Friday, 12 January 2007

Level 1 - Gaming life so far

Since starting this course, and reflecting on the role that games have played in my life thus far, it has struck my just how integral games and play have been throughout my life.

As a child, I would spend hours absorbed in fantasy roleplay scenarios playing Game Workshops games, and designing my own versions, which unfortunately would rarely get played. From Jones, G. (2002). "Killing monsters: Why children need fantasy, super heroes, and make-believe violence", it seems that roleplay games can actually play a useful, even necessary part in development. The author concludes that children actually need fantasy, and even make believe violence in order to develop social skills and resilience.

Some of my fondest memories of my grandparents are of playing card games such as Bridge and Gin Rummy, or even Mah Jong. My greatest memory of my grand-father was playing a hand of Gin Rummy, and within 3 turns, he could tell me almost exactly what I had in my hand - this was perhaps some introduction into how games can develop memory and logical reasoning to an (at the time) incredible extent.

My computer 'gaming' career started with Snoopy Tennis on those little handheld nintendo consoles - the object was to keep multiple balls going back and forth to Snoopy, an absorbing task requiring supreme dexterity. This led on to mild addictions with Bomber Jack and Chuckie Egg on the ZX spectrum and commodore, which were platform games requiring both dexterity and problem-solving. This was a time when the BBC micro was being introduced at schools, where computer-based learning tools were available, and I could play games such as Elite, Repton and very basic text-based fantasies. Elite, I have since discoved was one of the first games to include 3D wire-framing and the concept of trading to improve your situation (Elite). Perhaps hundreds of would-be entrepreneurs have developed from Elite's somewhat immoral gameplay of trading slaves and narcotics for better guns and bombs! The NES was the only TV-connected console I've ever owned, which was one of the first cartridge based systems. Games like Duck hunt involved good hand eye co-ordination, and Super Mario and early Zelda required problem-solving, spatial awareness and sheer tenacity. Next came the game boy with Tetris, a classic requiring spatial awareness, dexterity and speed. Finally, I played more complex games on the Playstation, SuperNintendo and Xbox, and am liking the idea of being able to study these without guilt.

As for now I'm liking strategy games, puzzles and brain-teasers. Right now, I'm into Civilisation IV, which I'm finding provides some useful historical info (tho I'm not sure how accurate it is) as well as good insights into strategic thinking and town-planning.

In terms of aims for the course, I'm particularly interested in how computer games can be used alongside f2f group teaching/training. I must admit to having reservations about a world where people and especially children spend more time in front of screens, instead of learning directly from each other f2f. However, from my own and others' experience, I believe that game technology can be integrated within a traditional 'classroom' setting with exciting results.

I am also interested in the psychology of gaming, in particular performance psychology and the 'flow state', and how educational games can really engage learners.

Let the games commence...

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