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Gaming Writing: Teaching (with) Video Games

Friday, October 12th, 3:30-5:00 PM TYCA-PNW Conference 2012 Highline Community College

Ed Chang

on 21 September 2018

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Transcript of Gaming Writing: Teaching (with) Video Games

Gaming Writing: Teaching (with) Video Games
TYCA-PNW Conference 2012 | Highline Community College
Workshop Agenda

Framing the Conversation: Digital Natives, Immigrants, Learners, Literacies

Teaching (with) Video Games: Pros, Cons, Pedagogies, Philosophies

What is Close Playing? Paired Playing?

Workshop on ImmorTall


Edmond Y. Chang
Department of English
University of Washington

TYCA-PNW Conference 2012
Highline Community College, Des Moines, WA
Gaming Writing: Teaching (with) Video Games
“Today’s students – K through college – represent the first generations to grow up with this new technology.
They have spent their entire lives surrounded by and using computers, videogames, digital music players, video cams, cell phones, and all the other toys and tools of the digital age
. Today’s average college grads have spent less than 5,000 hours of their lives reading, but over 10,000 hours playing video games (not to mention 20,000 hours watching TV). Computer games, email, the Internet, cell phones and instant messaging are integral parts of their lives.”
Marc Prensky, “Digital Natives,
Digital Immigrants,” 2001

“What should we call these “new” students of today? Some refer to them as the N-[for Net]-gen or D-[for digital]-gen. But the most useful designation I have found for them is
Digital Natives
. Our students today are all ‘native speakers’ of the digital language of computers, video games and the Internet.”
Cynthia Selfe, “Technology and
Literacy," 1999
“...to understand and make sense of, to pay attention to,
how technology is now inextricably linked to literacy
and literacy education in this country"
“Computer-using teachers instruct students in how to use technology -- but, all too often, they
neglect to teach students how to pay critical attention to the issues generated by technology use
“We require multiple perspectives if we hope to construct a robust and accurate understanding of
the ways in which technology functions in our culture
“In my view video games are a new form of art.
We have no idea yet how people ‘read’ video games, what meanings they make from them.
Still less do we know how they will ‘read’ them in the future. Video games are at the very beginning of their potential—’we ain’t seen nothing yet.’ They will get deeper and richer.”
--James Paul Gee, What Video Games Teach Us about Learning and Literacy
Teaching (with) Games
“I have made the argument that, even when based on a restricted version of what it means to read and write, examination of what gamers actually do during play reveals
that gaming, at least in the context of MMOGs, is not replacing literacy practice but rather is a literacy practice
. If we compare what individuals do within these spaces to national reading, writing, and technology standards, it turns out that much of their activity can be seen as satisfying what we, as a nation, say we want our children to be engaged in and capable of.”
--Constance Steinkuehler, “Massively Multiplayer Online Gaming
as a Constellation of Literacy Practices”
Teaching with video games offers unique pedagogical opportunities and
medium-specific challenges
, which require particular attention to
reading and playing literacies
, to careful ludic and analytical framing, and to access. On the one hand, video games are not the promised land inhabited by digital "natives," who are always ready and willing and able. On the other hand, they are an important and popular medium with many different layers and levels to offer.
In other words, video games cannot be a gimmick or dangling digital carrot, but rather video games must be the artifacts and occasions for study
, investigation, discussion, and interrogation. Drawing on game studies and game pedagogy, the time is now to experiment with and develop different practices for teaching (with) games.
Teaching (with) Games

Fun factor
Engages students in their area of knowledge, something they have experience & skill in
Engages multiple learning styles
Playing awake: activity and interactivity
Play across disciplines, including literature, cultural studies, education, sociology, computer science, art, and politics
Teaches close reading, close playing
Cutting edge, creative possibilities
Teaching (with) Video Games Successes & Advantages:
Critical Frames: Managing Student Expectations
“It’s just a game!”: games aren’t “serious” or “academic”
Playing asleep: playing only for fun, entertainment, distraction, escape
Not all students play or like video games; students will have varying degrees of experience or skill with games
Everyone plays different: it's not always about winning or losing
Proficiency or skill at playing games is different from the ability to critically analyze games
Selecting Games, Problematic Game Content
Cost and Access, Platform Requirements
New media requirements in and out of the classroom (projection, internet connection, computer or console)
Game cost, subscription fees, availability
Game Studies and Game Pedagogy is New
Lack of institutional support
Teaching (with) Video Games Challenges & Limitations:
Close playing, like close reading, requires careful and critical attention to how the game is played (or not played), to what kind of game it is, to what the game looks like or sounds like, to what the game world is like, to what choices are offered (or not offered) to the player, to what the goals of the game are, to how the game interacts with and addresses the player, to how the game fits into the real world, and so on. Students are required to keep close playing play logs or “plogs,” recording what they see, hear, do, and think about as they play and paying attention to narrative, mise en scene, mechanics, and social/cultural contexts.
Close Playing
For me, “close-playing” has been a new experience, as I generally play games solely for entertainment purposes. Initially, I went through most the game not paying as close of attention as I should…Obviously, I was able to focus more on the plot as I had gone through the game previously, but perhaps that is what is necessary when trying to begin close-playing. Another thing that helped, which was highlighted above, was that I played the game with another friend (someone not in the class); however, I explained what close-playing was so we could discuss the game as we took turns playing and going through the levels. I highly recommend this method, as being able to talk and hear each other’s opinions was extremely helpful in making insights and looking deeper into the game.
Student #1
Beyond solo play, our students
practiced the close playing technique of paired (or group) play. One person plays while the other (or others) observe, respond with, and write down their observations and reactions. Paired playing, much like peer review for writing, allows you to get a different set of eyes and ears as you go through the close playing process. The burden of trying to pay attention to noticing and noting things while playing is lifted from the player and given to the critical observer. Players play through a section of the game and then switch places: the player becomes the peer observer and the observer becomes the player.
Paired playing allows for conversation, discussion, cooperation, and collaboration
in both navigating and analyzing the
Paired Playing
I love the discussion of the merits of paired playing. I played the game with my girlfriend watching over my shoulder one weekend and she was horrified by, what I had taken for granted, the gratuitous and visually and audibly disturbing drug usage. I, having played Bioshock and games like it before this class, had not considered the eve hypo and adam system as anything special, with her extremely negative reaction to it I paid much more attention to it. I now see the system as a sort of critique, where eve and adam use have created a commercial drug system for splicers, who are are constantly detoxing and looking for their next fix, at whatever cost…Without paired playing I certainly wouldn’t have thought to reevaluate my/Jack’s choice in adam and eve and gratuitous drug use.
Student #2

Close Playing Plog Worksheet
For every plog, identify and briefly describe at least five observations per category. In other words, what are the things you see, hear, or do. This can be a simple, three-column list in a notebook where you keep a running list and describe each thing you notice during game play. For example:
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