Do you play video games?

Lucy (7) and I are playing Civilization Revolution (CivRev) on PS3 with great gusto. Sarah (4) plays this same game on the iPad and we all enjoy each others company in the family room. Here’s the opening to the game for those not familiar with Sid Meier‘s Civilization franchise:

A friend, who is not a teacher, once said to me that, ‘it does not matter too much about the content at all, it is how one talks about it’. As you know, learning is about connecting, and dialogue is essential, regardless of the medium. Family chat is a base from which to build understandings about life.

There have been some excellent conversations, during and after gameplay, confirming my belief and enthusiasm for the fun learning video games provide. This previous post about the Wii, Endless Ocean game  provides some background about this kind of learning, with James Gee’s theory and my children in mind.

Here’s a very incomplete, brief list of conversation topics and questions resulting from playing CivRev:

  • How do you win? Good question indeed. You can win in several ways, mostly peaceful. One way is a (military) domination victory, which is achieved by capturing all enemy capitals. The second way is economic victory, which requires 20,000 gold and the World Bank wonder. The third is cultural victory, which requires 20 converted cities, great people and wonders built. In addition, the United Nations wonder is required to complete the victory. The final type is with technology; the first civilization whose spaceship reaches Alpha Centauri is victorious. Imagine where these concepts lead our conversation. Of course, you need to know the taxonomy or tech-tree to research technology in the game, if one is to achieve victory.
  • What is a taxonomy? – an important concept in the game that needs to be understood, if one is to have a successful strategy. We chatted about this for ages in relation to the game but also re: life on earth. The kids enjoy David Attenborough DVDs and we will watch this later in the hols.
  • History – we have been playing CivRev for a year or so, on and off and in that time both girls have become incessantly interested in history. During one of our weekly visits to the local library, Lucy discovered Horrible Histories. Probably not very age-appropriate, especially for Sarah, nevertheless, the books and the tv series have obsessed both and led to some great conversations. We have (jokingly) banned singing of this song though.
  • ‘Great People’ – The six categories, Great Artist/Thinker, Great Builder, Great Humanitarian, Great Explorer/Industrialist, Great Leader, and Great Scientist have led to some biographical searches on the iPad.
  • Pompeii – a city we build when ‘playing Julius Caesar’ (yes, ‘anachronism’ is on our list). We are travelling to Italy in 2011 so we watched a documentary about the site and checked out the map. As a result of our conversation, the kids decided we should base ourselves in Naples.
  • Leaders – the girls wanted to know something about each of the leaders they could play. Cleopatra really is their favourite ‘ruler’ but she ‘looks wrong compared to the real Cleopatra‘ (continuing our ongoing chats about ‘representation’ in a number of guises).
  • The origins of Art – both girls love drawing and the opening trailer shows some cave paintings leading to us having fun at Lascaux.

This list could continue on to discuss geography, the map on the bedroom wall, Google Earth and a number of other concepts that we have stumbled upon while having fun…but a game beckons.

What are you learning playing video games?



  1. Amazing write up on one of my favorite games… I don’t have children yet, but I never imagined using this as a teaching tool… Thank you for giving me another reason not to trade this game in… You rock…

  2. I’m learning quite a lot about team work from playing Call of Duty online. I have a particular ‘style’ of play that helps the team in certain ways, and I am rewarded for identifying and drawing on the strengths of others. Because I’m not the best (ehem – I mean, because I get tired of totally pwning) I also don’t tend to lead or dominate the action…but get a thrill when I do!

    I feel like I see more value in ‘personal bests’ after playing a game I thought would be too difficult for me. It’s my first game where you have to control the camera, and the walking, and the aiming, and the shooting – at once! I had tried playing games like that before, but was such a noob that I struggled and quit easily (there’s only so much sky or ground you can look at). Playing this game online gave it a social, or at least human aspect that motivated me to try again. I know as an English teacher I should go and play the single player story mode and evaluate the narrative construction or something, but tbh I’m having way more fun learning about learning.

    And that’s what I think of games right now.

      • Darcy Moore

      • 13 years ago

      Thanks Kelli. I have that game too but have never played it online. Your comments has inspired me to do a bit of ab archaelogical dig (literally and metaphorically) to reflect on my history playing video games. Post coming soon 🙂

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