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Game On

There’s so much more to video games than meets the eye.

I have been a gamer for as long as I remember and I embraced it not only as my leisure identity but also for the sake of professional development. I am an educator who found his purpose in finding new ways of delivering knowledge in order to tackle the Red Queen’s paradox. It’s difficult not to notice that that the contemporary race has moved to the digital plane, and it is between technology and its users, between tools and their creators.

Internet and mobile solutions had already shrunk the Earth creating a new kind of global culture about which Huntington couldn’t probably dream. A new kind of civilization, which is like a sand in between of the World System’s gears. And a new kind of clash is waiting.

The USA, still the world leader, was built thanks to the emphasis put by the founding fathers on teaching the still crawling nation how to read and write in the common language. One of the fruits of that where accessible media – newspapers, penny novels, books, cinema, radio and comic books – which, fueled by the industrial energy, spread across the land and unified the colourful mixture of migrants. When the USA came out of the mists of the Second World War as the hegemon, it also emerged as a home for a new revolution – the digital one. Therefore, it shouldn’t be surprising that most of what happens in the zero-one reality has its source in T h e L a n d o f T h e F r e e; that even the very term digital literacy was coined there, and that the vast majority of the production is Western-centric if not Global-North-centric.

That new revolution is faster than any other. It is enhancing the gap not only between civilizations but also within them: between those with an access to new ‘toys’ and those who can’t afford them. Exactly because of that, the progress leaves millions behind and is a cruel and an unforgiving mistress. Understanding it is one of the keys to the sustainable future. Here comes a void within a void, one which might be filled by the digital literacy. The void which is the bigger the bigger is the technological breakthrough. Here comes me, other educators, and my colleagues from the pack. United to build bridges between the public and available digital resources.

The uncharted paths between spaces of digital reality emerging on daily bases, especially in the developed parts of the world, are, as it is already a common knowledge, a playground for billions from all over the world. That playground, unlike the normal ones, is left mostly unattended; users [in vast majority] totally unprepared are roaming free. That freedom creates openings for various predators, both literal (opportunistic neo-criminals) and metaphorical (personal frustration to name just one), which might be ‘lethal’. For one to know the difference between shadows in a grass and stripes on tiger’s back, and survive in the virtual reality, evolve in the digital world, he or she needs to either show a great amount of patience for self-learning or be lucky enough to come across a proper teacher. The latter is in most of the countries still a rare breed as educators in most of the cases are unable to catch up fast enough with the tech-trends. Be that may due to the lack of funding for their training on a governmental level, lack of time or simply human resources – trainers who might prepare other trainers.

For the sake of our future – as global warming, fight with terrorism, contemporary migration, etc. are not going to stop the technology (if anything it will be just the opposite: they will fuel it) – we must accept the fact that nowadays learning occurs mainly outside of classrooms, that the youth wires itself differently with the help of interconnected network of peers; we must accept that tomorrow is today. And it is gamified.

The speed and the amount of available information is too overwhelming for any sane person to comprehend; the education system rooted in the days of the industrial revolution is generally not attractive and bogged in dissolving paper molds. With that and everything already said it shouldn’t be a surprise that youth in the everlasting search for a place on Earth is moving towards screens. There they can be whoever, whenever and wherever they want. There they are surrounded basically only by the like-minded. That neo-migration bare fruit in a form of products keeping them there entertained and satisfied, happy and willing to invest time and money. Games.

You can love them like me, you can hate them, but no matter what, the fight with them is futile. More and more young people (and not only!), thanks to the mobile technologies, will be having a parallel life. All because it is easier; because it is more fun; because usually, it is safer than the surroundings (you make mistake? It is ok, you can try again, and again, and again). A lot of industries are already… learning from it.

Taking elements from games is quite a popular mechanism to i.e. keep students interested in a given subject or to keep employees happier and more willing to work. That is called gamification. Among the elements you can find: leaderboards, points and award system or task/quest focus. In the same time, the game industry itself understood it’s own impact and brings to life more and more titles which are actually entwining informative and educative patterns into the entertaining canvas. In my eyes, contemporary educators should embrace both the above, meaning gamification and the ‘enlightening’ games. That’s the new paradigm that the world is looking for.

In the following weeks, in this space of wolves, I would like to share with you my take on what is what in the field and where to put your feet not to lose the path. Together with you, I will go through my vast collection of games, and new releases in order to not only make traditional reviews but also to put an emphasis on what actually is or can be thought through particular titles.

We are now creating the new civilization, setting up rules for a new game. Let’s howl together.

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