The Popularity Contest
The notion of playing games is quite fair removed from the public opinion of what one might consider “teaching.” In fact, since their inception in 1947, video games have taken quite a great deal of flak. Over the years, concerned parents have referred to video games as brain-rotting, violent, and sexist. The fact remains that video games are extremely popular. Martha Irvine sums up a 2007 study in a review for the Huffington Post, stating that “ninety-seven percent of young respondents [12-17 year-olds] play video games” and “half of the respondents said they had played a video game the previous day.”
Good vs. Evil
Popularity, unfortunately, does little to prove that video games have content to disprove parental opinions. The question then becomes “do video games have the kind of merit that would not only convince parents of their worth but also of their place in the classroom?” The simple answer is that of many other age-old questions: “Yes…in moderation.” However, the simple answer does this issue justice. Jordan Shapiro explains the pros of one video game that is being used in many classrooms already, called Gamestar Mechanic, stating that it “encourages social interaction. The ideas don’t stay isolated within a kid’s head. Instead, kid-game-designers create and share their learning experience with peers. In this way, they are motivated by relationships; kids are inspired to think of game creation as a way to articulate and express themselves. Likewise, they are motivated to interpret other people’s games and comment accordingly.”
Idealism or Realism?
If used appropriately, it seems, that video games might soon find themselves as a staple of many English language arts classrooms. To that end, Terrell Heick goes so far in an article for Edutopia concerning the role of video games in classrooms to say that “video games not only have a role, but also demand a seat next to novels and poems, speeches and letters, essays and short stories.” A bold statement, but perhaps there is some validity to Heick’s assertion. Given the right context, could video games be used as just another medium for education? Now, here, we finally might have a simple answer. With the right approach anything can be viewed as a text, and based on the popularity of video games, ELA educators are looking at a recipe for success in the digital age.