Montageman: A dude who writes

June 24, 2007

Gaming through School

Filed under: Academic, news, videogames — montageman @ 6:19 pm

NPROn NPR’s All Things Considered this week, Heather Chaplin (co-author of Smartbomb) reported on a new school in New York that will be back by a million dollar grant from the McArthur Foundation. The school’s curriculum will be centered around game design & gaming literacy. Streaming audio of the story can be found here.

Gaming literacy is a fairly new concept & definitely goes beyond the realm of video games. The NPR piece argues that video games are systems and in order to properly function within these systems knowledge must be gained and used effectively. Essentially, this is a similar type of learning that we do all through school. For example in order to understand calculus, we must first have a strong grip on pre-calculus which requires knowledge of geometry which requires knowledge of addition and subtraction and so on. Collection of knowledge is prevalent across nearly all fields and gaming appears to be an effective way for kids to grasp these ideas.

This school is a tremendous idea & I would love to teach there (since I’m way too old to attend). However, the piece runs parallel to another segment that aired a day later, which can be here. Manhunt 2, as previously reported, had its release date suspended. The argument is that the game is “too violent,” so violent in fact that it was given the dreaded Adults Only rating – a rating tantamount to the NC-17 or X rating given to films. The AO rating is a kiss of death for sales because major retailers like Best Buy and Walmart will not carry games with this rating. This seems strange to me. On the one hand, neither place can carry a supposedly ultra-violent video game, but Walmart sells guns, ammo, and books by Ann Coulter and Best Buy sells recordings (and maybe books) by Larry the Cable Guy – all of which are much more offensive to me than a little killing in a video game.mario

When the two stories are looked at together, a problem arises. If kids are learning game design in school at such an early age, will they also be told what kinds of games to design? Will games like Manhunt, Grand Theft Auto, and others be demonized in favor of less violent games? And then we must define violence, right? Why is Mario killing a goomba with a fireball any different from the killing done in Manhunt 2? The question becomes how do we feel when Mario kills a goomba versus how do we feel when a strangulation happens on Manhunt? Is the feeling so different that a person would be moved to mimic Manhunt rather than Mario? Hopefully, this new school will teach kids the feeling behind games not just the content.

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