Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Man named James Paul Gee

The more time I spend  reading and thinking about James Paul Gee's What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy, the more I realize how games aren't just some form of entertainment. Just like how movies and films can be used for entertainment, they can be used for educational purposes. I'll take a few paragraphs specifically talking about a few ideas that he describes in the earlier parts of the book and what I think of them.

One of the first things he discusses is this idea of literacy. Now the first thing that pops into my mind when I think of literacy is reading. This was actually last year. However, now I have evolved the definition of this word to something much more. If I had to define it with my own words it would be the following: being able to comprehend, understand, and manipulate a certain medium. In this case, Gee discusses what it means to be digitally literate and most importantly what it means to be literate in video games.

However, being literate is only one thing. There is an idea that coincides with being literate and it's called semiotic domains. As Gee puts it, "any set of practices that recruits one or more modalities... to communicate distinctive types of meanings." What does this have to do withe literacy though? A great example that Gee uses is a description of a play in basketball. Now any person can read the series of words that make up sentences which in turn make up the description of the play. If the person can read it but not comprehend what is being said then that person is not literate in basketball and doesn't fit into the semiotic domain. To put it simply a semiotic domain is a domain where there are shared ideas, traits, and beliefs. Basketball is the semiotic domain and being literate in it is a trait.

How does this relate to video game, myself, and others? I'll describe how I fit into all of this first. In order for me to be a video game critic I must belong to a semiotic domain called video games. Furthermore I must also belong to a domain called video game critic. If I do not fit into either of these groups then I am not qualified to be a critic. Why is it so important? In order for me to even start critiquing and analyzing games I must completely literate in the medium. I have to understand what is going on in the game, how it works, why it works, and be able to understand the game on a fundamental level. If I don't understand this and am able to comprehend it at an abstract level then I have no right to critique any game. Why? Because there is no way for me to tell what mechanic/systems are good and bad. By educating myself and being literate in the video game domain I become an expert in the field.

This also applies to other people as well. People need to be more literate in video games. If not we will all just buy crappy games or buy games without questioning what's good or bad. By being critics, gamers have a better chance at making the gaming industry a better place. The domain of games used to belong just to the nerds and such but now it's not. The audience has grown. In response, people should be more literate too.

Now because I'm an aspiring journalist/critic there is one more step that I must take above normal gamers. I mentioned earlier that I must belong to another domain called game critic. Well, in this game critic domain  I must be literate in reading reviews and understanding how to write reviews. In addition I must understand how to pitch ideas for features, communicate with other critics, etc. Now I would go in detail but even I'm not literate enough to describe more about this domain.

Anyway, I've learned that this book is amazing. It has so much to offer me in terms of video games but beyond that too. My career path involves video games and I want to keep reading this book and hopefully I'll be enriched by it.

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