Both James Paul Gee (2005) and Rowan Tulloch (2014) argue that video games can be used as pedagogical tools. In particular, I argue that both authors share the following connections in their articles: (1) That video games allow players to gain new skills by making sense of situated meanings, and; (2) That video games can act as pedagogical tools because they provide players with feedback for how to improve their in-game performance.
The first point of connection between Gee and Tulloch is that video games allow players to gain new skills by making sense of situated meanings. In his article, Gee argues that video games are “…‘action-and-goal-directed preparations for, and simulations of, embodied experiences’ they allow language to be put into the context of dialogue, experience, images, and actions. They allow language to be situated” (Gee 17). In other words, what Gee is arguing is that by playing video games, where the meanings of words are dependent on the situation in the game, players learn to think more critically about language and how it is used in different capacities. For example, both biologists and chemists use the term ‘polar,’ but its meaning is radically different depending on the discipline. Similarly, Gee advocates that certain terms might take on different meanings, whether the player is “…a member of a SWAT team or a scientist” (Gee 17). In this way, Gee argues that video games act as suitable mediums for players to gain a better understanding of situated language.
Tulloch (2014) echoes Gee’s argument that video games can act as learning tools by providing students with an understanding of situated meanings. Tulloch advocates that “…video games ask players to engage in unfamiliar worlds, perform tasks and understand logics of which they have little or no prior skill (from being soldiers in warzones, to criminal outlaws… to piloting planes)” (Tulloch 322). In this quote, Tulloch argues that video games demand players learn new skills in order to be successful in the game; however, what defines a correct action is subjective depending on the game. Therefore, video games must provide players with training to act properly. This is similar to Gee’s argument that players must learn how to perform (and make sense of) situated actions and language in order to succeed. In this way, both Tulloch and Gee argue that video games can act as pedagogical tools by teaching players how to interpret different meanings and respond accordingly.
The second point of connection between Gee and Tulloch is that both authors argue that video games utilize feedback mechanisms as pedagogical tools. Gee identifies this feedback aspect when he discusses the role of distributed intelligence, arguing that players “…gain competence through trail, error, and feedback, not by wading through a lot of text before being able to engage in an activity” (Gee 13). In other words, video games provide players with feedback as a pedagogical tool to guide them through the game. For example, the game Dark Souls uses death as a pedagogical tool; players who die leave blood splatters that can be clicked on in-game. These blood splatters allow the player to briefly observe the last actions of another player who died. This may provide some insight about the tactics nearby enemies use and/or what actions are more likely to lead to death. Thus, Gee argues that players may learn through feedback mechanisms what actions are preferable in certain games.
Likewise, Tulloch also identifies that video games provide “…constant corrective feedback to [the] player on their play strategies,” which include formats like “…virtual money, experience points, time remaining and even the number of military units available” (Tulloch 324). For instance, in League of Legends players are provided with a greater number of ‘influence points’ at the end of matches where they perform well. Similarly, players are awarded fewer points if they play poorly. In this way, both Tulloch and Gee argue that video games can act as pedagogical tools by providing players with regular feedback in order to help them improve their in-game performance.
In this way, both Tulloch and Gee argue that video games can serve as pedagogical tools by (1) encouraging players to get used to the idea that the meanings behind language and actions are situated, and (2), that video games often incorporate feedback mechanisms to teach players how to be successful in-game.
Gee, James. (2005). “Why Are Video Games Good For Learning?” Academic ADC Collaboration.
Tulloch, Rowan. (2014). “Reconceptualising Gamification: Play and Pedagogy.” Digital Culture & Education, 6(4).