Traditionally games for children had life lessons embedded within along with the shear pleasurable aspects to them.  They introduced the young to lessons of life in a more or less controlled fashion where the consequences of failing to meet a certain objective had various degrees of discomfort and the actual dangers minimal.  The rewards for winner could likewise vary from a simple sense of self-satisfaction to public honor and praise.  The lessons were usually tightly related to real life and teaching life skills.

As the nature of real life management and the limits of human capacity becomes more complex, so too does the nature of games.  Technology enables games to take on more realistic aspects where the lines between the virtual and the real become blurred.  This has its good points, in that the training for life skills is more realistic and engaging.  The down side is a tendency to get lost in the virtual, to substitute it for the real, and to lose the value of learning games to develop life skills, be they survival or social skills.  Without this transference, gaming is a luxury that only those with time to waste can afford.

So-called minority groups don’t have this luxury of wasting time.  To the extent that game simulations are integrated into the real business of teaching life survival skills and social networking for constructive purposes like group survival, then gaming is beneficial.  To the extent that it keeps these groups in a fantasy world and promotes escapism from eventually confronting the real challenges of socio-economic pressures they face daily, then it is harmful and should be minimized.

The theory of learning that I espouse is that learning should be directly related to the kinds of problems that confronts a person or the group he/she identifies with, for the purposes of securing, health, growth opportunities, freedom from harm, and preservation of cultural/humanistic values.  If learning does not have this kind of relevance, then it is potentially counter productive and even dangerous to the well being of a person, group, or society.   Even the most sophisticated skills, if they are not applicable to solving such social problems, are useless from the group survival perspective.  We cannot expect to evolve our selves to higher levels if we engage or develop our consciousness in haphazard ways.  Parents and leaders in society must not allow our children to become addicted to games developed by corporations with that very intent so that they can turn a profit.  They develop these games for profit motives, not for their constructive social value.  This is why good parents monitor the media their children are exposed to.  James speaks about this when he says on page 6, “these groups work, through their various social practices, to encourage people to read and think in certain ways, and not others, about certain sorts of texts and things.”


 James speaks to the tie between gaming and one’s social context, as I have valued above, by saying on page 9 “reading and writing should be viewed not only as mental achievements going on inside people’s heads, but also as social and cultural practices with economic, historical, and political implications.”  This extends to gaming as well as schooling.  When I teach my students chess, I have this very idea in mind.  When learning and/or gaming in the context of education and its various “semiotic domains” is disconnected or diverted away from that which is relevant to the real problems of the person and his “affinity group”, the learner/gamer gets turned off.  This is one major explanation of the high dropout rate in urban schools.




One Response to “Gaming”

  1. Gee vs. Roland « Mitch’s World Says:

    […] Gee vs. Roland Published November 29, 2008 Uncategorized This post is in response to Roland’s post of 11/29–”Gaming.” […]

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