8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Video Games are one of the most widespread and enjoyed forms of entertainment amongst the young people today. In recent years the video game industry has been quietly outpacing the movie industry in terms of total number of titles and the revenue. Video games have, for better or worse, become a part of mainstream. And just like any other form of entertainment in the past that was disruptive enough to change the whole way that we spend our leisure time, the ascendance of the video games has been greeted with its own share of controversy. Many societal ills have been purportedly traced to the increased play of video games, and several high-profile crimes involved individuals who had were known to have spent many hours playing very violent games. And yet, it is far from clear that the effect of video games on the society is exclusively, or even primarily, a negative one. In this short book the authors are drawing on their own research in order to show some very positive effects that video games have on the civic engagement of youth. It is a fascinating work that will hopefully challenge some misconceptions and provide a more positive and balanced outlook on this topic.
For some games it is intuitively plausible that they may have a positive impact on the civic engagement. The most obvious example is SimCity, where the player assumes the role of a mayor and tries to develop the city in the most optimal way. However, the research presented in this book shows that even playing certain games like Halo has a significant correlation with the civic engagement.
The authors of this book distinguish between social and civic behavior. They show that the vast majority of kids play games with others at least some of the time, but this does not necessarily translate into a civic engagement. In order to measure the actual civic engagement several measures are employed and described.
The single biggest finding that is presented here is that kids who are very frequent players of video games are actually slightly more likely to be civically engaged. The authors are careful to point out that this is only a correlation, and leave the possible connection between the two for some other study. Even so, this finding is very important as it challenges the preconceived notion that gaming and civic engagement are antithetical to each other.
The book ends with a few suggestions for parents, teachers, youth and the game developers. Based on the findings presented here and a few sensible principles the authors make recommendations on how to make the gaming experience more useful and relevant for the civic engagement of the young people.
Even though this book is written from a very strong social-science perspective, it is very accessible and should appeal to the general audience. In fact, I hope that a lot of people do read it as it will certainly contribute to the public discussion of the role that video games play in the society.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Kahane, Middaugh, and Evans point out that the bulk of America's discussion about the public consequences of video game play have been mainly moralistic, not rational. Scare-mongers warn of isolated, maladjusted youth failing to engage with our public sphere, while digital media boosters extol technology's equalizing traits, but "the relationship of [video game play] to adolescent development has not been fully explored." These authors purpose to remedy this oversight.
Our authors point out that certain video games, like "SimCity" and "Quest Atlantis," have been used productively in school environments to teach public interest and engage youth in civic engagement and public discourse. By engaging students in intricate simulations of democratic institutions, these games teach youth to care about living issues and real-world concerns. From this, the authors extrapolate that other games which rely on complex relationships with other humans and with technology, like running a guild in World of Warcraft, may teach engagement with democratic institutions. As they say, "the same kinds of experiences that foster civic outcomes in well-controlled classroom studies may achieve similar results in gaming environments."
On the one hand, I have no trouble believing this. My grade school teachers used this same basic claim in explaining why I should play "Oregon Trail" on the Apple IIe. And I can see where guild organization can teach youth to love the social contract just as my generation learned from Student Council elections. On the other hand, our authors haven't yet proven to my satisfaction that, just because kids could possibly learn civic responsibility from games, a sufficient mass of them actually do.
Still, I'm willing to suspend judgment and hear these authors out for two reasons. First, they acknowledge the important role teachers play. Unlike tech cheerleaders who claim the web renders classrooms obsolete, these authors admit that teaching through games requires the concerted involvement of teachers, parents, and game designers. They even spend time on questions of reconciling technology to the classroom, and on teaching parents and teachers what we need to know.
Second, the authors admit the limitations of their own study. Rather than elevating themselves and their conclusions as other studies in this series have done, our authors concede that they have proven correlation without proving cause; that in some cases they have been unable to prove aything statistically significant; and that their biggest discovery is how much research still remains to do. Even if I can't completely get behind all their conclusions, I can appreciate their honesty and admire their rigor. And that more warmly inclines me toward these authors' conclusons.
Perhaps we can best regard this white paper as a prolegomena to future research in a developing field. The authors' last big section discusses several domains still open to new discovery. I look forward to seeing how (and if!) games really do help students' civic education, and how I might incorporate such new discoveries into my own classroom.