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Like Films and TV, Video Games Find Way into University Classrooms

controllerThere’s a lot more to gaming than just killing zombies.

As gaming becomes a more significant part of the general culture, academics have turned their attention to the teaching and learning possibilities of increasingly sophisticated online games, as well as those played at home on the Wii, Xbox, or Playstation.

“Since 2000, gaming has become an increasing part of academic studies,” said Susan F. Scheibler, an associate professor in LMU’s School of Film and Television who specializes in video game studies and film culture and history. “Game-based learning has been rapidly growing, especially in Europe.”

The game world is a metaphor for the real world, Scheibler said, pointing out that in games the player has to confront problems, establish and work toward goals, and make constant assessments of their progress and of their knowledge base. The player is also constantly challenged as they move up levels within each game.

At LMU, Scheibler has incorporated video games into her courses for years, and psychology Professor Richard Gilbert is conducting extensive research into Second Life, a virtual online world. Scheibler says there is more interest in game pedagogy in recent years. “I think, as more gamers become professors, they’ll bring games into the classroom in really thoughtful and intellectually stimulating ways,” she said.

As the systems to deliver games expand, from consoles to computers to online games and now mobile applications, the learning strategies that include games will be amplified. From the early uses of games to teach math and language arts skills, to more developed concepts of literary theory, science, ethics and philosophy, games are multiplying in their functions and purpose.

Scheibler said that the teaching benefits of gaming extend beyond the skills and thinking habits developed while playing a game; the games can also stimulate in-class discussions of the relationships between avatars, the rhetorical positions that result from the game, and the contents of the game itself.

“Games have become the new movies and TV shows for education,” said Scheibler. “They have become a medium that can stimulate student engagement, learning and critical thinking across a variety of disciplines.”