Roger Travis


Classicist, gamer.

  • Session proposal: Games != Video Games–humanities voices crying in the wilderness?


    It seems like a bunch of proposals are already talking about text-based games, which is making my heart glad.

    I want to propose a session specifically on the issue of people’s tendency to think and write about game-based learning only in terms of video games. This tendency comes to the fore very strongly at conferences like Games+Learning+Society, and seems to me to put the momentum towards adoption of meaningful play across culture in jeopardy. The danger I see is that, if my group’s findings thus far are correct, video games won’t be able to deliver on the real promise of game-based learning, because their rulesets aren’t (and perhaps can’t be) designged to foster higher-order skills like analysis and creativity. If we’re right that games teach their rulesets rather than their content, a lot of learning games are being designed poorly, and will give unsatisfactory results.

    This concern also of course takes in the issue of “fun,” and I’d like to start the session off with that burning question, which never seems to fail to produce debate: to what extent does any game, and any learning game in particular, need to be fun to accomplish its goals? The students in Operation LAPIS aren’t having a lot of fun when they’re composing Latin for their characters; on the other hand, they are engaged with a ruleset that immerses them in a text-based world that, as far as learning to do humanistic inquiry is concerned, is far richer than any 3D recreation of the ancient world could be.

    Should we insist that games doesn’t mean video games? Should we insist that low-tech, inexpensive text-based games may have the greater affordances? If so, how do we get people to listen, and what should we say if they do?