Thursday, December 29, 2005

Positive Gaming Experiences

My nephew David writes to let me know about an article in the Washington Post:

"My Son and I, Game to Learn", by Sebastian Mallaby

The article centers around the game:

"Age of Empires III"

Again, not a game that could ever be useful in a classroom setting (because of the time it takes to setup and play), but a game that does challenge kids to think, strategize, and be creative thinkers. It's all very beautifully rendered and there is even an interesting (if superficial) layer of history in there. Unfortunately, the game does include wars, conquering, and other hallmarks of the kind of aggressive competition that does not make for a positive "school-like" experience. Countries are treated like comic-book characters with varying super-powers:

Civilization Descriptors

The Mr. Mallaby reminds me of some parents I've dealt with who believe in promoting poker for teenagers. Sure, kids may learn certain math skills, or complex game strategies; but they also learn aggressive, addictive behaviors -- some of the students at the school where I work owed hundreds of dollars to other kids. At some point it became destructive to the community and, as school administrators, we simply had to ban it.

For example, Mr. Mallaby writes,"'America's Army,' a game with some 6 million players, includes an opportunity to learn how to be a medic." A medic. Right. Here's the picture of the "Combat Medic" in action, applying some serious medicine:

AA Squad Roles

AA also gives kids the opportunity to learn how to be a grenadier, a rifleman, a marksman, etc. I guess you'll find out soon enough why you need a medic.

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