“The games people play”

I’m on my way to facilitate a CAS workshop at Prince Alfred College in Adelaide. As I wait to board my flight I’m interestedly scanning the faces and activities of my fellow passengers in the airport lounge at Jakarta’s Soekarno-Hatta international airport.

Immediately to my right an Indonesian girl, about 7 years old, is playing a game on her i-pad. I look closer, intrusively, over her shoulder and I ask her what it’s called, “Fruit Ninjas Pak (Mr.).”

By her side her older teenage brother is busily tapping his iphone. So I ask her what he’s doing. “He’s playing plants versus zombies – it’s his favorite app.”

These kids are typical digital natives or ‘screenagers’. They are stimulated by the latest games and connected by the technologies that deliver their fun.  They are the newest generation of ‘gamers’ – the same but different to my own kids who are now in their 30’s. They crave the stimulation and the challenge to their skills that derive from playing interactive games on screens, consoles, and hand-held devices.

My children went from pong, to Atari, to Nintendo, to Play Station, to X box, to Wi, and now they still also play a variety of games or apps on their mobile phones and ipads.

Interactive and virtual games, and the technology that supports them, are rapidly changing. On line gaming, new apps (applications), motion detector games, rpg’s (role playing games) that include first person and third person and now second life involvement, continuously bring new levels of challenge, engagement, learning and experience to those who play.

According to Seth Schiesel, (“The New York Times”, Nov. 26 2010),

…..video games are poised to become more engaging — physically, emotionally and perhaps even intellectually — than they have ever been. But they will do so not by dehumanizing players but rather by bridging the gap between media and actual personal experience.”

“With no media do humans cooperate so intimately as video games. This is precisely why games have been the most popular new mass entertainment of recent decades. And this is also why the emergence of more physically natural and socially meaningful ways of enjoying games is so rich with creative possibility.

Bernard Chiu, chairman of the musical instrument company First Act, fully understands this. Over the last several years his company has invested more than $30 million to develop the first music video game that uses a real electric guitar as its controller, Power Gig: Rise of the SixString.

‘The idea is to make guitar playing more enjoyable and fun,’ Mr. Chiu said in an interview in his office on Boylston Street in Boston, shortly before the game was released in October. ‘My goal was really to create a game with a real guitar that is going to be fun, and while they play they also learn the fundamental concepts of playing guitar.’

Schiesel asserts that the problem with new games like Power Gig is that the game has become too real.

“Playing it, my fingers throbbed, my wrist cramped, my shoulder ached. ‘Ah yes, this is why I never learned to play guitar,’ I remembered, ruefully. If you’ve never done it before, attempting to use a real guitar, even as a game controller, is a physically wrenching learning experience. Meanwhile the Power Gig software does not even teach you how to play real guitar beyond a few basic chords. Rock Band 3, on the other hand, is much more felicitous in how it bridges the gap between a game and actual guitar playing. In Rock Band the singing has always been real, and the drumming has been close enough. Now the series comes with an electronic keyboard from which you can tell the game to require proper notes and an ingenious hybrid guitar that uses real strings and 102, yes, buttons placed exactly where the frets would be on an analog guitar.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/28/arts/video-games/28video.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1&emc=eta1

Ironically, when my own sons did their IB Diplomas they pursued music activities within their respective CAS programs. They learned to play real instruments – drums, guitar, and keyboards to performance levels in their respective bands. They were playing real instruments to live audiences. Now they’ve ‘moved on’ to playing in virtual bands and at simulated performances.

What’s their favorite ‘game’ at this moment? “It’s Rock Band dad”.

Games have become more sophisticated, real, and less virtual. Quite often these new games rely on real effort, thoughtful planning, and they can lead to reflective responses, the gist of good CAS, right?

How, and when, do we CAS Coordinators now accept and promote gaming as an appropriate CAS activity?

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