Can Videogames teach RESPONSIBILITY?

Thus far in this class we have focused on using videogames as a substitute for traditional schooling and have argued that videogames facilitate learning in a more efficient and effective manner.  Moreover, when we make the argument that videogames better facilitate learning we are referring to what I call “traditional learning”.  In my eyes, traditional learning refers to the things students are taught as part of a standard lower level curriculum which include basic arithmetic, grammar and science.  Although we have concluded, during class discussions and after having read the likes of Gee and Lepper, that videogames are in some situations more efficient at facilitating traditional learning than the classroom is, can we also make the conclusion that videogames also represent a superior teaching tool when it comes to teaching “non-traditional” subjects such as responsibility? The other day I was playing Grand Theft Auto after one of our lectures and began to think about this idea of videogames being used to teach responsibility.  As I played the game I began to notice just how many tasks I had to attend to and to how I was forced to prioritize these tasks because it was physically impossible to address all of them simultaneously.  On a basic level I as the gamer was responsible for my characters basic needs.  On the left corner of my screen there was a monitor with a heart that represented my characters health.  As I played I began to notice that my characters health would be diminished when he experienced physical pain (being shot or hit by a car) but could be increased by a variety of things including food, health packs and sexual relations.  On a more complex level, my character had a variety of different responsibilities I had to address due to decisions I had made during different stages of the game.  For example, earlier in the game I had taken on mission that gave me the responsibility of taking out an enemy gang member.  If I did not take out the gang member by a certain time I would loose money and without money I was unable to buy weapons necessary for self-defense and food necessary for self-preservation.  Not only does this instance demonstrate how a videogame can be used to teach gamers responsibility but it also demonstrates how videogames teach gamers how to prioritize responsibilities.  For instance, although I had a mission to complete (responsibility A) I would not be able to complete this mission without buying the necessary weapon to carry it out (responsibility B) or buying enough food and health packs to get my characters health up to an appropriate level (responsibility C).   Therefore, after trial and error it became clear to me that I had to carry out my responsibilities in the order of C, B and then A hence I learned to prioritize.  Although Grand Theft Auto is a bit of an extreme example do we think videogames can be used to teach kids how to meet and prioritize their basic responsibilities?

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Megan Argillander
    Mar 13, 2011 @ 15:35:22

    I think this is an interesting question, particularly with reference to GTA. I think motivation really plays into this question about what makes a player complete tasks like keeping up with health bars etc. But there is certainly something to be said about the way a game encourages focus, determination, and organizational skills that are necessary to win. Reading this article about the Quest to Learn school, it seems that there are definitely some theories at work that suggest these skills are transferable to other tasks. After all, the school operates under the notion that a game-like approach to education will prepare students for the world after high school, so there must be some real-world applications for video game tasks–possibly even increased skills like responsibility. I think the question of responsibility is particularly ironic for games such as Grand Theft Auto because while completing the tasks, you are acting out the role of a very irresponsible citizen. It makes me think about what people are actually taking from games. We are learning a lot about the mechanics that make games successful as learning tools, but its interesting to explore what exact content people take away using these tools.


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