Multiliteracies in ELA Classrooms

Principles of Gaming and the Classroom

July 15th, 2014 · No Comments

Anyone who has ever had a Candy Crush addiction will tell you that the game is a major time sink. The game seemingly never stops, and even if you beat all available levels at some point, more are shortly added. What keeps people coming back? The game does feature many of the principles of games identified by Gee, however the real appeal of the game seems to be that it takes an activity that is “hard, long, and complex” (Gee 34) and makes it seem like it is shorter and much simpler. The time needed to play a single level is deceptively short, and it is only when factoring in level after level that the true time drain is apparent. Also, the game is a seemingly simple match-three game that anyone could master, but through the addition of bonuses, power-ups, obstacles, and game challenges it becomes far more complex. Rather than try to memorize every one of the principles that Gee outlines, I opted to focus on the key goal of “get[ting] someone to learn something long, hard, and complex, and yet still enjoy it?” (Gee 34), and use a little Candy Crush inspiration for techniques to reach that goal, namely reducing the perceived time or energy investment involved, and making things seem more simple by breaking down complex tasks into smaller chunks. For example, if the purpose is to have the students create a writing portfolio, rather than assign it all at once as a large project, instead do a number of smaller short term projects that they accumulate and edit along the way, and then at the end select a few pieces that they are proud of to submit for the final portfolio. In this way the class could learn “how to play the game” (Gee 34), in this case become familiar with a number of strategies for writing in different genres, in response to a number of prompts, and so on, without being overwhelmed by a long, complicated project all up front. The time commitment and difficulty of any one writing activity would be fairly small, and also this example includes many of the other principles of gaming, including encouraging risk taking, agency, exploration, cross-functional teams (if you do peer reviews, for example), and performance before competence (Gee 35-37), and likely others. While this might seem like a bit of a trick, to trick students into doing a fairly large volume of complex work by breaking it into smaller pieces, it is a very effective tactic to help keep students engaged with a “hard, long, and complex” (Gee 34) process of learning, while keeping the risks low and preventing them from feeling overwhelmed by the scale or difficulty of the project.

Works Cited

Gee, James Paul. “Good Video Games and Good Learning.” Phi Kappa Phi Forum 85.2 (2005): 33-37. Web. 14 July 2014.

~ Amanda Cameron

Tags: gaming · multiliteracies · Weblog Activities

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