Game Geeks: Education’s Bold Pioneers? (Sharon)

Call of Duty (COD), a very violent first person shooter game, is all the rage with (mostly) boys, not least  those aged less than the 15 years required of the MA15+ classification.  It astounds me how many of these young boys have this game, either because they have older siblings or because as a year 9 boy in my ILA class informed me, parents “are stricter about sex than they are about violence”.

However, this game is more than just a game: it like countless others is at the centre of its own media mini galaxy with media offshoots circling around it.  Can COD give us insight into a para-educational experience that might have any usefulness? I wonder if the range of wikis, youtube clips, help fora, and other online gamer resources provide a useful basis for practising collaboration and publication of one’s own content for academic pursuits?  Then again, just because you view, doesn’t mean you can do, as any cooking show devotee can attest!

So what might the (often underage) teen male fan of the COD franchise be learning?  Well, I have been informed that they can watch the previews of the game, and the character set-ups on youtube to whet their shooting appetite.

Next step is to sign up for COD updates from sites like this…


and follow their Youtube channels such as this…

COD aficionados are able to subscribe to RSS feeds, Facebook, and Twitter too. More interesting are the peer interaction functions. In multiplayer mode players in a team (or ‘faction’ in the game parlance) can talk to each other.  There is a kind of etiquette to this – although this makes the standards sound higher than they are by all accounts.  A player can ‘livestream’ their games to the web for others to watch and  can ‘shoutcast’ – commentate a game and have this broadcast, like this one which has had nearly 1.7 million views.

There are various international competitions. A better known one is Gamescom, where COD lovers watch professional teams (yes, for money! The 2011 tournament had a $400 000 first place purse).  Really good players can record their games and post them to Youtube and if these are popular, then Youtube invites the channel owner to revenue share the pop-up ads that overlay the clips.  Some of the more popular Youtube ‘stars’ make over USD $100 000 per annum.

Players  are becoming familiar with the game, accessing self-help and participating in a learning community of peers, exploiting a range of media and often creating original content. This must be learning for the 21st century as evidenced below.

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Other models of 21st century learning share most of these features and it is pretty hard to deny that COD game media meets so many of these ideal features.  Depth of competency is less certain, but there are just too many positive elements for games and the associated media to be dismissed out of hand.

There are negatives with using games as exemplars as most ‘problem solving’ strategies involve using cheats and ‘walkthroughs’ that are prolific and easily found.

Of course, cheating is part of school life, as the recent controversy over cheating overseas students at Deakin University this month revealed.  Peer advice and support sounds so much nicer though, and it is important that the difference is known and practiced by students (and the rest of us!).  Games might prove to be a valuable object lesson in the ethics of intellectual property rights.

Then there is the violence.   Cynics (or just perhaps astute child psychologists) might note the sinister lessons being engrained onto the formative minds of the youth by these first person shooter games and dismiss them as worse than pointless.  They might point out that while the skills are great, the content is “rubbish”.  However, how much of the everyday classroom practice would pass the ‘I can use this in the real world of tomorrow’ test?

The COD game play experience may mirror some of the collaboration and peer-assistance approaches that we would like to see in our students.  The enormous range of cross-media formats show some of the possibilities for creative expression and develop in students the capacities that a more formal educational experience might copy and apply. The irony is that the more engaging games played are almost by nature the ones LEAST likely to be acceptable.  Now it remains to be seen how schools take the best of this gaming world and adapt it to the best of our schools’ world.

3 thoughts on “Game Geeks: Education’s Bold Pioneers? (Sharon)

  1. I have never watched a violent video game before so Call of Duty was my introduction to gaming. Man is it fast, and I was only watching it. I can understand how engrossing it would be if you were playing the game. The setting, for want of a better word, is so lifelike and you’re right there with the action. While I agree with your comment about the relevance of some subject matter taught in class, I certainly hope that the lessons taught in these games don’t become relevant, except maybe if the boys become soldiers. I believe that gaming has a place in education, but I’m not for violent games. I realise that games like COD have the ability to engage at-risk boys, but I can also understand why schools are reluctant to integrate games into the curriculum. It will be interesting to see which games are eventually accepted and if boys will embrace them.

  2. I totally agree with you. I hope that my son NEVER asks for this one! As I said, I was very surprised at the number of under 15 year olds who did have access to it. I struggled to find youtube clips about COD that didn’t make me cringe or even feel quite sick in the stomach. I can’t imagine that a game like COD could ever be integrated into the curriculum, however the associated “media offshoots” is what interests me. The offshoots are varied and numerous because of the games enormous popularity. But these offshoots do hold some very significant educational elements that could be transferred to more appropriate games that specifically target the age of the students and intended educational outcomes. The challenge is to find the games that are appropriate, have true educational significance (beyond being fun and engaging) and that are also popular!

  3. Pingback: CLN647 Group N 2012 - Watchin, Talking and Playing A Game

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