Posts Tagged ‘videogames’

I was lately introduced to Charles Baudelaire (love his shock value!) and his ideas on modernity and what it means for individuals as culture changes and morphs. One of the ideas that has stuck with me is the idea of sensory overload. For Baudelaire in the nineteenth century, that meant having to learn what kinds of sounds and sights to ignore and what to pay attention to as he walked around Paris amid the new technologies that were popping up throughout the city. The same overload Baudelaire experienced still goes on today, particularly with videogames.

That point was reinforced for me when I read an article from Gonzalo Frasca’s baby, ludology.org, JET SET RADIO – STILL TASTES GREAT AFTER ALL THESE YEARS” in which he pointed out how we get better at learning how to play videogames and how it takes less time to go from game to game and get comfortable with the controls. It made me aware of how my husband picks up games and just plays with very little difficulty. He makes everything look so easy, and he knows where to look to get goodies and bonuses and such, whereas I have a hard time doing that. However, now that I have more time to play, I’ve witnessed how learning gets easier after my own experiences of having to adapt to different games.

One of those games was Virtual-On: Oratorio Tangram. My husband recently pulled out his Dreamcast (which didn’t work, so we had to order a new one) so he could introduce me to a game from his golden years. In Virtual-On you control a robot (like in Gundam or Xenogears) and shoot at other robots in a fight to the death. The whole time I played it, I got really frustrated because the controls are difficult to get used to. For example, in order to lock the camera onto your opponent, you have to “dash” and fire weapons. Pressing the required buttons to execute said operations takes some really athletic bending of the carpels! Talk about awkward. And on top of that, there are so many colors and things going on that it makes you feel like you’re going to have an epileptic seizure. Once you get used to picking out the important things to pay attention to, it’s a really fun game.

After Virtual-On, I started playing Rockstar’s Red Dead Redemption. I love the open-world RPGs (as you’ve probably noticed from my Elder Scrolls obsession blatantly and shamelessly plastered all over previous posts) because I get to explore and talk to people and do whatever I want whenever I want. Having never played their other franchise, Grand Theft Auto, I was like “Sweeeeeet. Skyrim except in the Wild West!” Aw hell no! That was a stupid expectation. After much yelling and cursing, I finally started getting used to the game’s controls and love playing it.

Baudelaire was onto something. Even in an era where people are used to the constant hubbub and technological presences in daily life, there are always new things to get used to, particularly in videogames. Each game requires players to learn different controls and get used to the sights and sounds of the game. Players have to learn what to ignore and what to look for in order to survive in the gameworld. And who knows, maybe those experiences with videogames can help when we have to adapt in reality, too.

New Media and literacy was a topic that was discussed (in-depth) tonight in the Studies in Adult Literacy seminar I’m taking this semester, though we discussed a relatively limited scope of New Media such as videogames, social sites, and instant messaging.

I had to lead a discussion about an article of my choice that related to the subject, so I chose Gonzalo Frasca’s “Videogames of the Oppressed” in First Person. Frasca seems to be making the claim that videogames are not viable modes for social discourse, nor do they have the power to institute change in people. Of course, the article was written nearly ten years ago, but I think videogames are extremely effective at getting people to think about the current social and political atmosphere. And as far as literacy is concerned, they can help with problem-solving and critical thinking. And they can make us look at both our world and ourselves from a different perspective.

The same thing goes with social media. I would argue that sites like Twitter and Facebook are great platforms for getting students to interact with one another, which has the potential to help improve literacy, especially if the students know that a particular group has higher expectations of their writing skills. They can also be used as a form of more immediate contact with the teacher or other students. Students can post questions, ideas, and connections that have the potential to enhance their knowledge of the material being presented in classes. Plus, on a more practical note, many businesses are looking for employees that are familiar with all different types of social media and web design experience.

Sadly, many educators and schools don’t really see the need for New Media in the classroom; in fact, some schools will fire educators who use them for class. I think that’s really sad because they have such potential! They aren’t without their cons, but if you think about it, as one of my classmates put it, it’s kind of the same as when the printing press came out in the sixteenth century.

What do you think about New Media and their potential as educational tools?