Gee on video games, or I got sucked into the world of video games and have to do something 'academic' with it so my wife doesn't think I'm wasting time and money

Gee… what to say. I made all of my comments with out reading the book first. Now that I have, here are my comments on it.

First of all, I think Gee has some good points, but is also a little bit off. He starts off by saying that everybody reads books (or does anything in life, like learn from video games, etc) with different “characters.” I read this book as a historian, or father, or religious person, and I get different meanings out of it. Makes sense. I’ll agree.

I’m having trouble putting my thoughts to words on how I disagree with Gee, so here it goes.  He makes the claim that video games help us learn.  It even seems that he thinks video games are the best way to learn. His reasoning: survival of the fitest in the capitalist market of video games.  The games are hard for him to play, yet millions of dollars worth of these games are sold, therefore they must have evolved their teaching ability to the greatest level.  Well, maybe it’s because their addictive.  We wouldn’t say that cigarettes are the most evolved form of substance that humans should use because the tabaco companies are selling millions of billions of them throughout the world.

Gee also tries to say that the way we learn by playing video games is the best way to learn.  He wants to take the realm of video-game-learning and apply it to other realms of life.  I disagree in this way.  A person does not learn real life social skills by playing video games.  That person may learn how to interact with other players in the World of StarCraft (the aliens attack, so you blow them away), but that doesn’t necessarily apply to real life (a bully at school, or people who tease).  Does learning to beat level 4 on the hottest new video game really teach a child the best way to interact with siblings and peers, which builds habits that later construct how they will treat their spouse and children?  Or would actually playing with friends and siblings be a better way to learn that?

I guess my bias is that video games (at least the ones Gee described) have their place as entertainment, but do little to enhance learning (at least as much as Gee would have us believe).  (That’s my ‘semiotic domain’ as a father who doesn’t think it’s a good idea to have his kids play video games all day long.)

One last critic. Gee states that in order for video game playing to be effective learning, the playing must be done actively and critically.  I can give him that one.  That is how ‘certain’ video games can facilitate learning.  But, in reality, how much of the video game playing is done with the intent to learn things that can be applied to other ‘semiotic domains’. It just doesn’t happen by itself.  The parents have to be involved.  And many other things….

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  1. amanda

    i have to agree with you on your observation that something being sucessful should not always be interpreted as good….that is a thoughtless and possibly dangerous practice…but all too frequently a conclusion. thanks to the capitalist views in this country that money makes right….amanda