Before traveling to New York for the Games for Learning Summit, I talked to my teenage son about his love of gaming and why he is so captivated by the game, Assassin’s Creed. My son looked at me and said…
“Mom, I know that you have some influence in education…or at least you think you do. But, if you say or do anything that makes Ubisoft change Assassin’s Creed from what it is to some watered down game for schools, I will hold you personally responsible [insert smile]”
My son loves this game because of it’s captivating graphics and brilliant integration of fiction and history. He also loves the video vignettes that take place throughout the game and has quite honestly, learned more about history through gaming than he did sitting in his desk…listening to lectures and writing down notes from powerpoint.
During my keynote at “G4L15“, I shared my son’s words as well as how he learns through playing games like Assassin’s Creed. I was also clear in saying that this is not a game for K-12 schools but that the intentionality with which the game was created to immerse players into a real historical experience was something that we should not ignore.
Gaming in My Classroom
As a classroom teacher, I integrated games but my games were specifically math based. I even blogged about them and how “great” they were. If my only focus was on skill development, those games would have been okay. However, my students demanded more than that. They were just beginning to download mobile games and wanted more “education-less” application that didn’t care whether they found the value of x but cared more about if they understood the why and when of the math itself.
Our deep dive into gaming started with Angry Birds but eventually landed in the territory of games like Farmville, Plants vs. Zombies and even certain sports games like Madden and the Tony Hawk series. Kids began to recognize algebraic and geometric patterns that existed within the context of gaming and that is how they often made their real world connections….ironically in a world that wasn’t real.
What they wanted to know was…
- Why is it that math games created for school are boring and seem to follow the same formulaic pattern…skill practice, test, mini-game?
- Why is it that games created for phones and consoles seem to apply more skills without making it seem “educational”?
- Why aren’t we just playing the games that we want to play that use these skills instead of playing games that focus on the skill? (translation…math games = glorified worksheets with sound)
My Son’s Ideal Game
I asked my son if he could design a game for school, what would it be. His response is below…
“If I could design a game, I would make it a cross between The Sims, World of Warcraft, Assassin’s Creed and Grand Theft Auto…except without violence or stealing. I want the characters to speak languages of the world and even learn them, go to work/school and solve real problems in school and even in the community. If they go to a class in school, I want them to sometimes complete real assignments on their own and sometimes work collaboratively with their peers on projects in the game (project based learning). I want them to have social interactions and even experiences like trying out for the basketball team, going to dances and playing games. I would create a game about about the things that we experience as teens but I would make sure that it included things like anti-bullying without being too preachy and some way that kids could play, learn and feel good about themselves in the process. Oh, and I definitely want it to be in a realistic 3d world.”
My son told me that he has been dreaming about doing this for 3 years now and although he has been trying to learn to code, it’s not as simple as he thought. He’s also not giving up on the idea of game designing which is a great reminder about the importance of kids learning to design their own games which is still an entirely different but necessary conversation.
Also…My son’s game + adding elements of financial responsibility that can’t be solved with simple cheat codes would be a remarkable game and if anyone wants to make this or help him…he’s in.
Reflecting on G4L15
If I learned anything at the Games for Learning Summit…it is that there are entertainment game developers and organizations with a vested interest in education who want to find some way of engaging in this space. It is also important to have educators immersed in these discussions as well as development. If you think that this is not worth exploring consider this…
Educational Gaming 2015 = Britney Spear’s Dance Beat (2002)
I should know. I owned, played and beat that game…because in 2002, dancing via controller was a thing. (Yes, I am admitting this in public)
Our kids deserve so much more than this.
One more thing…to the teachers that say that games are not for learning and continue to bar such amazing experiences like Minecraft, I challenge you to spend one day with me, my son and any device.