This is an excellent article from (Henry Jenkins – MIT) – even if I only say that because it supports my own experience and instinct (plus bias!). In (crude) summary: games are not just for male children, they are social and there is very little evidence that they encourage violence among the young, except that violent play may lead to violent play. Sort of obvious when you think about it. There is more to the article than this and it is good to see such a clear and reasoned debunking of these commonly believed myths.
If would could save all the money wasted on poorly designed violence-in-games research we perhaps we could put that into more proven contributors to youth violence!
A very interesting article here discusses whether video-games can inspire reading among children. It skirts around the old video-game narratologist – ludologist debate which can instigate some fierce argument. Up front I have to say that I tend to view the world of games from a narratologist point of view and so I do believe that stories do have a place in games – supporting the “rules” of a game rather than forming the them.
I like the idea of using games to inspire reading and I have some anecdotal thoughts on the subject. I know that for older players there are broadly two camps in relation to stories/text in a game. The first group who just want to interact with the game world and other players and the narrative is formed by the player only; things that happen to them, the choices that they make, and the conversations/interactions that they have with other players. The second group care about this “ludologistic” approach but also care about characters, a story that is narrated (in the broad sense), and often wish to become a character that has a clearly (predetermined) role in a narrative. Members of this (crudely defined) second group are generally only interested in a rich and deep narrative as evidenced in some role play games, as opposed to a game like Doom which has a back-story though most who play it don’t care or know much about it.
It is my experience that young players (especially 3-6 years old) tend to see narrative (text or aural) as an obstacle in the way of gamepla- they are annoyed with it and want to click on through. However, I have found that young children do develop reading skills through games, even if this is just through the menu traversal. I know of one situation where a young mildly autistic child was helped a great deal in his reading and social skills by videogames.
I would like to see games help literacy but alongside and not as a replacement.
In my education and games research over the past couple of years I’ve been looking at different ways to represent learners in to provide appropriate and motivating feedback. We have been edging more and more towards systems of reward similar to Microsoft’s Xbox Live gamer score and achievements system. We have found that participation levels improve significantly with our system and there is evidence of improve academic performance, particularly with weaker students. I’m sure that we are not the only ones working on such systems and here is one approach that I found via my colleague Daniel Livingstone’s site:
Its only based on quiz style questions, but to be fair mostly advancements in this area are very incremental and I haven’t seen much to set the world on fire yet.