Posts tagged basics
So there’s been some press recently on the concept of video games as a form of “art”.
This debate was inspired by recent comments made by film critic Roger Ebert, who claims that not only are video games not art, but that by their very nature they cannot be art. Ebert cites a TED talk given by the lovely lovely Kellee Santiago, who inverts the film critic’s argument by saying that not only will video games one day become art, but that they already are … art.
At the heels of this online debate, comes the news that the US Supreme Court is scheduled to hear a case this Fall involving the First Amendment protections of violent video games.
This is not the first time that video games have come under scrutiny for issues relating to free speech. It seems like only yesterday that the ultra-violent video game Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas came under fire for a secret modification that incorporated a fully nude sex scene into the game. The double standard did not go unnoticed by the media. Here was a game that allowed your character to steal cars, murder cops, and beat prostitutes with a baseball bat. But one scene of completely consensual sex was enough to get the moral guardians in a tizzy. More recently, the game: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 became the target of controversy for the inclusion of a mission that allows the player to commit an act of international terrorism on some unsuspecting Russian civilians. (warning, contains really disturbing imagery)
Whether or not video games should be considered “art” is only part of the question. The broader questions are: “Where do video games fall with regard to First Amendment protections?”, and: “Why does it seem that people automatically assume that the only people who play video games are 4 – 12 years old?”. Recent (and even not so recent) studies have already shown us that the average gamer is actually between the ages of 25 – 30, yet public opinion still seems to link “video games” with “kid stuff”. This is why violence in video games has become such a First Amendment issue. Not because they are more violent than your basic Tarantino flick, or that they are more sexually explicit than a Friday-late-night Cinemax movie, but because they’re games; and most people still parse “games” as: “child’s play”.
So where do libraries make the distinction? As self-proclaimed First Amendment warriors, we as librarians have an obligation to preserve the availability of certain materials that others may find objectionable. Yet if we’re hosting game nights for young teens, we might not necessarily want them to orchestrate a terrorist attack on Russian civilians in our children’s section. So how do we reconcile these issues? We can start by recognizing that the medium of video games does not necessarily define the audience; and that not everything with a health bar is family friendly kid stuff. Librarians will defend to the death our right to provide the public with Mapplethorpe, Salinger, and Anne Frank, but that doesn’t mean that we intershelve them with the Doctor Seuss books. ;)
Personally, I would defend video games, even violent ones, as an art form, but only under a very broad definition. Ordinarily, I think of art as something to be enjoyed passively, rather than interactively. In video games, the observer guides the action, and becomes an accomplice in the creation of the art. This does not make video games any less valid than the more discrete forms of art. A masterfully executed level of Tomb Raider can be every bit as beautiful as a perfect game of chess, a Baryshnikov fouetté jeté, a Salvador Dali painting, or a Hendrix solo. But I feel that the interactivity of video games places them into a different sphere of aesthetic appreciation. It is a hybrid of visual art and performance art that defines the participant as collaborator. For this reason, I feel that video games as art form deserve every protection that our Constitution provides. I eagerly wait the foundation of entire galleries devoted to the art of the video game.
Maybe we can get some eccentric billionaire to give us a grant. :)
On Saturday, March 13th at 1:00pm EST (10am on the West Coast), 8bitlibrary.com will be presenting a weekend webinar free of charge to all of our loyal readers.
Gaming: All Libraries & All Ages
Gaming: All Libraries & All Ages will be a webinar highlighting collection development and advocacy issues that all libraries deal with when implementing (or planning to implement) video games into library collections and services.
Attendance will be fun and free. There will be an interactive chat box for the entire session, and the event will be presented as an un-conference collaboration.
All you have to do to attend is go to URL tinychat.com/8bitlibrary on March 13th at 1:00pm EST. We’ll have about 45 minutes of webinar time, with plenty of time after for chatting and collaborating. We hope you can be there.
An RSVP is not necessary, but there is a Facebook event which you can RSVP to here: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=10150110150540521
Also, don’t forget to add 8bitlibrary.com’s feed to your RSS Reader, and during the webinar be sure to follow the hashtag #8bitweb on Twitter.
PLEASE help us get the word out by tweeting about it / sharing on facebook / word of mouthing it / posting to listservs. In a time of shrinking budgets, free education for librarians is good!
Just wanted to let our readers know that we have a twitter, @8bitlibrary!
Almost all of the content on our twitter is independent of the stuff you will get when you subscribe to our RSS or fan us on Facebook. While 8bitlibrary.com is all about gaming and new-media advocacy for schools & libraries, @8bitlibrary will keep librarians and educators updated on the latest breaking new stories from the video game community. We follow all the hot video game sources so you don’t have to.
So, be sure to subscribe/follow/fan, and thanks for your continued support! You all have made this little blog the hottest new edulib source around!
I recently conducted an interview with Jennifer Field, who is the head of the English Department at Stephen F. Austin High School in Sugarland, TX, about how she uses gaming in her classroom:
JP: Hi Jennifer, tell us about yourself!
Jennifer: I’m 32 and I’ve been teaching for 10 years now. I got my BA from Texas A&M and my MLA from Houston Baptist University
JP: How long have you been gaming, and how often do you game currently?
Jennifer: I’ve been gaming since my brother got an Atari for Christmas in the early 80’s. I fondly remember Pong. Depending on what I have to take home to grade or work on, I average about one to two hours 3 to 4 days a week, and usually on the weekends.
JP: Favorite console?
Jennifer: XBOX 360!
JP: You are a teacher who uses gaming as a tool during lessons. Can you give some background on how you do it/your methods?
Jennifer: You have to be able to connect books, themes, and other literary elements to current events and situations that students will understand. From my experience, the current generation of students play games more then they watch movies. I’ve found that by connecting those games to the literature that we read and to the elements that we teach, the students understand and apply themselves more.
JP: Do you have an specific examples of using video games in a lesson?
Jennifer: One example is my teaching method for the Journey of the Hero. I teach British Literature, and almost everything those classes study follows this “Journey”. I used to use Star Wars as a modern example of the Journey (since Star Wars is “based” on the Journey), but not all of my students have seen the original Star Wars movies. Instead, during discussions on the different parts of the journey, I connect Journey elements to the different games that students are playing. Students don’t realize just how much literature affects the games they play, because the teaching community isn’t making these valuable connections for them.
JP: Can you share some game titles you use in classes?
Jennifer: I frequently use Gears of War, Halo, Too Human, and Mass Effect during our Journey discussions. The students then take the next step and make literary connections to other games as well! It’s great to see students connecting Beowulf’s journey to a game’s plot device, or in the middle of a lesson realize Beowulf’s “worth” by connecting it to a familiar story line from a game.
JP: Do you have any plans to expand the use of games in the classroom?
Jennifer: I’m currently planning to use clips from Bioshock to incorporate propaganda and dystopian themes into my next novel unit on Brave New World. If I taught Ayn Rand, I would have a field day, but it’s not on our approved list for Seniors.
JP: How do students feel about having a “gaming” teacher? I know in the library field, avid readers love librarians who are avid readers, and gamers love other librarians who game.
Jennifer: I’ve found that when students know you are a gamer, they feel more free to talk about games with you and they are more excited to participate in class, so there is a bigger personal connection than you get in a traditional educational lecture setting. I’ve even had students that will notice literary things in games and bring them to my attention (JP’s note: an example of students as content providers and creators, vs students as “blank slates to be lectured to”) . For instance, the achievement The Merchant of Venice in Assassins Creed II. I had a kid who actually realized that it was an allusion to Shakespeare!
JP: How do parents and school administration feel about gaming as a classroom tool? Do you encounter problems over content?
Jennifer: I don’t really think they have thought about it much. It isn’t a media that has made its way into the classroom, at least not at the High School level. I do remember reading a few years ago about a school that was using Dance Dance Revolution in their classrooms to combat obesity and get the students active.
I’d love to see games used in school, but I think there are so many questions raised that administrations will be wary of it for a while.
It also depends on the parents. Some parents are all for getting their child to learn no matter the method, while some may not want their children gaming in school. This creates a fine line for implementing it in the classroom.
JP: You have definitely showed us that gaming connects with your students and is a tool that makes learning easier for them. What do you think we can do as teachers and librarians to change the perception that “games are toys for kids?”
Jennifer: Educating the parents, school boards, and administration is the key. I think it would start with a study on the effects of gaming in the classroom. Taking one class and using games and showing the growth of the student’s abilities as it relates to the curriculum standards of the state, and then compare it to a traditional classroom.
JP: In the library world we call that “advocacy”. Speaking of gaming advocacy, would you be interested in sharing gaming-in-the-classroom tips, tricks, or lesson plans with the readers of 8bitlibrary.com?
JP: Great, I am totally looking forward to that! Any closing words on the connection between literacy & gaming?
Jennifer: Games tell a story, which is literature just in a different media. I believe strongly that teachers have to adapt to the current times to effectively help their students learn. As teachers we are taught to teach to all different learning types; visual, auditory, etc. Because of this, gaming becomes a tool that hits all the learning styles of our different students.
JP: Thanks so much for sharing! See you on Xbox Live ;)
IF YOU ARE a teacher who uses console games in the classroom, please get in touch with one of us here at 8bitlibrary.com! We want to share your stories and experiences with others!
One of the biggest video gaming franchises Librarians will encounter (and possibly the most important of all video game IPs for libraries) is the Pokemon franchise. With two “new” games being released (HeartGold/SoulSilver) in March 2010, librarians should be prepared.
First first FIRST thing you need to know: the word “Pokemon” can either refer to the creatures in the game, the game franchise, or a game itself. Only context determines what it means.
Pokemon 101: understanding the basics of Pokemon!
What does Pokemon have to do with schools/libraries? This is a question I got from a (kinda irate) first-year teacher, right in front of a class full of kids in the middle of a library presentation I was giving them. More specifically, it was, “what does this have to do with summer reading?!“. Well, here are some ways they relate!
- Pokemon has an extensive map structure. If you are teaching map skills, I’m sure it will be difficult to find a map-skills exercise with the depth and diversity of the maps that the kids are going home to play with for recreation in this game.
- The “Pokedex” is a database (aka library) of Pokemon and Pokemon statistics within the game. Inside the Pokedex framework, kids are: analyzing various types of numerical and other data, building their decision making skills as they plan future choices based on the relationships Pokemon have with each other and the map, building real-life teamwork skills as they try to complete their Pokedex with the help of friends who own the game.
- More on the Pokedex: Wikipedia describes the Pokedex as “device designed to catalog and provide information” and “a portable reference tool“. Kids already have libraries in their video games, and are acting like little librarians…for fun!
- The main Pokemon releases (which we will get to) are playable fantasy fiction stories with you as the main character. Video games are a new media, and as such, traditional fiction genre forms for other media have reached games.
- The best resource for Pokemon players is Bulbapedia, which is an online Pokemon encyclopedia wiki with close to 16 thousand articles. If such a large body of information exists around Pokemon (and, since it is a wiki, it was written by the players of the game) it seems that there is a large amount of information flowing between players. That’s what schools and libraries are all about, communication and a flow of information!
- Making connections to students and library users is difficult. Catching their attention is one thing, and keeping their attention is another even more difficult thing. Pokemon will not only get their attention (tell them you caught a Giratina), it will keep it (building lesson plans and programming around the Pokemon environment is ripe with ideas).
What are the Pokemon games? There is confusion that surrounds what constitutes a Pokegame. For a video game to be considered a true Pokemon release, step one is it HAS to be released for a handheld system (Gameboy, GBA, DS…). Everything else is related material with a Pokemon logo on it, but not part of what we would consider the Pokecanon. And, to make things more confusing, Pokemon has three canons: the game canon, the anime (cartoon) canon, and the manga (book) canon. We are only dealing with the video game canon.
The canon has 4 generations, and a “generation” is the story that is being told within the game. In the canon, the “generations” are not chronological:
In 1998 Pokemon Red & Blue came out (in the USA) for Gameboy. Later, Pokemon Yellow was released. These games are all “the same”, in that they share a majority of content with each other and tell the same basic story. This is the way all the of generation releases have been handled so far. The Game Boy Advance games Pokemon FireRed & LeafGreen, remakes of Red & Blue, are considered Generation I even though they are based on the Generation III Game Boy Advance technology and gameplay.
Generation II consisted of Pokemon Gold & Silver, and later Crystal, released for the Game Boy Color. In March, the HeartGold and SoulSilver remakes will be released for the Nintendo DS.
Generation III are Pokemon Ruby & Sapphire, and later Emerald, all released for Game Boy Advance.
Generation IV is the current generation, which includes Pokemon Diamond & Pearl, followed by Platinum.
What are “Pokemon”? “Pokemon” are the little creatures in the Pokemon games. Think little bugs or snails. The player controls a “Pokemon trainer” who collects, trains, and takes care of the Pokemon s/he catches.
Isn’t Pokemon for kids? Yes, the franchise has been steered towards the “kid” demographic. The main releases do have many heavy narrative themes, in-depth statistical choices (via the Pokedex), long game-play hours, and a far fictional reach, so adults and especially teens play these games too. Because it is a “kid” game, non-players judge adults who play Pokemon, but after a proper understanding of the depth of the game, it is less embarrassing (LOL).
And the rest…
Pokemon’s influence on pop-culture doesn’t need to be brought up here. I’m going out on a limb here, but I don’t think there was anything more epic in pop-culture created in the 90s than Pokemon. Grunge-rock, the Lewinsky Scandal, and Seinfeld all pale in comparison to the far-reachingness of Pokemon and its continued influence on society.
Whew anyway hope this helps. This is obviously not everything pokerelated, so i’ll write a Pokemon 102 article some day.
OH wait one more thing! I might be the biggest Pokefan librarian in the USA! I’ve CAUGHT every single Pokemon in the Sinnoh Dex! And I have a Darkrai and Arceus!
JP & Justin’s “5 games every library should own” (2010 edition!).
Obviously there are many variables that go into developing a game collection. Just as it would be hard to put together a “5 DVDs every library should own” (mostly because you feel bad about everything left OFF the list), this is our opinion on how you should spend those first library gaming dollars.
Also, this only applies to current-gen systems. As we expand the blog, expect more in-depth coverage of gaming genres and such…
Wii: New Super Mario Bros, Rock Band 2 (or Band Hero), Wii Sports Resort, Super Smash Bros Brawl, Mario Kart Wii. [Wii Play is a runner-up because it comes with a Wii remote]
Xbox 360: Rock Band 2, Halo 3, Super Street Fighter IV (or Marvel vs Capcom 2 on Live Arcade), Scene It!, Turtles in Time (Live Arcade).
PS3: LittleBigPlanet, Rock Band 2, Street Fighter IV, Soul Caliber IV, Tekken 6.