Grand Theft Auto to the rescue???


This week’s reading on Open-Ended Video Games came to me in such a timely manner as I have been introduced to so many video games lately through a friend who actually works for Rockstar, the company responsible for the Grand Theft Auto series.

Having an extremely limited experience with video games growing up, I was never really fascinated by video games and did not really understand many game fanatics’ obsession with game play that would last for hours, days and even months. Coming from South Korea where video game play became a social concern as people have literally died playing games because they would not eat or sleep during game play the obsession with video games simply remained as a further obscure world for me.

That being said Squire’s (2007) article truly, for the first time, really opened my eyes how games could really help students learn complex concepts, such as those in natural sciences like physics. Supercharged! seems like an AWESOME game that I would have personally enjoyed playing to understand the complex and abstract concept of a particle. Now that video games are delving into natural sciences as well I am truly starting to appreciate their invasion (?) into education, probably because I was a science major in undergrad. I would have loved to have had similar games to understand scientific phenomena in neuroscience, chemistry and quantum mechanics since they all are so abstract and hard to visualize.

However, the interesting thing is that as I read the author’s qualitative interview data among three different high school group GTA game players I realized some games that I thought had absolutely no educational value could really start discussions and discourse. I found it extremely interesting and yet natural that Honovi’s game play was “a performance…that arose in context, shaped – in part – by the other participants in the gaming experience” (p. 9). With his peers the game was a source for him to participate in a discourse of masculinity and by himself the game was merely an outlet for him to explore the possibility of the future as a car designer. 

It was also fascinating to see that depending on students’ race and SES what they gained from the game and what they were concerned about the game were drastically different. White students were more concerned about racial discrimination and stereotyping in GTA while black students were more concerned about the misrepresentation of the black community’s economic mobility.

If it were not for this article I would have never thought such an allegedly “merely and only violent” game could produce such in depth discourse of social issues among game players.

Indeed video games could be used in positive ways in many different contexts. It took two years in a master’s program, a class about video games and education, numerous articles by famous game designers and developers such as Gee, Squire, Salen, etc., and this class and particularly this article for me to really open up on the idea of video games’ usefulness and potential in education. If a MSTU student in instructional technology takes this long to really open up, I wonder how long it might take for adults and seasoned teachers who are resistant to technology all together to open up to new forms of teaching for the new generation of learners.   



About marialarahwang

Doctoral student at Teachers College, Columbia University.

2 responses to “Grand Theft Auto to the rescue???”

  1. Chrstine Whittam says :

    I agree that using video games in education is a great idea that can open students up to new ideas and spark communication. I liked your comment at the end of your blog asking how long would it take someone who has no experience with video games and is not in the MSTU field to warm up to the idea of video games in education? I think thats a great question; I think it would take a really long time for people to warm up to it – although, once they see the results perhaps they would take less time to warm up to the idea.

    • Maria says :

      Hey Christine,

      yeah I read your blog and was excited to see that you were also on board with using video games and other technologies in the classrooms. I don’t know too much about deaf education but I hope technology can provide services that can accommodate all different populations in all aspects regarding equal access and such.

      yeah one of the topics I struggle most with is how to convince those who are still resistent to technology… I mean my mom has been against technology for a very long time and she admits that she would not put any effort into learning new ways of teaching with technology if it were not for the high demand and pressure from students and other Professors in her university as well as the societal expectations for educators that are leaning toward a pro-technology direction.

      so I see people learning for the sake of learning new technologies just to barely keep up but I know that will not be enough to deliver great lessons to students in a classroom if a teacher does not have the willingness to incorporate technology into the curriculum voluntarily but out of necessity or requirement.

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