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Playing with Virtuality

Theories and Methods of Computer Game Studies

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Benjamin Bigl and Sebastian Stoppe

Computer games have fascinated millions of users for more than 30 years. Today, they constitute the strongest sector in the media-entertainment industry and are part of the experience of digital daily life. Computer Game Studies require a deep understanding of functional and communicational mechanisms of games that support the player’s immersion in virtual worlds. Unfortunately, the discussion and the academic research about usage and effects of computer games mostly takes place isolated within different scientific contexts with various theoretical and methodological approaches. Therefore, this anthology combines the perspectives of Media Studies, Game Studies, and Communication Studies, and presents their findings in an interdisciplinary approach.

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CHAPTER 5: LEARNING WITH GAMES

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298 298 299 MATTHEW BARR Computer games and learning: the current state of play Introduction The learning potential of computer and video games has already received some considerable academic attention, as has the design and develop- ment of bespoke educational titles, which usually fall within the purview of “serious games”. Researchers including Prensky (2001), Gee (2003) and Jenkins (2008) have been particularly influential in establishing the pedagogical value of computer games. However, with some notable ex- ceptions, such as the work of Kurt Squire with the Civilization games (2004) and Simon Egenfeldt-Nielsen (2005), the potential to learn from commercially-released games — those designed to entertain, rather than educate — has not been explored to its full potential. In addition, much of the existing research has pertained to school-age children using com- puter games in, or alongside, their regular classes. Perhaps this is to be expected: it is widely accepted that humans and other animals learn through play, and structured play forms an important part of primary- level education (Bruce, 1987; Moyles, 1989). If video games, which many incorrectly assume are played for the most part by children, are simply toys with educational potential then it follows that much of the initial work in this area has concerned minors. In Video Games and Learning, Squire (2011: 5) suggests that we can learn “academic” content through games, including the in-game terminology, a range of strategies, and “the emergent properties of the game as a sys- tem”. That computer games can help develop systemic understanding...

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