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To commence study in the year. Anecdotal evidence from teachers suggests that the impact of gaming on millions of gamers who grew up playing best-selling games such as SimCity, Pirates! Still, little is known about what players are learning through playing SimCity? Is it deepening their appreciation for geography, helping them develop more robust understandings about their environment, or perhaps promoting misconceptions about civic planning? How does a game such as Civilization III work as a cultural simulation? Does it impact players' conceptions of politics or diplomacy? Is there any way to reappropriate Civilization for use in history classes?

Given the immense influence of SimCity and Civilization in present game design, what innovations might be sparked by games built around science, engineering, literature or architecture subjects? How might these innovations have an impact on the rest of game design? These questions suggest at least three fruitful contributions from an educational or social science perspective: 1 Studying the role that games like SimCity and Civilization play in people's lives and how it mediates their understandings of other phenomena; 2 Examining how such games can be used to support learning in formal and informal learning contexts; 3 Creating and examining new modes of gameplay through games that draw metaphors from other domains.

Although there has been woefully little research in this area, there are several research traditions in education and social science outside of media effects research tradition that offer useful models for thinking about gameplay. With SimCity more than a decade old, a generation of youth has grown up with edutainment.

Yet, we know very little about what they are learning playing these games if anything. Are sim games, civilization-building games, or war games having any impact on how students perceive social studies? Games such as SimCity depict social bodies as complex dynamic systems and embody concepts like positive feedback loops that are central to systems thinking.

Are students developing intuitions about systems as a result of playing these games? Do players think they are learning anything about history or urban planning through these games? Are the perceived educational benefits part of the attraction of these games? The study of games and learning might begin with qualitative study of game players and game playing communities.

Mitchell studied how purchasing Nintendo game consoles affected twenty families, finding that playing Nintendo was an important part of family play, and brought families closer together, much as a traditional board game might. More recently, researchers such as Funk and colleagues have studied correlations between game players' characteristics and popular genres, but these broad statistical studies fail to open up the complex relationships behind game players and their games or acknowledge the social contexts in which game playing is situated.

Even a quick glance at fan communities around games such as SimCity , Dance Dance Revolution, Railroad Tycoon , Everquest , or The Sims , each of which has dozens of fans websites where players create and trade game objects, maps, levels, scenarios, and stories points to rich relationships between fans and these games and complex social structures that mediate the game playing experience See Jenkins, ; Squire, ; Yee, for descriptions of these communities. The closest examples of studying gaming communities may be examinations of online communities.

In the s, Sherry Turkle and Amy Bruckman studied MOO players, yielding insights into how people negotiate among their many virtual identities Bruckman, a; b; ; Turkle, These MUD and MOO studies were not specifically of game playing communities, but they have provided both theoretical models and specific insights about online behavior that have become foundational to the design of online games and learning environments alike. Drawing more explicitly from anthropological, educational and cultural psychology traditions e.

Cole, , future study of gaming communities might focus specifically on the shared practices, language, resources, understandings, roles that emerge through game play. Among the outcomes of examining gameplay in naturalistic contexts might be creating guidelines for more usable and playable games, leveraging and promoting social interactions and relationships in the gameplay, and insights for creating games that appeal to broader audiences.

Most people assume that games like SimCity are used frequently in geography or urban planning classes. Indeed, Maxis has published a set of resources for teachers on its website, touting that, " SimCity tm can be used in the classroom to enhance just about any instructional unit. It can stand alone as an enrichment computer activity, or it can be used as a pivotal activity connected to other activities and projects done before, during, or after using the computer program.

Use the lessons in this guide to integrate SimCity into your curriculum, with minimal preparation, or to create custom lessons to suit your needs.

12. Play, games and sport

As Doug Church commented at the Electronic Entertainment Exposition, most people who have played SimCity recognize that it can be an excellent resource for understanding urban planning, most people would also not want to live in a real city designed by someone who has only played SimCity. As urban planner Kenneth Kolson points out, SimCity potentially teaches the player that mayors are omnipotent and that politics, ethnicity, and race play no role in urban planning Kolson, For example, one six-year old player noted that people began moving into his city when there was electricity, because people wanted to have lights for seeing in the dark.

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This example illuminates how the process of interpreting game play, of drawing analogies between symbolic representations in the game and their real-life analogs is one of active interpretation, and suggests that students might benefit from systematic explanations or presentations of information.

The challenges behind using games to support learning are far from new, particularly in social studies education. In , Wentworth and Lewis summarized the findings from nearly fifty research studies on learning through gaming: "In the majority of these studies, students did neither significantly better nor worse than other learning experiences in their impact on student achievement as evidenced by paper and pencil scores. Consistent with contemporary instructional design theory e. Specifically, how the game is contextualized, the kinds of cooperative and collaborative learning activities embedded in gameplay, and the quality and nature of debriefing are all critically important elements of the gaming experience.

This tradition of games and simulations in instructional technology, chiefly promulgated through the The Society for the Advancement of Games and Simulations in Education and Training and the Sage journal Simulation and Gaming has resulted in a rich body of practical knowledge about designing effective games to support learning; however, there is actually very little agreement among educational technologists as to the theoretical underpinnings of why we should use games, how games should be designed to support learning, or in what instructional situations games make the most sense Gredler, The research on games and simulations in education cautions against overexhuberance about the potential of digital games to transform education.

In using a game such as SimCity, minimally, there needs to be a close match among desired learning outcomes, available computer and supporting human resources, learner characteristics such as familiarity with games conventions , "educational" game play, and potential supplementary learning experiences.

Fortunately, one can imagine creating instructional resources around a game like SimCity or Civilization that pushes students to think about their game-playing more deeply. For example, Civilization players might create maps of their worlds and compare them to global maps from the same time period. Why are they the same? Why are they different? Students might be required to critique the game and explicitly address built-in simulation biases. Finally, students might draw timelines, write histories, or create media based on the history of their civilization.

Despite these cautions about the potential of games to support learning, games may be the most fully realized educational technology produced to date. Tom Malone showed how games use challenge, fantasy, player control, and curiosity invoking designs to create intrinsically motivating environments. More recently, Lloyd Rieber has argued that digital games engage players in productive play - learning that occurs through building microworlds, manipulating simulations, and playing games. Rieber gives reason for renewed optimism for using games to support learning in leveraging the increasing power of the computer to immerse the player in interactive simulated worlds.

Whereas historically educational games have relied heavily on exogenuous game formulas, games where content is inserted into a generic gaming template, like hangman, a game like SimCity might be thought of as an endogenuous game design, where the academic content is seamlessly integrated with gaming mechanics.

In an endogenuous game, players learn the properties of a virtual world through interacting with its symbology, learning to detect relationships among these symbols, and inferring the game rules that govern the system.

Cultural Framing of Computer/Video Games

While edutainment games such as SimCity and Civilization are intriguing educational materials, the most promising developments in educational gaming might come through games that are explicitly design to support learning. Among these prototypes is: The Jungle of the Optics , a game where players use a set of lenses, telescopes, cameras, optical tools, and optics concepts to solve optics problems within a role-playing environment; Hephaestus , a massively multiplayer resource management game where players learn physics and engineering through designing robots to colonize a planet; Replicate!

The Games-to-Teach team will be developing and testing two of these games in Such games will demand a broad, industry-wide investment if they are to succeed. Long-term, this kind of project requires creative game designers who understand the tools and capabilities of the medium, educators who can help ensure an effective product and visionary thinkers who can design a suite of games that will appeal to a broad market.

A primary goal of the Games-to-Teach Project has been to create games that will engage a broad audience of players by creating rich characters, nuanced gameplay, complex social networks, and interactive stories that tap into a broad range of emotions and player experiences. Hopefully other projects trying different approaches will emerge in the next few years, as there have been signs that perhaps the industry and medium are ready for such a challenge.

Understanding and unpacking how learning occurs through game play, examining how gameplay can be used to support learning in formal learning environments, and designing games explicitly to support learning are three areas that educational research can contribute to game studies. In the next section, I argue that socio-cultural learning theory, activity theory, and educational research on transfer are three theoretical traditions that might also be of use to game studies. Although I present each of them from an educational technology perspective, each one is interdiciplinary in origin, sitting at the nexus of anthropology, sociology, cultural psychology, cognitive psychology, and educational studies and for simplicity, will be referred to as the Learning Sciences.

A fundamental tension facing game studies is that if games do not promote or "teach" violence, then how can researchers claim that they might have a lasting impact on students' cognitive development? Far from trivial, this concern touches on many core social science research issues. What are the cultural and social contexts of media consumption? How does - or doesn't - knowledge transfer from one context to the next? Educational discussions of transfer, practice, and social activity offer three promising ways for game studies to think about gameplay as cultural practice.

In the early s, E.

What is Cultural Criticism?

Thorndike and colleagues e. It works in great detail, adapting itself to the special data of which it has had experience Improvements in any single mental function rarely brings about equal improvement in any other function, no matter how similar, for the working of every mental function group is conditioned by the nature of the data of each particular case" pp. One classic example of challenges in transferring thinking across contexts is mathematics. Across industrialized nations, most citizens learn the basic skills needed to solve everyday mathematical problems using fractions or Algebra, but most people rarely use but the most simple computational math in their every day lives.

Psychologists working constructivist and situated learning traditions argue that human behavior is circumscribed by context e.

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The purpose of human activity, our goals and intentions, constrain the kinds of information we collect in the environment, and how this information is used Barab, et al. For example, studies have shown that students who learn Algebra through problem-solving are more likely to use Algebra in solving problems than students who learn Algebra through traditional means e. Cognition and Technology Group at Vanderbilt, Situational constraints also shape and constrain activity.

Studies of navigators sailing ships, office workers using computers, and students in classrooms all show how the tools and resources that are available in our environment both guide thinking and constrain actions Solomon, For example, people doing fractions in cooking frequently simplify the problem to make mathematics simpler, or manually divide ingredients using kitchen tools rather than using Algebra. As a result,, people who have learned Algebra become very good at using Algebra to solve textbook-like problems within school situations, but develop very different strategies for solving real-world problems Bransford, et al.

Unfortunately for educators looking to use games to support learning, this skeptical transfer limits what we hope players might learn from gaming. While pundits and theorists suggest that game-playing might be increasing kids critical thinking or problem-solving skills See Katz, ; Prensky, , research on transfer gives very little reason to believe that players are developing skills that are useful in anything but very similar contexts.

A skilled Half-Life player might develop skills that are useful in playing Unreal Tournament a very similar game , but this does not mean that players necessarily develop generalizable "strategic thinking" or "planning" skills. Just because a player can plan an attack or develop a lightning quick reactions in Half-Life does not mean that she can plan her life effectively, or think quickly in other contexts, such as in a debate or in a courtroom - one of the main reasons being that these are two entirely different contexts and demand very different social practices.

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The particularities of gameplaying as social practice, the contrived and computer-mediated nature of digital game play raise serious questions for educators using gaming to support learning that will transfer across different contexts. What are the goals and intentions of players in gaming environments?

Cultural Studies part 1( Hindi )

Do these overlap with the situational constraints of other social or classroom practices? Do game players have opportunities to think with authentic tools and resources in gaming environments? Examining gameplay as social practice provides one model for approaching these questions. Anthropologists Jean Lave and Etienne Wenger use the term "practice" to discuss how actions are situated in their socio-cultural contexts. Essentially, a practice is an activity that involves skills, resources, and tools, and is mediated by personal and cultural purposes.