Thursday, August 23, 2001

Torill Mortensen writes:
"While I find them [computer games] important, I want to understand how they connect to the wider media world. They are not isolated, no more than literature is isolated from other media, or perhaps a more obvious example, as literature strives to be isolated: Television from film, radio, music or popular written literature or journalism... we are facing a world of composite media, and computer games are becoming an important part of that."

While it is fine to look at computer games in a broader media sense, I find it narrow-minded to look on computer games only in a media perspective since computer games are so much more than what is possible to see from that angle. The ludologic perspective especially becomes a minor matter in that respect while it should really have the main focus of attention.

She also writes:
"By now I think: no, it [computer game] is not a good agent of attitude change. It's a good way to learn things that should be remembered, and new knowledge can lead to changing attitudes - but the game itself is considered a game, something apart, something not to be integrated in the set of experiences which act formative. Games are by nature outside of real life, and distinguishing the difference is a sign of sanity."

To some degree Torill is right here. But what she is saying could likewise be said about fictional litterature or movies. Just because you are told a story, you might not change your attitude at all. On the other hand you might do it. The problem of most edutainment research on computer games is that they do not take the games seriously. The computer game is just seen as an apparatus to learn something - anything. If you do want to make computer games from which to learn we must change our own attitude towards the games. We must focus on how the games are good entertainment - maybe even art. When we have found out what they are telling us, we may be able to make good edutainment software.

An example is SimCity, which is primarily made for fun and excitement. However the game opens our mind towards the economic and ecologic factors on how to run a modern big city. This is the lesson to be learned from SimCity in a constructivist learning perspective. But most edutainment computer games are made in a behaviorist manner, where the user are told how to think and behave. I cannot believe it will work for anyone, unless the teacher besides the computer game is equipped with a whip :)

When the game is over a teacher should put SimCity into a proper perspective and then the children might even learn more. But it is the same thing with books. We need the teachers to put the lesson learned into a proper perspective. Always! And that is what have been troubbling with computer game learning research, that in fact the Artificial Intelligence perspective still leads us to believe that computers will in itself make us learn anything. That teachers will become obsolete. They will not do that more than books or television already have done. Computer games could be a supplement to education since they can show us things which could not be shown in any other way - like e. g. SimCity.

By looking into games on there own premises, we might learn what they are all about. Yes they are in fact about having fun and excitement, but still they make sense and making sense is a primary tool towards changing attitude. But you dont know before hand what kind of attitude they will change into. We never do.


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