A while ago I came across James Paul Gee's paper 'Good Games and Good Learning' www.academiccolab.org/resources/documents/Good_Learning.pdf and the profound nature of the points he was making have stayed with me since. The other day I returned to this paper as a result of a blog post I was writing, as well as professional learning I was conducting with schools and I was struck by how much Gee's work still resonates. As a result, I decided to put together a presentation based on Gee's ideas.
Each slide outlines one of the fourteen essential ideas at work in Gee's piece. In keeping with the principles of zen presentation, I wanted to keep text to a minimum, but the visuals I was finding in my Creative Commons search on Flickr fell short of evoking the playful tone I wanted in the presentation, so I decided to create my own. Using the layers, cloning and image adjustment tools in GIMP, I put together the images you see here.
Obviously, there's a fair bit of whimsy happening here - the idea of the iconic Master Chief (from Bungie's Halo series) appearing in every slide like some sort of virtual Hitchcock amused my easily-amused brain. And there's a certain amount of irony to the pictures. I am aware that selecting a character from gaming's most maligned genre may not help my cause - to raise awareness of the relevance and power of gaming in education. However, I think the irony is so apparent (especially in Slide 16) that most people will see it.
I am not arguing that schoolrooms should be filled with kids playing Halo - there are far too many other games worth considering in an educational context to go down that road. It is worth noting, however, that the Halo universe extends well beyond the realm of video games. There are books of Halo, fan art, fan fiction, cosplay (see below) and it has played a pivotal role in bringing Machinima into the light.
I must add that in my time playing Halo Reach with my older son this week, I have been astounded by the strategy and coordination required to succeed in the co-operative modes. We have been playing Campaign and Firefight on Legend - the AI in both these modes is frightening. Enemies will flank and use cover, retreat if overwhelmed, and take advantage of weakened opponents. You cannot survive in these modes without constant communication and a willingness to adopt new strategies as the game shifts its challenges around you. Add to this Forge, the brilliant game design component where players can construct levels they can take to the world, and one can begin to see reasons why Master Chief's inclusion may not be so ridiculous after all.
It's worth noting that none of the images of Master Chief have been ripped from the game itself. All his depictions are a result of cosplay, an emergent strain of the gaming world where individuals go to extraordinary lengths to design and display costumes based on their favourite video game characters. I'll explore this meta-activity in an upcoming post on my Contemporary Learning blog (http://contemporarylearning.globalteacher.org.au/).