Do you advocate playing video games in education?
We should talk more about our own life experiences as part of this conversation.
I have been reflecting on my video game playing past and finding it interesting to try and remember what was played and when. I thought I would share this with you in the hope that others would post or comment with their own personal histories in respect to video-gaming. I have a favourite books page above, so this post is my nod to video games, in the widest sense of the term (perhaps stretching that definition too far).
My context, which is important for those reading this list of games, is that I was born in 1968, the eldest of three, and resided in mostly regional and rural areas of NSW with completely non-techy parents. Dad (b. 1936) is and always has been very anti-technology. He was a reader and that was his gift to me.
The first time I came across video games was in the last years of primary school.
- Pong: played my first game at Shaun’s house. His father managed a Tandy’s store so he was ‘with the program’ as far as 1970s Dads go. There was a bunch of kids jostling to play his ‘Atari’ and as you can imagine, it was cool when no-one else was visiting Shaun. I did have a natural advantage living two doors down the road though.
- Space Invaders: like every other kid in the late 70s and early 80s I wanted to go to ‘the shops’ to play this gaming craze. My Mum felt that pinball parlours’ were dens of iniquity so my visits to ‘proper gaming palaces’ were very limited. I still have the image of kids, with their coins stacked high, destroying the aliens with countless corner shop owners going mad listening to this new noise.
- Asteroids: kinda annoyed me actually but I did play it far too much for something that did not really do it for me.
- Galaga: was the first game I ever really loved and it makes me feel happy just thinking about it.
- MoonCresta: I think it was the pressure of docking that roped me in.
- Game & Watch: Octopus, Parachute (which I loved), Popeye, Fire and Donkey Kong were handheld games popular in early high school. These games were shared plenty, especially at recess and lunch and I guess we were the first generation to have this experience, now so central to childhood play.
- Frogger: was a strangely alluring game.
- Pac-man was omniscient in this period and I played it, mostly at Shaun’s.
- Time Pilot: was an all time favourite for a Dr Who and Biggles fan like myself. This was a really cool game.
There is a large gap in my game-playing timeline (1985 – 1997). From my last years of high school, university and travelling I played virtually zero video games for a range of reasons. I had sport, part-time jobs, girlfriends, was working myself out and was never home. No-one I knew had a computer or consoles at uni. The two years I taught at rural school was the exception in this period. Where in the World is Carmen San Diego? was a game I played as the school owned it. I also checked out the earlier version. In this period I read avidly – as I always have done.
Late 1990s – 2006
This is really the period when the internet started to fascinate (read obsess) so many of us. I was never really that interested in computers, hardware or software until the internet (although I did do computer courses in mid-80s at school). The computer, for me, is synonymous with access to the internet with hypertext propelling one into new worlds and experiences. This led me to new gaming experiences but when I was first online, at home, MOOs and MUDs interested me greatly, although became strangely unsatisfying measured against my expectations. I tried Lambda Moo and something else which for the life of I cannot remember. Indra Sinha‘s novel, The Cybergypsies really captures what was so alluring and mysterious about the idea of these spaces. I was trying to understand online communities at the time and became a member of The WELL but was too inexperienced and contextually out of my depth to get it. I did have good experiences with a range of communities that were fore-runners to the advent of web 2.0. I was particulary sad when this one became a victim of the dot-com bubble bursting.
As an English teacher, I became interested in the opportunites a new syllabus presented for exploring different kinds of texts. Patchwork Girl became a prescribed text for the New HSC. Listening to Stuart Moulthrop speak and exploring his work was a revelation at the time. Twisty Little Passages is worth reading, if you were at all interested in hypermedia, as English teachers with an interest in the future of texts often were.
Before Children (BC) I regularly played turn-based and real-time strategy games on PC. My all-time favs were Shogun: Total War and Caesar III but Civ II and Age of Empires were the original games that occupied many hours and led me to share enthusiasms with students in a lunchtime gamers club at school (where I first learnt about ‘cheats’ and the kids about anachronism in games). I liked flying sims too, especially The Red Baron but have to admit that my life-long enthusiasm for military history has led me to play many games in this genre with names like: Panzer General 3D Assault, Hannibal and Command & Conquer. I also played many other games that were clones or sequels to the games mentioned. These included: Alpha Centauri, Rome: Total War, Medieval: Total War, Cossacks and Rise of Nations.
The first console I ever owned was an xBox. Of the many games I tried, the various Medal of Honour titles and Return to Castle Wolfenstein occupied most of my time. However, I always have felt disappointed that real-time and turn-based strategy games were not available on this platform.
MMORPGs: I started playing MMORPG World of Warcraft briefly in late 2005 but preferred the gritty realism of European Battleground, which I really did invest significant amounts of time each evening playing with a squad, using TeamSpeak. I gave these games up on the birth of my second child and appointment as a deputy principal at my current school in late 2006. I just did not have the time.
More Recently (Post 2006)
Many of the games I play nowadays are to share with my daughters.
Wii: the kids like playing on this platform - especially games like iCarly, Princess: Enchanted Journey, Wii Sports and Scooby Doo - but it does not really appeal to me, except for The Endless Ocean and maybe, The Sims II: Castaway. Of course, I had to play these games lots when they were first learning.
Playstation 3: Civilization Revolution (which is on our iPad too) and LittleBigPlanet are the kids’ favs and I occasionally delve into some first-person shooter mayhem with Brothers in Arms: Hell’s Highway (which has quite an interesting narrative structure) or the Call of Duty franchise which is fantastic. Tried some of the other football games like FIFA 10 but they never engage me for too long.
PC: I was really excited before Spore was released but the game failed to excite. The kids and I made some cool creatures but we all soon lost interest. We have the game on the iPad too. Caesar IV and Civilization V are both pretty ordinary (see Downes) but also soak up far too much time for me to really get into them when they are not that great.
iPad and iPhone: The game we have all played more than any other, with some belly laughs along the way, is Plants vs. Zombies, our family favourite by a long way. The kids really like Nanosaur 2, Angry Birds, Cro-Mag, Ninja Adventure and Warship (which is old-fashioned Battleship). Increasingly, you’d be surprised to hear, there are minor disputes about who is going to have the iPad.
Every time I read Dean Groom’s blog the temptation to re-immerse myself in online and startegy games is great. I just am not prepared to spend the time atm but know that will change some time in the future when Misses 7 and 4 are a little older.