Reflections on Games as Media
Early last year I blogged about how we construct definitions of 'gaming' versus 'real life'. For me, I am fascinated by the acknowledgement of artifice that is invoked as soon as we call something a game.
Just yesterday, Dean Groom posted a lovely long comment, and I thought it a shame to leave it languishing at the bottom of my post, so here it is, below. Dean tweets here and blogs here. I find Dean's writing to be nuanced, insightful and subversive.
Here's the comment:
Hey, thanks for happy comment Steve. What I'm really interested in is this: How do games (as a form of media remediation) change the way in which families negotiate fantasy and reality. I'm mostly talking about kids 7-12, pre adolescents, as there is spotty research. I happen to think kids need to explore the bounds of reality, and have always done this though fantasy - playing out games with anything from shadows, to sticks and more lately games like Minecraft. What I think is significant is that parents now have to learn to deal with games as a media form - having no previous experience (as parents) even if they are players. It adds to the anxiety and dilemmas we all face. As much as I like games, my kids like different ones for different reasons. They negotiate playing them (and the media at swirls around them) in way that I might not like, or even be aware of.
Ultimately I believe that many kids are locked into a commercial hyper-reality which reflects the goals or vast corporations (be that Apple, Google or Rio Tinto). I find it unsettling that teachers are commonlt used as preachers for this. I guess I completely reject the Will Richardson "Blogs, wikis and podcasts" because it failed to deal with the ethical realities that schools (and society) are now dealing with.
To me, games allow some kids to find respite and connectedness. They need fantasy to deal with the relentless pressure for them to be what commercial and political interests wish them to be. I grew up in the 70s and 80s, so we bought guitars and hung out in video arcades ... but today that seems impossible for most kids. So why not let them blow stuff up, and be knee deep in gore - as the literature that opposes it yet to prove more than debatable.
To me this is the role of teachers - to take kids to imagined reality of what they could be. I accept there are tests and content, but see no reason that they two things are separated. It matters nothing if teachers or parents don't like games, or don't like the kind of games kids want to play.
Games are simply another layer of the ever evolving cultural literature that is all around us. Play is absolutely real, because it is an autotelic function of the imagination being coerced by our conscious. What we think we are doing and what we are actually doing have been show to be quite different.
The problem with GBL is that it is a commercial hyperbole, which should (but doesn't) present teachers with an instructional method that aligns with outcomes (and what is popular). GBL is simply the act of holding your hand to the sun in order to create shadows, and that is something being driven out of childhood IMO.