The pandemic has impacted many industries. Esports and video games got a boost as it was a sport that did not need to be in person. These online continuations of the season gave a boost to the industry as well as popular games such as Animal Crossing, Among Us and the resurgence of Minecraft defined the quarantine. This, coupled with many students being in distance learning, gave streaming and video games a huge platform. The beginning of the pandemic was all about Animal Crossing which was a game that crossed into the mainstream. There were even politicians like President Biden who made their own island to show that they knew what was ‘hip’ and ‘cool’ with the youth.
This is all a fancy way of saying that the pandemic created an environment where streaming and video games collided. What isn’t talked about in relation to streaming and video games is the secondary effect the pandemic has had on education.
Teachers all over the United States and other countries around the world scrambled to find a way to use technology while being unable to meet in person. Online school is nothing new. There has always been a niche for online schooling, but never in this proportion or immediacy. Technology allowing for one-on-one communication had been slowly being integrated into school systems, but it is an expensive venture. Whether it be iPads or Chromebooks, if school systems did not already have such technology in place it became a huge headache to acquire it in a timely manner. But what came along with technology was how to connect with the students. Google Meets, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and similar platforms were rushing to fill the gap.
Use of Technology
Distance learning has created an influx of streaming gear not just for Twitch streamers, but also professionals. Teachers were buying microphones, green screens, second monitors, and ring lights for their homes. Suddenly they were recording their meetings as a VOD and editing it like a streamer would put it as a highlight real on Youtube. The pandemic has forced teachers to stray outside of the basic slide deck and making teachers become more of an academic streamer. There were TA’s in college who held sessions on Twitch. As well as teachers learning apps such as OBS to record their screens. The use of Discord, which had mainly been used around gaming, suddenly had an education version.
For many, this is a game of catch-up. What teachers do is learn so that they can be the most effective as they can during this time for their students. That means many teachers during the pandemic started looking up information where they could and that brought them onto the video gaming community.
Cultural and Physical Understanding
Teachers were thrown into this, many without prior knowledge, and had no background of this culture. How to control a chat, what happens if there was a ‘raid’ of non-students, emojis/emotes and the connotations, terminology, what are good setups and gear to have, along with all the other aspects of streaming that this community takes for granted. The blue light giving headaches and not physically being able to look at a screen for 7 hours a day, which can be a normal gaming session or a day of games in esports.
The answers came from the video game community who already had experience with these issues. Replicate streaming etiquette and learning about blue light filters as well as gaming equipment that would make the day-to-day easier in distance learning.
Along with the increase of technology, a new challenge appeared of how to keep students engaged. This had previously not been a primary issue because they were in the classroom and stuck there until the bell. Now students had the option to log in or not. If they logged in would they walk away or get distracted? Tiermaker, Among Us, etc were all used to create a touchpoint with students. It was a new challenge of how to draw engagement to get students to log in.
It was mostly Among Us that made it to mainstream classrooms. But there are so many more video games that can be used to integrate into the curriculum to make students engaged in learning.
How can video games be connected to the curriculum that is used in the classroom? For years teachers and parents have been trying to get fewer video games and more educational activities. But society grows and changes and so does the video game industry. It is now a gold mine resource of prior knowledge that teachers can tap into.
English is one of the easiest places that video games can be integrated into the classroom. There are many crossovers when it comes to literature and video games. The characterization of the characters in games teaches breaking down personalities. This is seen in cut scenes, voice line interactions, and lore. While many video games that have campaigns within games are set up within the basic heroes’ journey. In these campaigns, there are sometimes hidden easter eggs that promote critical thinking and focus on details. These elements are seen within a lot of literature as well.
These literary devices are rampant in video games. Repetition of quests or certain abilities or codes, symbolism, personification, are all normalized in video games. It is like satire. Students use satire all the time without knowing the precise name of what they are doing. It is important to show that students already have this arsenal of knowledge and empower them to use it.
There are games that have elements of content education within them too. Look at God of War and Hades. Both of these games have Mythology built right into it. The sell to teach Mythology to students when showing that it is a part of these popular games makes the engagement go way up. It shows that what is being learned does show up in their daily lives. It also creates excitement as it is something they like and get to learn more about it.
English is not the only subject that can be enhanced by video games. There is math involved in many games whether it be projectiles, flying through the sky, angles, how much damage is going to be taken, and more. Pokemon is a game that heavily relies on math, especially in the competitive sector of the community.
While science is seen in many forms of chemistry to forge items, Biology of animals or insects (looking at Animal Crossing), and Physics of creating buildings. Social Studies is scattered all over the place in gaming. There are the Tycoon games like Sim City that Economic classrooms use to help simulate what is being studied.
Music is used so many times in speed runs to time combinations. Games such as Deemo and OSU! are all about the beats and hitting the notes on time. Music integration, such as in Genshin, highlight different music from different regions. It is the art style and graphic design that gives so many of the video games life. This is a great untapped source of knowledge that the students process. Why not turn it so that it is integrated into what they are learning in school?
Social-Emotional Learning (SEL)
It isn’t just the content component of education, but also the Social-Emotional Learning that video games can help with. Multiplayer games teach communication and teamwork. Games that have a player-choice option teach cause and effect (consequence) of actions. There are many games that show society’s cognition of what should be, which promotes critical thinking, and many times it is about moral/ethical expectations. Video games promote problem-solving to get certain quests completed. Games such as Persona teach about identity and the imperfection of humans. Social Justice and issues within our modern-day society are reflected in video games. Just as literature is a mirror of the human experience, video games are now also doing that for this generation.
Education is less teacher-centered and more student-centered. How can student voices be uplifted in the classroom and student choice be valued in the curriculum? Video games provide a link, so that students can be empowered, but also a tool to connect something that students are passionate about to education. It provides a pathway to connect concepts to things that students are familiar with.
Pandemic, Education and Video Games
The pandemic has made it so there is no going back. Education has been changed forever, whether for the better or the worse is not something that will be known for some time. It is time for teachers to embrace the strength of the students and their knowledge. Pick a topic in school, there is surely a video game that has that aspect into it. Should all of school be video games? No. But is it a great resource for teachers to use? Yes. It is time for teachers to realize that it is time to upgrade what we used to know as teaching.
These are not the 90’s video games of the past of Math Blaster or Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego. These games have more educational value. Just as literature was used for social satire and to critique society back in the day, that is what video games are now doing. Video games are not weakening a generation but empowering them with an awareness of hard pressing matters that are within our own reality.
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