I’ve had the pleasure of working with some pretty phenomenal professors during my time in college. Professors who care about their work, their school, and most importantly- their students. I’ve spent a lot of time with one professor in particular who had very strong views about videogames and the effects they have on students. Professor Walt wasn’t necessarily against videogames, he simply made some interesting observations that I found to be a little more than intriguing.
Professor Walt spent his years working on databases, networking servers, computer workstations, and many other jobs related to the IT sector of business. I feel it’s important to share this because while he really doesn’t have much experience in the creation of videogames; he does have knowledge when it comes to coding and software development. Despite this, he’s never worked in the videogame industry. In his eyes, he always felt coding should be used to create useful programs that students, businesses, and everyday people could utilize on a daily basis. I know you’re starting to feel like professor Walt was a bit of a grumpy old geezer when it comes to videogames, however, over the years of working with him, he’s made some more than interesting points.
Students Learn More Than You Think From Videogames
We’ll start with something we all can agree on- even Walt. The idea that videogames promote problem solving has been around for decades. It’s becoming even more prevalent in today’s world because of the market penetration videogames possess. Walt couldn’t agree more, however, he believed students gained problem solving skills from a videogame was limited. Yes, they allows students to view in-depth problems and solve them in order to gain rewards in the process. Walt made an interesting point however, most videogames only allow for one solution. Within the gaming industry, whether it be for marketing, coding, and even artwork, a problem rarely consists of only one solution.
This subtle fact made me wonder if videogames ever really did help with problem solving. Perhaps videogames are even limiting our problem solving skills. Walt reassured me that videogames help promote creativity for students and the ability to find a solution to a problem, even if only one exists. The problem, he would speak of is the ability to learn is only as great as the person willing to learn. When students are playing videogames they aren’t attempting to learn, the only learning that happens is subconscious.
While I agree that many people who play videogames don’t do so to learn, I believe Walt underestimates the amount of learning that can be accomplished through the subconscious while playing videogames. Other than problem solving, studies show players also gain an interest in history, culture, creativity, and social skills (thanks to the online play involved in 90% of games in the past 10 years). I didn’t expect professor Walt to understand the amount that can be learned by a student, after all, he wasn’t much of a gamer himself.
Some Games Teach Skills Better Than Other Games
After proving to Walt the validity of learning within videogames, he still had hesitation when it comes the idea of whether or not all videogames provide a learning experience for players. It’s understandable to believe that not all videogames provide a learning experience, especially when you’ve played games such as The Guy Game. Professor Walt had his own vendetta against violent games which sole purpose was to kill the other player before they could kill you. “What can players learn from a game based on destroying the other player before they’re destroyed? The only thing to gain is a sense of violence.” While I agree that violence in videogames can be taken a little far and you definitely learn less from action shooters, there’s still a level of problem solving involved in shooters. Walt didn’t disagree with my statement, but he still believed that other videogames such a Braid and his personal favorite Pikmin hold much more weight for players looking to learn than do Call of Duty or Gears of War. I found it tough to make an argument. It seems even an old time professor with a lack of knowledge in the gaming industry can still make a valid point when it comes to violence in videogames.
Videogames Have Shifted What We View As Masculine
One of the more interesting topics we discussed about students and videogames was the idea of masculinity leaving the picture for players. When Walt was in school, how well you could throw or catch a football was just about the most important thing for a student. Now, it seems the most important thing for students is the ability to beat videogames or who has the higher level character on World of Warcraft. “These kids are scrawny and look like they haven’t seen a day of sun in their lives.” I probably never laughed harder at one of our conversations. I never understood why masculinity was an important aspect to a person in Walt’s eyes. I suppose it was simply a different time.
When I grew up playing videogames I was surround by the stereotype of scrawny kids with white skin that could only be described as florescent. I had a tough time arguing with his arbitrary argument. I almost agree with him, in the sense that the old perspective masculinity has gone out the windows when it comes to gamers. However, I would argue that masculinity has simply changed with time. What society used to find as “mascline” has shifted in this ever more tech reliant world.
I had the pleasure of eating lunch with my professor, speaking to him between classes and asking his advice on the job market. He may have been an old timer with old ways, but he held some pretty significant wisdom between his ears and he was glad to share it with me. Perhaps his ideas were a little old school but it was interesting the hear the views of someone from an older generation who literally watched the history of videogames in the making. Professor Walt battled cancer for 10 long years and sadly passed away just a few months ago. He was my professor and a close friend who taught me everything from his views on videogames to information technology. I hope every student has a professor they can talk to and learn from like I did. Even if his views about videogames are slightly ridiculous, surely there’s something we can learn from this outside perspective.
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