“So I had to sneak into this prison to save a prisoner who held delicate Intel about the local Soviet research group. However, this base was guarded by snipers, dudes with helmets, and dogs that they would have patrol around the perimeter to sniff me out. So, in order to get past the dogs, I crawled through the riverbed in front of the base, in the middle of the night, to mask my scent and get to the prisons walls. I THEN used my speaker on my tape-player to play David Bowie in order to get one of the guards, at the front gate, to come investigate. At this time I was using a cardboard box to hide in, so this guard comes out hearing “The Man Who Sold the World” by David Bowie, and only sees an inconspicuous cardboard box. As he gets closer I then ‘shoot’ out of the cardboard box and pelt him in the face with a tranquilizer shot before disappearing into the box again. I then crawl forward, with the box still on, to the other guard and strangle him to sleep. I THEN snuck into the base, with a cardboard box as my camo, and get into the cell with the prisoner. However, at this point both of the unconscious guards have been found and were woken up by their fellow soldiers, who then tell these soldiers about a guy in a suit in a cardboard box. The alarms go off. I call in a support helicopter, making sure to blow up the AA radar before he would arrive, and throw the prisoner over my soldier holding a riot shotgun in my other hand knocking out guards with rubber bullets as I made my way out of the prison. I get outside and there are guards everywhere, so I throw the prisoner on the ground and get behind cover holding off the guards until the sound of “Rebel Yell” by Billy Idol can be heard on the horizon. My backup helicopter has arrived. This helicopter comes swooping in blasting “Rebel Yell” while also blasting missiles and gunfire at the guards. I then run out below the helicopter blasting at guards holding a guy over my shoulder, with explosions and bullets all round me, with “Rebel Yell” blasting as well. I sit back for a second and think, ‘Yeah…This game is pretty rad.’”
Tools, challenge, and identity. These are the three tenants, which I found to be the most interesting, from the 36 points made by James Paul Gee, in his book “What Video Games Have to Teach Us about Learning and Literacy.” Gee makes quite a few more interesting points, including a chapter about the use of authority in video games, but these three came across as the most important, and also just the most fun to observe and mull around on.
Video games, like education, provide its ‘students’ tools that it hammers home in a section that is going to be referred to as “the kiddie pool”. In “the kiddie pool” players are placed in a controlled world where threats are few and the laws are easy to understand and master. Rules, standards, and structures are taught and presented in a ‘safe’ environment. This is a prep phase for the much larger and open game that players will be thrust into with little safe guards and an immense amount of threats to challenge them and keep them on their toes. However, because of the prior “kiddie pool” area these players are aware of the laws and rules that are applied to the world. They also have an idea of the dangers that will be presented to them. So, whenever a new threat or challenge is given, players pull from their mental foundation of the laws and rules of the world (paper structure and class rules), taught to them in “the kiddie pool”, and take on these challenges confident in their skills. In this process, by completing challenges (test and essays), they build upon their foundations as they grow and slowly master the world and its finer details. During this process, not only are the students learning, but they are also creating their identity in this world that establishes who they are and adds ‘weight’ to what they are doing.
There is a sense of progress in the world as the player, with their values and ideals, implement their identity into the game. Not only does this create a game that everyone can identify with, but it also establishes a connection between the player and the game world. There is an inherent ownership when a character shares similar traits with the player, an ownership that drive the player to try harder and take on challenges to build the players identity, the characters identity, and the projected identity that acts as a balance between the player and the character. What is created, is one of the most complex relationships of identity and balance. On that creates weight in this virtual, and one that the player is willing to try harder and spend more time on. They do not know what the next challenge will be, but the odd thing is there is no anxiety, no overwhelming stress, and little fear. There is only the hunger for challenge and the difficulties and stress of the ‘next’ challenge, one they haven’t seen yet.
Video games have a lot of interesting ideas and concepts to show the educational world. It has its flaws to, but so does everything these days including education. Perhaps the best of both of these worlds can create a new incite in how to educate and present value and identity in students for their education to incite hunger in their minds, instead of fear or frustration in their eyes. We just have to create a foundation, a “kiddie pool” so-to-speak, in order for students to build their own worlds upon, to create new ways to learn and understand while their towers of ideas and values build. Allow them to be that student that they want, the characters identity, while not forgetting who they are and what they can give, projected Identity. Perhaps we will see new worlds built right before our eyes, worlds we could have never dreamed of, a world from the mind of a student who sees the rain grey veil… and smirks.