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"All The World's A Stage"

leamirella's picture

1. Who are we when we play a game? And what should people who want to teach other people things understand about this? McGonigal says we are purposeful, optimistic agents convinced of our capacity to make and impact and conjoin our activities with others to increase that impact.

In her book, "Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology and Less From Each Other ", Sherry Turkle begins by stating that "Technology proposes itself as the architect of our intimacies. These days, it suggests substitutions that put the real on the fun". After playing Minecraft for an hour (unfortunately, unable to get very far), I could see how easy it would be to get fully immersed in a gaming experience. And Minecraft is a game that simply requires the player to sit in front of the computer. With the emergence of what the Re:Humanities working group is calling "pervasive gaming" (the Silent History App as a prime example), I have very little doubt that gaming is/will become something that forces individuals to fully engage and immerse themselves into.

But then who do we become? While we inhabit the role that which we are playing, whoever/whatever your avatar might be, we still project "pieces of ourself" into the game. As Turkle asserts, this "virtual" space is one that is performative: we project our own psychological needs and wants into this seemingly boundless space. Thus, to say that we enter into a completely alternate form of being once entering into the game world proves false. While there might be some sort of physical interface that separates the "us" from the "game world", whatever happens on either side gets projected into the other. In other words, "you" are still "you", regardless of the pervasive-ness of the game that you are playing.

Understanding the gaming space as performative (Turkle even titles one of her sections in another book of hers, "All the World's A Stage) proves particularly pertinent, as not all game players are aware of how their gaming world/habits are influenced by their "real world". Thus, this challenges McGonigal's claim that we are convinced of our capacity to make, impact and conjoin our activities: we consider gaming and virtual spaces to simply be tools (Tools in the sense that they are "extensions" -- a la Clarke) rather than be places wherein our thoughts, feelings, emotions are projected either consciously or subconsciously.

That said, I really do think that gaming technology in classrooms really depends on where it is included in the curriculum AND what type of game it is. By incorporating a game such as Minecraft into a classroom situation, we do not account for the identity that a student might choose to perform within the space -- identities/personas (question: is it wrong to conflate these two terms?) that may not particularly be suited for learning.


alesnick's picture

identity and performativity

Would it be fair to say that McGonigal is more of a believer and Turkle is more of a doubter when it comes to online, networked experience? 

In the workshop I am giving up at Bard on Friday (on Facebook and Hunger Games as paired texts and the question of mediated identities), I am going to ask teachers to write about this question: What is the proper relationship between being and being seen?

Part of me wants to push back on the Turkle concerns and say that classrooms, families, all social spaces are stages whereupon people play and also create roles.  Culture itself is a process of, as McDermott and Varenne say, "people's hammering each other into shape" using, among other things, roles as hammer (that's my extension, not theirs).

Is the online stage fundamentally different in this respect? It may well be.

leamirella's picture

Absolutely! While I do

Absolutely! While I do applaud McGonigal's enthusiasm about online gaming, I do think that she neglects to consider some of the ideas that Turkle puts forth. While I do believe that her view is quite conservative, there is a part of me that wants to consider and really think about how this could change in the future. Perhaps we might get to the stage wherein it's just accepted that there will be documentation of things that we may put online that do not seem like "acceptable" behaviour. 

dephillips's picture

Creative Places

  • When are/what makes games more open-ended, and when more contained/constrained?

I feel like Minecraft could be a good example of an open-ended game because it has some key characteristics which seem to give the game almost endless possibilities. Some of these characteristics include not well defined rules, the ability to create many different things depending on the resources around, changing environments every time you play, and the ability to never truly fail because you can re-spawn. However, if you are like me and don’t understand the functions of the game, even walking forward becomes a challenge. And I found that I did not truly enjoy over-coming those small challenges but found them to be more frustrating than anything else. There is also something about the clunkiness of the interface that was really unappealing to me. I already felt like I didn’t have good control because I didn’t understand the commands and the sharp corners and imprecise movements that the game has made me feel even less in control. I would be interested in playing Minecraft again, but I think it would be necessary for me to go through a tutorial first to figure out the basic and the basics of what you can actually craft. I see this games potential to be a very creative space but cannot say that I was particularly inspired by my first gaming experience.