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Lesson 4: Track B Summaries

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Schedule   ::   Lesson 4   ::   Track A Summaries   ::   Track B Summaries


Miller, C. H., Chapter 11: Video games.

Reading summary/quotes:

Miller looks at the different genres of video games, and why it is important to classify them. He discusses how TV and Hollywood are beginning to merge with video games. He looks at today’s games, Grand Theft Auto in particular. He discusses what makes games appealing, what they do well, as well as their limitations.

Differences in console and PC games: living room floor vs. desk; multiplayer vs. alone; fast action vs. deep controls; casual players; younger vs. older players (p. 210).

“Knowledge of genres gives us a handy kind of shorthand to refer to different games and to understand their prominent characteristics. Being able to identify major genres is also helpful because it makes it easier to track the market, and to see how the different types of games are faring (p. 211).”

“Today’s games are growing ever more cinematic. They are utilizing high-quality visual effects, sophisticated sound effects, original scores, and more compelling plots (p. 216).”

“Certainly part of (games) appeals is the way they take you out of your ordinary life and into a rich fantasy world. You get to play an exciting role and do things you’d never be able to do in reality, and all without any actual risk to yourself (p. 219).”

“Games offer us a socially acceptable form of play at any age, and an enjoyable stimulus to the imagination (p. 219).”

“To maintain the sense of fun, a good game offers just the right amount of challenge – not too little, or it would be boring, and not too much, or it would be discouraging (p. 219).”

Several kids of classic gamer personalities: looking to escape, want to blow off steam, enjoy the intellectual challenge, want to compete with other people (p. 219).

Greg Roach: “Novels tell, Movies show, Games do (p. 220).”

Games deal with only limited number of emotions – unlike linear entertainment (p. 220).

“In truth, many of the limitations we place on games may be self-imposed, and it is quite possible we have not yet fully explored what games are capable of (p. 221).”

Related articles/class discussions:

  • Chapter 3: What games are (Lesson 3 Track B) : See below.
  • Chapter 1: What is a game? (Lesson 3 Track A) : Both Crawford and Koster talk about games being a place where a person can try something out with "less risk Miller (p. 219)." He also seems to agree that the appeal of games is the discovery. Crawford and Koster both argue that the appeal of games is the learning nature.
  • Class discussion: This chapter related to discussions on the evolution of games, what games have to teach people, and why people play games.

Discussion points/questions:

  • Gamers are drawn away from television. Is that a good thing? Is it better to play games or watch TV?
  • Games focus on a few emotions. Do they not focus on others because they cannot, or because game designers haven't wandered into that territory yet?
  • Are games reaching their full entertainment potential? Graphics can only get a little bit better. Have we seen everything there is to see? Is there more? Is there another huge breakout genre?


Gee, J. P., Chapter 2: Semiotic domains: Is playing video games a "waste of time"?

Reading summary/quotes:

The author explains Semiotic Domains and how this relates to learning in video games. Critical learning and reflective thinking increase the value of the time spent playing video games.

“When people learn to play video games, they are learning a new literacy (p. 13).”

“Images, symbols, graphs, diagrams, artifacts, and many other visual symbols are particularly significant. Thus the idea of different types of “visual literacy” would seem to be an important one (p. 13).”

“Both modes and multimodality go far beyond images and words to include sounds, music, movement, bodily sensations, and smells (p. 14).”

“Important knowledge (now usually gained in school) is content in the sense of information rooted in, or, at least, related to, intellectual domains or academic disciplines like physics, history, art, or literature. Work that does not involve such learning is “meaningless (p. 21).”

“No one would want to treat basketball as “content” apart from the game itself. Imagine a textbook that contained all the facts and rules about basketball read by students who never played or watched the game. How well do you think they would understand this textbook? How motivated to understand it do you think they would be? But we do this sort of thing all the time in school with area like math and science. We even have politicians and educators who condemn doing math and science in the classroom instead of drilling-and-skilling on math and science facts (“content”) as “permissive (p. 21).”

“There are people who play in both domains but have strong opinions about what sorts of games are best played on platforms and what sorts are best played on computers (p. 35).”

“Lifeworld domains are culturally variable; that is, different cultural groups have, more or less, different ways of being, doing, feeling, valuing, and talking as “everyday people (p. 36).”

“Many children have learned through the Internet and television more about stock trading or even law than many of the adults around them could ever imagine knowing. (One teenager had the top rating for legal advice on a legal Internet site in which many of the other on the highly ranked list were professional lawyers.) (p. 38)”

“The lifeworld – the domain in which people can claim to know and understand things as “everyday” people and not as specialists – is shrinking, not just under the attack of specialist domains like science but because our children are creating and mastering so many specialist domains themselves.” (p. 39)

“If learning is to be active, it must involve experiencing the world in new ways. ...Active learning must also involve forming new affiliations (p. 39).” “For active learning, the learner must, at least unconsciously, understand and operate within the internal and external design grammars of the semiotic domain he or she is learning. But for critical learning, the learner must be able consciously to attend to, reflect on, critique, and manipulate those design grammars at a metalevel (p. 40).”

Question of good or valuable instead of content (p. 46).

“Two things help to lead active and critical learning in playing video games. One is the internal design of the game itself. ...The other is the people around the learner, other players and nonplayers (p. 46).”

Valuable learning: “A given domain can be a good precursor for learning another one (p. 47).”

Related articles/class discussions:

  • Class discussion: Relates to discussions on social cognition, why video games are not a waste of time, and how games can help us learn.

Discussion points/questions:

  • Gee brings up an interesting question with the Pikmin game. There isn't much 'content', but the way he describes it really paints the picture that there is a whole lot of critical thinking and learning going on. But is that really the case? Does the fact that yellow pikmins have bombs really teach a person strategies to solve problems? Or to think outside the box?


Contributors: Tom Caswell, Marion Jensen, Jennifer Jorgensen, Jon Scoresby, and Tim Stowell
Copyright 2008, by the Contributing Authors. Cite/attribute Resource . admin. (2008, May 20). Lesson 4: Track B Summaries. Retrieved January 07, 2011, from Free Online Course Materials — USU OpenCourseWare Web site: http://ocw.usu.edu/instructional-technology-learning-sciences/instructional-games/Lesson_4__Track_B_Summaries.html. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License Creative Commons License
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