AoIR8 Day3: Saturday morning: Serious games


While the first two papers looked interesting, I attended this for Ian Bogost’s paper on persuasive games. Guess what? He didn’t show. πŸ™

Still, it was worth it for all the heady theory of Daniel’s and Ingrid’s. Some of it was over my head, but I figure nothing a little reading won’t fix.

Apparently, I completely forgot to take photos of this session… boo me.


1. Becoming serious and translating realms: Online games in educational contexts? – Daniel Ashton
Online gaming is another COTS game genre that could be used in UK classrooms.

Daniel uses the concept of boundary objects to explore how MMOGs could be used for education.
“Boundary objects” inhabit several communities thus are plastic enough to adapt to needs and constrants of multiple parties but robust enough to maintain their identity. [memes are boundary objects?]
Malaby says that games are social artifacts that are always in the process of becoming.
But robustness of MMOGs is diff than regular COTS. “dialogic negotiation” (Robinson; Squire & Steinkuehler)

Then Daniel described his methods for looking at MMOGs. Cited legitimate peripheral participation (Bowker & Stark). [Wonder if he went back to Lave & Wenger or Vygotsky]

Daniel himself was a peripheral participant. Self-narrative. [Kinda like Roger.]

Patch notes for newbies are completely meaningless and daunting, indicative of the amount of knowledge one needs to play.

The experience of newbies spells trouble or at least makes more complex the notion of using these games in classrooms. Teachers would have to know the games; students would have to get over the initial learning curve. [Are MMOGs really more complex than other COTS? What about the crazy depth of Gran Turismo or the implementation of the D&D 3.5 rules for Neverwinter Nights 2?]

2. The neoliberal consolidation of play and speed: Ethical issues in serious gaming – Ingrid Hoofd
Not ethical issues *in* gameplay. “Creation exists only in regard to destruction.” Paul Virilio

Ingrid started with a whole bunch of theoretical stuff. I don’t get a lot of this…

She looked at policy papers and found lots of techno-Utopian assumptions when talking about using serious games in the classroom.

  • Games are not neutral tools, but are gender, race, class specific.
  • But other aspects of games that are lauded are actually problematic for addressing inequalities. For example, “performance-oriented” is very specific in terms of where it is empowering. It works for hyper-masculinity.

Nakamura: games are about consumption of the other. “identity tourism”
Gibson, Aldrich: Games oversimplify complex social situations that are dynamic. [Well, they certainly focus and some of them oversimplify but not all… and Daniel just pretty clearly showed how games are also ever changing. TL Taylor makes pretty clear in her book Play Between Worlds that the actual practices players engage in are very complex and affected by both the game rules but also the emergent social understanding and negotiation–play if you will–that players partake in.]

Critical analysis:

  • Circulation of pleasure under neo-liberalism: play is privileged mode of production (Haraway)
  • Archival violence: salvaging otherness in accordance with other’s oppression/disappearance (Derrida)
  • Quest for instantaneity: military quest for speed as way of mastering space (Virilio)
    • Gives rise to a new middle-upper class, the “speed elite.”
  • Disconnection, accident of the real, museumisation (Virilio)
  • Virtualisation of education (Readings?)

[Is living a digital life completely disassociated from normal everyday life? Is it elitist? Doesn’t elitism require motive?]

Illusion of mastery is problematic since it incorporates the world in oneself. [But you master the game mechanics but not necessarily the game world… right? Emergent play (a la GTA3 or FarCry)… is it really emergent or is it only quasi-emergent? Reminds me of the conversation I had with Isaac where he stated that there may exist little pockets of resistance but they don’t really affect the whole system.]

[^that was a lot. I need to spend time to unpack it. Come to think of it, I wish Isaac was here to help me unpack all this theoretical, philosophical stuff. I think he would <3 this presenter. πŸ™‚ ]

Ingrid then showed us some games to illustrate her point. She should’ve done this from the get-go to help scaffold us into the theory.

  • Real Lives [One of her critiques was displayed as a map of who plays Real Lives. She showed us that western countries are its more popular players… but… isn’t that true of almost all US-made web games? and maybe it’s simply matched to the actually population of online users in general…]
  • Darfur is Dying
  • Global Warming Interactive. Used Brazil rather than the US thereby “othering” the problem.

Despite good intentions, an instantaneous connection between good intentions and its effects actual fuel disenfranchisement.

Daniel asked a great question: doesn’t this sort of thing happen with documentary films, too? Ingrid: yes, television and other media are definitely susceptible to this kind of analysis.

[With games, it is doubly important that people (both producers and consumers) be critical of their activity because games actually enable players to embody or enact the making of the other.]

Q: So how are games used for education? [We should be critical.]

Lev Manovich: interactivity is actually the bad thing.. it’s mastering us rather than us it.

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