June 3, 2008

G4C: James Paul Gee and Eric Zimmerman

JPG: the context in which we work now is radically different because we live in a world of complex systems that are biting us pretty badly
eg, oil prices –> wheat prices up –> no water, no food –> failed state –> enough failed states = no global economy (from the book “Plan B” – can game everything in the book, which he highly recommends)
the amount of corn needed to fill up your tank once feeds a human being for an entire year – not efficient
this is one disaster of about 400 that are all hitting right now

in the future, all government costs will go to paying medical costs (silver lining is no money will be left for war – or social services)
largely driven by the baby boom
plus global warming

interesting problems to give someone in the form of a game
let’s builda solution where you have to solve all three things
that’s something we have to game sooner or later, have to think about these things now

EZ: if we think of the 19th century as industrial and 20th century as information, the coming century will require new media literacies
the abstraction of information
so many aspects of our lives are mediated by digital interactions now (social, financial, work, engagement with governments, etc.)
if being literate is giving and receiving information, today requires extending reading to moving images, etc.
“procedural” or “computational” literacies
another way of thinking of these things is as gaming literacies
games are systems (parts that form a whole)
what games do so wonderfully is focus on the systemic aspect of what’s happening
to make a good move in chess is not just playing out a narrative – what does it mean to act boldly in a game of chess?
it means understanding all of the relationships between the pieces and what happens when you move one
that’s precisely the sense of what Jim talked about for understanding outcomes

games are well-suited to thinking about problems in this way
the 20th century is an age of systems (a ludic century)

JPG: let’s get into what the literacy of gaming is
some people talk about games as an alternative way to deliver verbal information, which school already does
doesn’t think games are particularly good at this, though
games give you a novel experience (talked about Chibi-Robo); can make you see the world in a new way
the commercial industry has done some fantastic stuff to make the world see things in new ways, but not with socially meaningful goals
they are arch-problem-solving spaces
games are really just a continuous assessment and you’re enjoying the hell out of it (because the testing industry never got hold of it)
they give you language just-in-time and as you need it

EZ: it’s a dichotomy; when we say this is a game on a social issue, what do we mean?
what are the strategies that we take within a game context or within a larger context? which ones seem better or worse?
one strategy is this is a new way to inject information into players
agrees that games are about process, not information; playing with information, not ingesting facts

SimCity isn’t an accurate simulation, but on the other hand, the thing about simulation (a second strategy, like information) is that it’s a representation
simulation as a procedural representation of a bigger part

JPG: what makes a game like SimCity interesting is once you see this model, you can ask where is this good or bad?
just like you can with Civilization
they make you recognize the models

EZ: would like to dispel the idea that games aren’t meaningful, but they do a radical disservice to a subject because you have to distill them down to numbers
because we’re tackling real world issues and how we can represent them, we have to acknowledge the limits of games

JPG: what you have in games is also a modding relationship; you can realize it’s good for some things and bad for others but you can start building on that
playing and designing are getting to be the same thing

talked about Boom Blox
playing the game at some point to learn how to design; can redesign any level
thinks this is the wave of the future
give people the tools to design it themselves

EZ: we have the information as one approach
we have simulation
one of the ways our relationship to information is changing is that information used to be more closed, not customizable
now we have phenomena like Wikipedia, where it’s also about a community of users who are also creating that information, playing with it, changing the rules over time

BUT

maybe SimCity is also useful if we have this set of strategies
just getting people interested in a topic
it inspired a whole generation of urban planners and architects
sparking an interest in something

JPG: a model of assessing what a game does for learning
“preparation for future learning” – games are particularly good at this
don’t have to learn everything from the game (Dan Schwartz at Harvard)
in a world where facts and information go out of date, being prepared for future information is really something we should define and look at it

the most mysterious thing is that games create motivation
we can’t give people motivation; we can give them interesting tools to channel that motivation, but games have been a good source for a lifelong interest in something
don’t want to kill that with a test

EZ: there’s also the relationship between the player and the game and how the game changes their behavior
we can look at the formal system, the players playing together, there’s a history over time (friendship or enemyship), and there’s the context
we want to remember that games are never just sets of rules – there’s always a larger context
that’s so important because the emphasis isn’t on the game itself but on the larger world

the challenge in harnessing what a game can do
getting innovative about the relationship between games and the outside world

JPG: most games with legs have an expert community that builds up around them
game designers are also going to be community designers in the future
most of the stuff we’re seeing with kids today, kids want to join a community and become an expert

EZ: the games that existed for centuries before computer games were always social
only recently were games single player
not just more multiplayer, but more social
returning to the roots of games and social practices

JPG: games are a convergent media
take Pokemon or Yu-Gi-Oh, which are fiction, movies, cards, videogames, etc. to a kid
it’s a baby boomer to take the videogame out and view it as a separate thing
more and more, kids see it all as one package and they want to participate at every level

EZ: a challenge for people wanting to do games that break the frame of players’ relationship to the world
games that do become established are great, but it’s difficult to design that backwards

JPG: these games leave open things for fans to build back in
by the time is 6, a kid can draw a pokemon that isn’t actually there
Nintendo made it so you have to trade them and can’t just get them all at once
have to put into your game the potential for community

EZ: what is play and how does it relate to everything we’re talking about?
a danger of serious games is that they’re usually very heavy and pedantic because they want to get a message across no matter what

at the same time, understanding play and how it works
play always takes place within some larger structure
when we say there is “play” within a system, there is some free movement within it

play always plays with existing structures with narrative; personification
there’s always some structures that we play against
one of the wonderful things about games is that play doesn’t always have to be oppositional, it can also be transformational
maybe these social and culutural structures are things we can play with and against to understand them better and open up possibilities

JPG: that’s why we shouldn’t worry if simulations are accurate or not, because it’s about opening possibilities
loves the game Portal (great for preparation of learning) – learned this from the game – what it looked like and felt like (experience of what words mean before you know what they mean)
“the game is designed to change the way players approach, manipulate, and surmise the possibilities in a given environment”
you got a new tool that lets you manipulate the world in new ways, new possibilities that you never thought of before
that’s fundamentally what we’re trying to do -give people tools in games that let them surmise new possibilities

EZ: this example of Portal points out the paradoxical problem with these games
Portal succeeds because it’s an artificial world that they could manipulate and it’s not real
we have to figure out how to get all of this good stuff that’s happening in Portal and how the world works, that teaches you to solve problems
bring this to real world issues
the methods all have pitfalls, though

JPG: Portal is a good example of an innovative game
gives you experience before you have to go to a physics lecture
the tests are all in the game

Q: can you address critical thinking?
JPG: Portal is very good at giving you tacit knowledge, experiential learning
but that can’t be the whole package
but what doesn’t it do?
it doesn’t give you a language, but there are now wikis and websites that give you a technical language (the language of physics) for it, built by the community

critical also requires you to get to a level of reflection
where you get strategic and critical about it is when you compare different versions
once you have enough experience, you see Civilization as a system
you’re engineering language and knowledge

EZ: when you saw Portal is about physics, you’re stretching it
the people in this room want everyone who plays the game to get the message or change their behavior
there’s a gap between what we’ve done well….

JPG: if you look at the social systems we’re evolving, what people have discovered is that these communities are good for learning – the 80/20 rule
this is turning out to be a near law in these passionate communities
it’s not 100% – the moral of this is that no one thing is going to be successful
that means we have to find many examples so that every kid has the chance to be in that 20%
that law will be true in many of the communities we create

Q: one of the things we know about games is we have to make them fun, but then we’re using fun to accomplish something else. what about fun as a value on its own

JPG: as an old gamer, doesn’t find them fun so much as engaging
even when he’s pissed at the game, he’s engaged
there’s no learning without engagement
there’s no fun without engagement
can be frustrating but still fun and engagement
have to create stuff with that engagement
otherwise it’s school learning, which is recitation of facts
“learning requires that you stay in the box and engage over the long haul”
time on task engagement is where the commercial gaming industry has been successful

EZ: pleasure and desire aspects of games are very undertheorized
when his company made Lego games, looked at their play values (construction, imagination, open ended, etc.)
how do you embody these things in a game experience that is engaging and fun, time on task
how do you merge learning and fun

JPG: research shows you have to trigger someone’s emotions when you’re teaching them
you have to attach cognition to emotion to get deep processing (“Hush” game)

Q: ideas on situated learning

JPG: we store our experiences and mod them
the mind is a simluation engine that works best when people use their experience to solve problems
it’s constructionist because people learn best when they’re solving problems
“situated meaning” – made the stupid mistake of reading the manual the first time he played a game
thought he couldn’t understand the game from the book, but once he played it, he understood the book
now every word in the book had a meaning attached to it
can then actually use it for problem solving
constructionism, but also a damn good theory of how learning can work
it’s like being handed the biology textbook without every getting to play biology

Q: view games like movies and animation; when games are abstracted, they’re easier to understand, but there are higher expectations the more real they get; could games ever become reality?

JPG: World of Warcraft is probably close to that
there’s a limit to realism in games and we’ve reached it
japanese manga and anime is more expressive
the power isn’t in the realism but in the gameplay

EZ: GTA reflects movies, not real life
many levels of metaphor going on there so can’t talk about it as realistic
because you’re always playing in a system, you’re multiple consciousnesses at once
reality already is a game
it’s about the whole system – is a boxing match real or not real?
components of aesthetic representations
so many metaphors are already involved

GTA is a pulp/genre story

thinks the game industry is chasing cinema – “cinema envy” – trying to replicate cinema in games
that’s a mistake – want to find what’s unique about games, not replicate cinematic experiences


3:59 pm Comments (3)

3 Comments

  1. […] post by The Shifted Librarian Need WOW Guide? Click […]

    Pingback by G4C: James Paul Gee and Eric Zimmerman | World Of Warcraft News — June 4, 2008 @ 7:30 pm

  2. my comment is i don’t want to know about physics but from the bible the unique property of james book

    Comment by meseret — June 17, 2008 @ 5:48 am

  3. Sorry to hear that, meseret, but both Jim and Eric made very compelling arguments for learning via gaming and simulation, not the bible.

    Comment by jenny — June 17, 2008 @ 8:20 pm

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