a therapy for people. She uses many examples of people of different ages and different situations. Jarish is a teenager who is constantly picked on for his size and being “different” and who expresses the feeling of being “cut off” from the world after ending a video game (72). Another example of this therapeutic use is Marty, the twenty-nine-year-old economist who is a self-proclaimed “type A person.” Marty uses games to relax and feel in control as these games allow achievement-oriented people do what they like to do: “get better” (85).

    These examples are completely valid. Stepping into a world without your own worries and problems is a freeing experience; it allows an escape from the chaos of our lives and temporarily move into a place that we can control. I personally am like Marty; I like to be in control and I am very achievement-oriented. While I do not play video games on a regular basis, I enjoy outlets to which I can reach to relieve myself of stress.

    Bogost suggests that video games can be used for learning and teaching. He states, “videogames simulate the actual dynamics of the material world, and playing such games has the same effect as would real learning in the material world” (236). Two of the examples he gives are Microsoft Flight Simulator which teaches about flying aircrafts and Sim City, an urban management game. These games teach the players how to fly an aircraft as if they were in the pilot seat of an actual aircraft or how to plan a city. Sim City expanded to The Sims in which the player can be in control of avatars as they go through “life” in the game. It teaches the player how to handle certain situations in possible real-life scenarios.

    Bogost even states that games “[teach] players how to transform skills into strategies, and to turn failure into success” (240). These are vital skills for us to acquire throughout our lives. We need to know how to develop strategies for school, work, home life, etc. A possibly even more important lesson is how to turn failure into success. We will fail at some of what we do; it is inevitable. What we do with the failure is what defines us and shapes us into the people we become.

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