The Pedagogy of Commercial Games

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connects the dots between known pedagogy and digital games

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  • I must admit to pausing in thought when considering slide 2 and the various items pictured with the question, “Why are these such good teachers?”. I will admit that I have not read or viewed all of the displayed items, but in regards to the ones that I have had exposure to I have no immediate response to the posed question. What actually pops into my head is another question, “In what way or context are these items supposed to be good teachers?”. All the items certainly have compelling, if diverse, narratives and represent a certain historical and/or cultural perspective. Perhaps it is not the narrative at all, but rather the pictures themselves? No matter the direction of my thinking, I end at a question. This can only mean one thing, time for the next slide.

    How Do Games Teach

    I find this slide be very heavy on information and a little hard to follow. It took me a few moments to orient myself to the concept map and find the beginning point. Although the stages are listed numerically from 1-9, there seems to be many links between the various stages. For instance, Stage 8: Assessing Performance is linked to Valorization, Fan Sites & Game Communities, Artificial Intelligence, Boss Challenges and Heads Up Display. Each of the listed categories are also connected to other stages, which alludes to the complexity in how games teach. It is not a simple matter.

    Are Games Good Teachers Too?

    I had never considered Reigeluth’s Elaboration Theory when gaming, but it certainly is applicable. A practical example that comes to mind was in first playing HALO, I have a weakness for FPS, and how the levels progressively taught me how to use the controller to get the Master Chief to follow my wishes. Reigeluth’s Elaboration Theory is certainly used in education and I too have used it my own practice.

    How Do Games Teach?

    Sadly, the only character I recognize on this slide is Master Chief. What resonated most with me in this section was the reference to Gregorc’s system of learning, which is unfamiliar to me. In clicking to the linked website that details Gregorc’s system, I connected to the following statement, “Each of us is endowed with Free Will which continually prompts us to choose between harmony and disharmony in our lives”. This is a life philosophy that I adhere to; however, I connected to the statement more from a gaming perspective initially. Gregorc’s quote reminded me of games where your decisions lead you to become the hero or the villain. These types of games have always intrigued me as they foster a metacognitive approach to thinking, where gamers have to be conscious of the decisions that they make and the possible repercussions of those decisions. This type of critically thinking is what we want our students to be doing, yet in the classroom it can be so hard and laborious. Perhaps this is an area where gaming would be beneficial in the classroom.

    Gaming and Instructional Design

    I was quite pleased to see the connection to instructional design in the last slide. The more I learn about gaming and education, the more connections I see to instructional design. I am beginning to the the game as a variant of a lesson, an entire unit or even a inter-disciplinary unit where many different concepts are addressed. Like any good lesson though, there needs to be sound instructional design. In order for the game to have meaningful impact, there must be some kind of instructional design process. What is the main theme/concept of the game? What will students learn from the game? What will they be able to do? How will they know if they are successful? How will the game help them when they are struggling? All of these questions, and more, would need to be considered in the design process of the game.

    In working through this slideshare presentation, three significant insights come to mind. The first being how video games are thoughtfully designed and truly consider the gamer; the second being the connection to instructional design; and the third and perhaps most significant, I miss playing HALO.


    Gregorc, A. (2012). Gregorc Associates, Mind Styles & Gregorc Style Delineator. Retrieved July 5, 2012, from http://gregorc.com/
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The Pedagogy of Commercial Games

  1. 1. The Pedagogy of Commercial Games Katrin Becker University of Calgary November 2005 This session examines successful commercial games to connect the designs of these games with known learning and instructional design theories. Prepared for the  NMC Online Conference on Educational Gaming Dec. 7-8 2005
  2. 2. Why are these such good teachers? Amos’n’Andy The West Wing
  3. 3. How Do Games Teach? Learning Theories Back Story Boss Challenges Levels H.U.D. Heads Up Display Cut- Scenes Attract Mode N.P.C. Non-Playable Characters A.I. Artificial Intelligence P.O.V. / Perspective Point of View Variable L.O.D. Level of Detail Sandbox Mode Story Mode Transmediality Gagné’s Nine Events Trailers Valorization Fan Sites & Game Communities Each of these elements can be seen as a tool that facilitates learning. 1. Gaining Attention (Reception) 2. Informing Learners of the Objective (Expectancy) 3. Stimulating Recall of Prior Learning (Retrieval) 4. Presenting the Stimulus (Selective Perception) 5. Providing Learning Guidance (Semantic Encoding) 6. Eliciting Performance (Responding) 7. Providing Feedback (Reinforcement) 8. Assessing Performance (Retrieval) 9. Enhancing Retention and Transfer (Generalization) Tutorial Mode Click to progress through events
  4. 4. Are Games Good Teachers Too? Each of these elements can be seen as a tool that facilitates learning. Learning Theories 1. Elaborative Sequence 2. Learning Prerequisite Sequences 3. Summary 4. Synthesis 5. Analogies 6. Cognitive Strategies 7. Learner Control Reigeluth ’s Elaboration Theory Back Story Boss Challenges Levels H.U.D. Heads Up Display Cut- Scenes Attract Mode N.P.C. Non-Playable Characters A.I. Artificial Intelligence P.O.V. / Perspective Point of View Variable L.O.D. Level of Detail Sandbox Mode Story Mode Transmediality Trailers Valorization Fan Sites & Game Communities Tutorial Mode Click to progress through strategies
  5. 5. How Do Games Teach? <ul><li>Learning Styles </li></ul>Some Learning Styles already conjure up images of various races…. Idealists Photo: Neverwinter Nights http:// www.boolsite.net / Guardians Photo: Neverwinter Nights http:// www.boolsite.net /wallpapers Rationals Assimilator Artisans Keirsey ’s “ Races” Photo: Metroid Prime nintelligent.net Photo: NOX gamewallpapers.com Keirsey ’s “ Races” Kolb ’s “ Races” Kolb ’s “ Races” Accomodator Diverger Photo: gamewallpapers.com Photo: Legend of Zelda www.free-computer-wallpapers.com Photo: Shenmue http://www.boolsite.net Converger Photo: Halo 2 www.free-computer-wallpapers.com
  6. 6. How Do Games Teach? <ul><li>Concrete-Sequential: </li></ul><ul><li>Super Monkeyball </li></ul>Screenshot: mobygames.com Learning Styles Abstract-Random: Katamari Damacy Abstract-Sequential: Myst Concrete-Random: Syberia Gregorc ’s System of Learning Syberia http:// www.boolsite.net Screenshot: mobygames.com Screenshot: mobygames.com
  7. 7. How Do Games Teach? Medal of Honor Black and White Learning Styles Felder ’s Index of Learning Styles Active (doing) Reflective (thinking) versus Screenshot: mobygames.com Felder ’s Index of Learning Styles Civilization III Harvest Moon Sensing (facts, processes) Intuitive (concepts, relationships) versus Screenshot: gamespot.com Screenshot: mobygames.com Felder ’s Index of Learning Styles Felder ’s Index of Learning Styles Visual (seeing, picturing) Verbal (hearing, reading, saying) versus Screenshot: gamespot.com Electroplankton Need For Speed Felder ’s Index of Learning Styles Psychonauts Screenshot: gamespot.com versus Global (leaps, random) Roller Coaster Tycoon Sequential (step-wise)
  8. 8. Next Steps Promo shot <ul><li>Merrill’s First Principles (applied to instructional game design): </li></ul><ul><li>Engagement – Solving problems </li></ul><ul><li>Activation – Start Where the player/learner is. </li></ul><ul><li>Demonstration – Show them what we want them to learn – don’t just tell them. </li></ul><ul><li>Application – New knowledge must be applied to solve problems. </li></ul><ul><li>Integration – Motivate to apply what was learned </li></ul>Knowing why a game is good is not the same as knowing how to make a game good, but it is a necessary first step. Instructional Games Design will require a thorough grounding in BOTH Instructional Design AND Games Design.

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