Video Games and the Challenge of Engaging the ‘Net' Generation

Video Games and the Challenge of Engaging the ‘Net' Generation

Anthony Gurr
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61520-731-2.ch008
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Video games are a popular form of entertainment for students in North America and around the world. They provide widely diverse experiences on a variety of platforms. Participants can engage in solo play, or in games that attract thousands of other players. The levels of player participation, skill mastery, and thought processes required by many video games attract and engage students because they are able to control and eventually master challenging virtual environments. The holding power of video games and their ability to engage players is the subject of much educational research as educators recognize that game technologies are highly sophisticated. Students are interacting with subject content in ways that differ greatly from established methods of classroom instruction. This chapter reviews the current discussion among educators, researchers, and professional game developers about using video games in the classroom.
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There has been much discussion in Canadian society about the possible benefits or negative effects of playing video games. Everyone has an opinion – academics, educators, the media, medical professionals, parents, and politicians. Many educators recognize that video games are highly sophisticated, developed with powerful hardware and software technologies that immerse players in challenging, engaging virtual experiences requiring high levels of participation, skill mastery, and thought. The current generation of students, born since 1990, views these technologies as a natural part of their lives. They interact with video games in ways that differ greatly from established methods of classroom instruction.

As a veteran video game developer with experience and formal training in education, I have often visited elementary and secondary schools in Canada and the United States to talk about video game design and what it was like to work in the game development industry. Parents and teachers frequently observe that students would gladly spend more time playing video games than doing schoolwork. Facer (2002) states “…computer games seem to motivate young people in a way that formal education doesn’t” (p. 2). These comments confirm my own observations about the qualities shared by commercially-successful video game designers and outstanding educators. Both are passionate about their profession. They understand how to engage their audiences, immerse them in the content being presented, and help their audiences build on what is learned to master the next steps. Designing a unit of instruction and designing a video game are not dissimilar. Good video games clearly demonstrate how careful design and planning result in effective learning and application of knowledge (Squire, 2005). In this chapter, I argue that there are a number of compelling reasons for including video games at all levels of the curriculum.

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