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Confessions of a Gamer Hater

21 Aug

Hello. My name is Heidi and I’m a recovering video game hater. That’s right, I used to HATE video games and virtual worlds. I’ll give you a few reasons why:

1. One summer I worked at Nintendo of America in Redmond, Washington as a game tester. Sounds fun, you say? Not when your job entails, for example, spending two 40-hour weeks playing in one level of the German version of Gambeboy Pokeman looking for bugs, and being ogled by your 200-plus uber-nerdboy coworkers as you walk down the vast warehouse-like testing room during break time ala sole woman in San Quinten-style. (There were only four of us ladies in the game-testing division).  The saddest part of this job was when, after working 80-hour overtime weeks testing Nintendo’s latest games, these geeky dudes would go home to PLAY MORE VIDEO GAMES on their personal consoles. During the summer.

2. Someone very close to me is what I would consider seriously addicted to video games, especially massive multi-player role playing games like World of Warcraft. I’m pretty sure this person meets all of the DSM IV criteria for chemical dependency, if you replaced chemicals with gaming, and I fear this person’s life has been seriously altered for the worse because of their addiction.

3. I suck at playing video games. Therefore I think they’re lame. (One exception is Super Mario Bros. 3 on the original Nintendo system — especially in that level where you can hop around in that cute little green sock!)

So, when I first encountered the work of James Paul Gee, a researcher and theoretician of digital literacies who looks at the value gaming models can bring to learning and education, I was skeptical. But the more I read, the more I realized that video games actually have a lot of positive  value. And like with anything, can be abused, but it depends on how you use them.

Here is a video of Gee talking about his efforts to understand how gaming encourages new literacies and learning, and why studying gaming models is important for educators:

His 2003 book, What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy, is his seminal work on how we can learn about engaging models of learning and mastering knowledge from video games.

Granted, I’m still prone to relapse. Just don’t ever hand me a German-version Gameboy …