Gamers Teaching Through Gaming

Hello Everyone!  Originally I was going to do an article about trolling as social conditioning today, however I have been inspired to do a different sort of article today.

While many are talking about the shooting that happened in Colorado last night/this morning I want to talk about something that I think is more important.  Gamers who teach their children through gaming: a cultural phenomenon being used by gamers to teach their children.  The reason I am not doing a post about the shooting is encapsulated by Patton Oswalt on Twitter:

Patton Oswalt on Aurora Shooting

While it is important to recognize these tragedies we must also be able to move beyond them.  Dwelling on them for too long only makes events like these more effective as their point is to disrupt the natural flow of life and instill fear.  When we talk about them in the ways that we often do we empower those who wish to commit similarly heinous acts and increase their efficacy.

Now, on to the topic for today’s discussion.

I was inspired by Gabe of Penny Arcade’s Gabe and Tycho today.  There have been two comics: The Proxy Part 1, and Part 2 that have been about teaching children.  More importantly not just teaching children, but parents learning to know when to let their children fail and when to help their children succeed.  In The Proxy, Part 2 Tycho says: “You don’t want to be one of those guys.  We saw that shit in scouts.  We all knew whose dad worked at Boeing. You could tell who had access to a wind tunnel.”  In the panel you can see that he is referring to pinewood derbies.

Tycho makes a very obvious remark about our own society and culture: that parents don’t want to see their children fail – so much so that some parents will actually do things for their children so that their children don’t have to experience the harsh reality of failure. However, the thing that I love about the two comics most, The Proxy, Part 1 and Part 2, is that there is a direct connection made between teaching children card games (Poke’mon in the case of the comic) and teaching children sports.  It draws a parallel between teaching children through traditional methods, such as pinewood derbies, and teaching children through non-traditional methods, such as the Poke’mon card game.

Through sports we try and teach our children many things which will make them successful in life: hard work, team work, perseverance, and dedication.  All of these character traits are traits that parents love to see in their children.  Winning builds confidence, but failure builds understanding.  Through failure we all learn many things in life.  These things are often very harsh realities about life, but they are essential if our children, as individuals, are going to succeed in life.

Gabe notes in his update for today, Friday July 20th, that: “So the current storyline is indeed taken straight from my life. My son attended his very first Pokemon League night on Tuesday.” The comic that he made, while indeed made for laughs, was taken straight from his real life.  But what struck me most were a few remarks regarding his son later in the update:

I’m incredibly proud of him though. For one thing he kept playing which I can’t imagine was easy. Also he asked if we could practice before he goes back next week. The fact that he wants to go back makes me extremely happy and you can bet we’ll practice.

I can’t teach him how to hit a baseball but I can sure as shit teach him about synergies, draw engines and probability.

There are so many parallels that can be drawn between a child learning to play baseball and a child learning to play Magic: The Gathering, or Poke’mon the card game.  The most obvious, to me, is the pride that parents feel for their children.  I teach children martial arts three days a week and the thing that parents love to see most (usually) is not that their child is winning, but that their child is persevering, practicing, and working hard; they’re learning essential life skills for success later in life.  When working with parents and children the pride I see most often comes when a child, after losing, comes to understand that they need to work harder and thus develop a resolve to be better.

It’s important to recognize that traditional sports are not necessary for this development in children.  When a child wants to do well at something we should be willing to push them to make them better, but in a way that they will enjoy it and understand why we are pushing them so hard.  This can be achieved through baseball or soccer, but can also be taught through card games, board games, and many other non-traditional sports games.

Gamers can and do use games to make teach their children these lessons.  Gabe demonstrates all of this through his son’s experience playing Poke’mon.  We can teach children how to think, analyze, and understand through gaming.  We can teach them about how to make themselves better through practice and hard work.  This is what parents want to see in their children.  It’s important to begin recognizing that sports are no longer the only way that we can teach character traits like hard work, team work, perseverance, and other life skills that children should learn in order to be successful.

Gamers are teaching their children in new ways that the old tradition wouldn’t have thought of.  This is the ingenuity that I love to see in the gaming world and I can’t wait until these sorts of games becomes a mainstream way to teach children the character traits that parents want to see in their children.

Your Resident (Not Really) Anthropologist


Collective Effervescence and Conventions: What Makes Conventions so Amazing

What is it that makes a convention so popular?  This is a question that I think many of us know the answer to: the amazing and fun atmosphere that they provide.  What makes it fun and amazing?  It’s the fact that we are all part of the same group, that we are all self described as a geek, a nerd, a gamer, or whatever else the convention is offering.  But more so, we get lost in the collectivity of the convention.

Collective effervescence was first described by Emile Durkheim in his book Elementary Forms of Religious Life.  He was studying “primitive” religions (I put primitive in quotation marks for, what I hope are, obvious reasons) and in studying these religions he most notably had a focus on the rituals and rites of the religions.  In these rituals he noticed this perceived “collective effervescence” which was an energy that flowed through the group participating in the ritual.  For the individual it was about forgetting about the individuality of one’s self and thinking of one self as a part of the group, being the group not the individual.  The group provided the identity for the individual.  In short, collective effervescence is a shared experience and elicits strong emotion, most often euphoria.

This collective effervescence has been studied for decades now and it has become clear that this isn’t just a religious phenomenon or something that is solely associated with rituals.  Collective effervescence is something which is experienced merely by being a social creature.  Anyone who plays games, who gets together with friends, or does something that involves direct interaction with a group (as opposed to doing things only as an individual) can be a part of the shared experience that is collective effervescence.

We can see this in just about every large social event.  Sporting events are an excellent example where people are no longer individuals and become defined by the group they are a part of.  Going to a sporting event one loses their self and connects with every other person through a single rallying point – the support of a team.  I know this experience with the Green Bay Packers.  When going to a bar or a friend’s house to watch a Packer game I am no longer defined by my individuality as a Philosophy and Anthropology major, or as a geek who goes to conventions.  The things which make me unique, are wisked away and I connect with everyone around me through our mutual and collective support of the Green Bay Packers.  Screaming, shouting, and yelling are all mutual feelings that make up a shared experience.

Dance Picture from CONvergence

This is a picture from the dance at CONvergence. Dance is an amazing way to experience Collective Effervescence.

Conventions are not unique in their creation of collective effervescence.  It is the idea behind conventions, the rallying point, which moves us to buy our tickets and take 6 hour car rides that makes it unique.  The being a nerd, a geek, a gamer, or whatever else the convention focuses on that makes it and its participants unique.  Conventions are so popular because it is a way to connect with people who share the same unique interests.  Conventions are ways to share experiences with friends, family, and complete strangers.

It is also about celebrating what makes us unique.  There’s a subtle and beautiful irony there that I love.  When we are out in the world, scattered, the things that we love separate us from the majority of people around us, and we have pride in that unique thing which we don’t necessarily share with the majority of people.  Out of this pride we seek to have experiences with others who share that same uniqueness which separates us as individuals from society as a whole, while simultaneously binds us to others in society.  At conventions it is about celebrating what makes the group different from other groups and being proud of it.

It is easy to lose one’s self among all of the costumes, games, parties, and dances that happen throughout a convention.  When one is stopped for pictures of their costume the costumer is recognized not just for his or her individual effort, but for being a productive part of the community.  The mere act of taking a picture of someone in costume tells them that you like, if not love, their costume and that you think they are a valuable member of the community.  This is the atmosphere that conventions have been built around.

Look how happy those villains are

The smiles on their faces are all part of the shared experience these friends had together. As friends they interacted with strangers and created memories and experiences that could only be created at a convention.

Losing one’s self is a great thing to do as well.  It creates human connections.  It relies on empathy.  It is a way to have trust in someone who you barely know, to let your guard down and say “This is me!”  and have someone say back to you “I’m like that too!”

But it isn’t only about the shared experiences with strangers, but a way for friends to participate in the larger group together.  It’s about sharing moments with both friends, family, and strangers simultaneously.  Costuming is something that I cannot do on a regular basis (at least not yet) and even when my friends and I get together it would be rather strange for all of us to be in costume constantly (even if it would be absolutely awesome).  Conventions serve a purpose of creating memories and experiences with friends and strangers that couldn’t normally take place.

Conventions are not just a bunch of geeks or nerds getting together, but geeks and nerds building experiences and memories together that are unique to only geeks and nerds.  It is about building an experience and a memory that only geeks and nerds can have and also sharing it with the people that you love.

One more photo from CONvergence for everyone:

Women "Gender Bending" the Doctor from Doctor Who

This was a group of women who all coordinated their costumes together for the Masquerade at CONvergence. The show was amazing and they were stopped for probably a good 20 minutes while everyone was taking their picture together.














Your Resident (Not Really) Anthropologist

CONvergence 2012 – Diverting my posting

So I have decided that I’m going to attempt to update twice a week – Mondays and Friday.  I made this decision last week, which was terrible timing because it was the week of CONvergence in Bloomington, MN.  Because of this I may not have an article up today (as was scheduled for the Panoptic Power series that I’m working on).  However, I did get a ton of pictures up from the convention.  So, in case I don’t get a chance to update Panoptic Power of Men in Gaming I’m going to share my flicker set with everyone and will get the article updated tomorrow morning.

This is me (left) and a female Doctor (David Tennant Style).

Saria from LoZ: Ocarina of Time

Saria from The Legend of Zeld: Ocarina of Time.

From Journey on the PSNThe character from Journey.

These were some of my favorites and you can check them all out on my Flicker Set: Here.

– Your Resident (Not Really) Anthropologist