When my students find out that I, too, like video games, it always sends them into asking the same handful of questions. Do you like Fortnite? (Not particularly.) Have you played Overwatch? (No, MOBAs aren’t my style because I really prefer single-player games or co-op with my friends.) Can we play Minecraft in class? (Not until I find a way to include it in class and make sure that you’re doing things well and respectfully while also learning something related to our units.) How many games do you own? (Way too many for my own good.)
But they never ask how they can be used as educational tools, even outside of the classroom.
Some of my favourite YouTube channels are about games and focus on design elements, mechanics, and narrative. They also focus on how social issues are made more obvious through the way a game is played, options that are available, or messages that the game gives in its story elements. For example, Chris Franklin (of Errant Signal) often produces video essays about different games, which are incredibly enjoyable to watch or listen to; they’re often reviews of games, but he also talks about poignant topics: specific portrayals of violence in video games, politics and the art of video games, and the sexism and racism in the types of characters included (or excluded).
But one that I’ve noticed hitting a lot of notes that are relevant to my classes is Mark Brown‘s Game Maker’s Toolkit. He’s been working recently on a series about making games more inclusive to people with a variety of disabilities (so far hearing-related disabilities and colourblindness or low vision), and he even made a video about how Overcooked really forces people to engage in teamwork and communication. But another recent video about playing past your mistakes caught my eye.
This kind of mentality is something that I want to bring into my classroom because it’s something I wish more of my students felt comfortable doing in real life: making mistakes. Far too often, I see my students trying to make everything absolutely perfect (or not even trying because they’re afraid to make that mistake), even though I try to build an environment that encourages experimenting with different ideas and strategies to learn something. It’s one of the few lessons that, really, a video game might be able to help teach everyone on how to be more risk-taking, even in more minor and every day actions (like asking questions or feeling like they can speak up about how they feel).
But it does, as he says, require learning a bit about feedback loops and how they might impact the ways that people respond to events. And all of that? Is really cool to think about in terms of school life and education.