As an early teen I was part of the first generation of gaming, cutting my teeth on text-based games like Zork and deep in the craze of Mario Brothers and Pacman. However, once I entered high school I ceased to play video games or use a computer of any sort, apart from a few days learning about some programming language called BASIC. It wasn’t until the end of my college career that I was introduced to email and the Internet and I never really got into the new world of gaming. While my first computers (Sinclair 1000 and Commodore 64) were experienced in the early 80s, I didn’t spend much time with a computer again until 1994.
So, coming back to the world of gaming in the last year has been fascinating. I did it to learn about the powerful principles of engagement in video games, inspired by authors like Gee and Prensky who plead with educators to consider what educators can learn from video games.
I also returned to the world of gaming in order to explore gaming as narrative. Behind every good game today is a story. There is a setting and a plot, and you are playing a character in that story, uncertain of how everything will unfold. The power of these stories seem to be so great that even the military has turned to them. Toward that end, if you haven’t tried it out, you must download (takes some time) the free America’s Army, the offical Army game. That’s right, the military freely distributes this professional grade game where you become acquainted with military life, learning about the weapons, basic training components, and engaging in battles.
Now here is an intriguing twist. In America’s Army, you are always an American solider. It is a multi-user game and your army battles other armies, but from the perspective of the player, you are always and American and the enemy is always the enemy. What a fascinating dynamic of this digital narrative.