Got game?

When video games are brought into learning — and integrated in a way that doesn’t neuter the relevance or obscure what makes the game wonderful — you’ll notice major changes, many of which won’t always be comfortable. Inspiration changes everything. Some students — many of whom may have previously appeared lethargic and apathetic — may be difficult to keep seated, perhaps literally. via Edutopia,The Role of Video Games in the English Classroom


This week I kicked off a brand new unit in my grade nine MYP class.  This unit’s key concept is Perspective.  The unit focuses on Arthur Miller’s A View From the Bridge.  In many ways, the skeleton of this unit is old school.  The assessment and the primary text wouldn’t be out of place in an English classroom from the 70’s.  That’s where my work comes in.  How can I breathe a little light into a dusty, conventional unit?  Last year I tried to do this by workshopping commentary writing skill sets by doing an intensive analysis of Taylor Swift’s 1989 album. You’d be amazed to see the level of contextual understanding we researched together to try and dig into Swift’s songs.  Or maybe you wouldn’t be.  Using ‘teen-friendly’ resources to workshop writing isn’t exactly the most progressive teaching approach.  This year I wanted to level up.


Perspective, perspective, perspective.  I thought about approaches to unpacking that concept with my class–and it hit me:  what better way to teach perspective than to take a different one to teaching.  Here’s when the iPad game (and table top game), Pandemic came to the rescue.

For the first 20 minutes of our lesson, we played.  That’s right–capital ‘P’ playing, in a high school classroom.  That’s when I realized play brings focus, engagement, and flow.

A classroom at play is not unlike our drop everything and read time.  Students bought into the narrative structure of the game, and more importantly, they were being asked to think about ‘perspective,’ without me even having to mention ‘key concept.’


From there, students were asked in groups to discuss the significant themes they ‘read’ in the game.  They also needed to identify the plot, way tension was created, symbolism employed, and charaterization developed.  In short, we treated the game the way we would treat any other text.

Video games could be the greatest storytelling medium of our age – if only the worlds of art and technology would stop arguing and take notice

I stole this idea from an incredible piece in The Guardian “The first great works of digital literature are already being written”

I was thrilled to see this article spreading like wildfire on social media a few weeks ago.  Here’s the line that I find the most relevance in:

The problem is that people who like science and technology, and people who like storytelling and the arts have typically been placed in different buildings since about the age of 16. We haven’t been taught how to admire each others’ work, to recognise excellence, or even to know that there is excellence in “the other culture”.

As an IB practitioner, I’m encouraged to help students think in an interdisciplinary way.  Now, more than ever, teachers need to be mindful that literacy is a shape-shifting concept.  If I want to inspire readers, I need to rethink the definition of a text.

The idea that videogames are more than mere escapism isn’t new.

To what extent is my own research in looking for effective games good for me?

Arguably the most exciting field of research is exploring the potential of video games to tackle mental decline in old age.

While electronic “brain training” games have long had enormous popular appeal, there is no hard evidence playing them has any effect beyond improving your score

But at the University of California, San Francisco, Prof Adam Gazzaley and a team of video game designers have created a game with a difference: Neuroracer. Via BBC Tech News

Experimenting with games reminded me of my own lacking literacy. I was entirely unaware of the many, many worthwhile games out there on the market.  I pride myself on keeping up to date with new fiction and nonfiction, but I have underestimated the world that gamers thrive in.

Video games require the user to make decisions, giving them the chance to influence the story and even in part design the world in which the game is played out, she added.Via The Telegraph

Here is a list of games I found in my research.  Thus far, I agree–they have a lot to offer to the classroom.  Do you know of excellent games with which to spark conversations about ‘perspective,’?  Please share them with me in the comments.

Published by TriciaGpers

I blog about all things Global Perspectives!

3 replies on “Got game?”

  1. Hi Tricia

    What a thought provoking blog and I was really interested to read about how you have used games in the classroom. I ran a workshop on this topic with some very sceptical parents who , for most part, saw no real educational potential in games. This is apart from one parent who had sat down and discussed and played the games with her children. From this she had some understanding of how the games worked and the skills (logical processes, narrative deconstruction, strategy…) that were needed. This made her a lot more open to the potential benefits to game play. This opened up an interesting and lively debate. I wonder – would you mind me sharing this blog post with that group as I think they would find it very interesting.

    My IB Computer Science pupils are undertaking a case study where we are discussing ethics and computer games(great TOK moments), specifically those that use CGI. There is plenty to debate such as action and consequences, gender and race stereotyping, the uncanny valley….. Each game has a narrative, often allowing a player to follow a path that they construct, also allowing the gamer to make choices which have direct consequences.

    So my question is – when does a game become of educational worth? Does Assassin’s Creed, Grand Theft Auto and Pandemic all have the same educational potential? I realise it is not a question that can necessarily be answered, it is just one that continues to float around my mind (especially after the discussions with the IB pupils) so I thought I would throw it out there.

    Cheers for making me think!

    1. Hi Cate,

      Share away, anytime. Like it or not, games are artifacts of today’s culture. If we aren’t talking about what GTA says about our culture, we are missing out on an important and relevant conversation to be had. Here’s a wonderfully intelligent commentary on it:

      Check out this killer symposium on the topic (four separate parts of it):

      I know the tendency to think of games as ‘low brow’ is there. One of my favorite thinkers, David Foster Wallace used to teach his lit courses using what were commonly thought to be ‘low brow’ books. His thinking is that it isn’t the text that matters–rather, it is on the shoulders of the teacher to show how we can think critically and analytically about just about anything. I love that approach because it signifies to the student that you don’t have to love ‘the classics,’ to be a good reader. Being a good writer and reader is about thinking–dedicating time to thought in a variety of situations. Video games offer us another opportunity to practice the fine art of wondering. Why say no to that?

  2. Cheers for that Tricia I will get it shared, as it makes for interesting reading. I have also been opened to the world of David Foster Wallace – what an interesting character (so that is a double thank you!)

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