Multiliteracies in ELA Classrooms

Robb Ross Commentary 3: Video Game Presentation

July 18th, 2014 · 1 Comment

Robb Ross: Commentary on presentation on “Good Video Games and Good Learning” article by James Paul Gee

I enjoyed this group’s presentation and thought they explored the topic of how engaging with video games develops universal and transferable skills. However I would like to further expand on the conversation that ensued after.

But before I do, Teresa, could we just consider the emails we exchanged on this subject to be my 300-word commentary, and call it a day?


About 2 hours ago, as we were walking, I suggested that perhaps there was a link between the fact Naz, Peter, and I spoke critically of this topic because we have Master’s Degree and are older than other students. Therefore, we may have more entrenched (conservative) views about writing and the study of English. I have to confess that I harbor a very judgmental view that anyone reading comics or watching anime after the age of 12 is in some form of arrested development. Cognitively I know that’s harsh and limiting, but it’s just a visceral reaction I have. So when I hear about using games in the classroom I shudder.

Another issue is that for the past 4 years I’ve been an overseas high school IB teacher. I don’t teach ELA. My students write papers on existentialism in Albert Camus’ The Stranger or explore alienation in Kafka’s Metamorphosis. As well, the syllabus is packed and I often have only 12 classes to teach a complex novel and also conduct assessment. Therefore, time is an issue.

Part of the problem is that I’ve been pondering the use of video games in English lessons for only 4 days. I’m going to need time to evolve on the issue. As I said in class, I would think that the validity of using them could be tied to the nature of the text. Fantasy novels like The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe like C.S. Lewis would seem to more naturally mesh with learning through video games.

Probably the comment that most resonates in my mind is when you said that the types of narratives that exist in video games also exist in literature. Both can be equally complex or simple. As that’s the case, then video games can be a valid way to motivate students and explore the text.

What it likely comes down to is that I stopped playing video games when I was 10 years old. I just don’t know enough about them yet to make an informed judgment.

Tags: gaming · Uncategorized

1 response so far ↓

  • maggielauzon // Jul 18th 2014 at 4:24 pm

    Rob, what video games did you play when you were 10? Pong? Space Invaders? (I’m making a joke about you being old, in case you were wondering). I can assure you that the narrative structure of video games has evolved exponentially, and I’d encourage you to check out some of the games to surface in the last few years. Just to get you started, check out BioShock: Infinite – this game has one of the most talked about narratives of any video game, ever, right behind Ocarina of Time. Speaking of which, the Legend of Zelda series has such a diverse, sprawling, epic through-line that it’s impossible not to talk about it in terms of literary value (for the character development, alone). I’m just saying, this old-man-out-of-touch thing you and Pete and Naz have going on is cute and all, and I love classical literature too; but plug yourself in to current media and you’ll find that buried in the reality TV and CGI blockbusters deluded-mommy-porn there is a wealth of usable, teachable material – especially when you consider that it’s no longer our job to teach content. Focus on skill building, focus on the narrative form, have respect for literary evolution and enjoy!

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