spazi digitali e videogiochi

Videogames, interactive digital spaces, education and participation

We’re talking about videogames again: I’ve posted this content in the Italian section of the blog already – but it’s time to share an English version as well. This time I want to share with you something that has occupied me and my compañeros from The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly for several months, and which I really want to tell you about.

After a first tasting, which I had already discussed in the previous post here, the work of research and investigation for the European resource center SALTO Participation & Information restarted, always focusing on how to use videogames (and other interactive digital spaces) in non-formal education – and in particular, given the mandate of the research center, on how it is possible to educate towards participation in this manner.

For months, starting from last summer, we have been hunting for experiences, stories, and practices that used videogames, VR, AR, and the like for educational purposes. We especially faced two major challenges: the first was the difficulty or unhabit of those who carry out experimental interventions, as these still are, to document and leave a trace (even just online) of what is being done.

Surely the promise of global contacts and generalized conversations, made to all of us by social media more than 15 years ago, proved to be what it is in fact, namely a deceit to sell us pots – or if you prefer mirrors and beads – and to steal all data describing and organizing our lives meanwhile – but convincing youth workers, teachers, and educators to share their experiments, even just with a few posts that would allow one to trace back the idea and the creator, seems to really be a thing at the limits of the impossible. Maybe it’s also an innate reluctance to the spotlight, or some healthy humility pushed to the extreme, but anyway, this blog is here to give a small demonstration of the fact that when you do things that others consider even just a little interesting, it would be appropriate to tell and document them. And instead, we had a hell of a time recovering other stories, contacts, experiences beyond those coming from a narrow circle of hopeless nerds colleagues inclined to experiment in the digital field.

a publication collecting examples of uses of videogames and interactive digital spaces in education

The second major challenge was also a source of some personal disappointment: the world of videogames developers, even the indie ones – made at home by groups of people who often are also attentive to the social impact of their products, as well as sales data, and especially the world of formal education, research, universities, where in recent years research centers, museums, and educational offers that revolve around videogames as a cultural object have been structured, have only in small part deemed to give us attention.

So in addition to frustration and disappointment, we have left in the pen at least four or five stories of videogames and similar, used in educational settings, that we intercepted and yet we could not delve into by talking to their creators… who ghosted us.

I will only mention one that is particularly dear to me: the fact that the Polish Ministry of Education has included the video game This War Of Mine (which I had written about many years ago) as a possible “alternative” choice to reading books proposed to high school students, would have really deserved some investigation to understand if the rate of adoption of this proposal has been measured, with which subsequent effects, or even just what led to this decision by a ministerial structure, which does not seem generally a place that shows so much attention to innovation… Apparently, we will never know – or who knows, we will manage to have it told to us and we will be able to tell you about it somewhere in the future.

In the meantime, we have collected (other) six stories that seem significant to us, accompanied by some introductory chapters that try to further investigate how and why it is interesting, in our opinion, to use (also) these tools among those available today to those who want to establish educational relationships with boys and girls.

Some of the stories we have encountered, which have (or have not, as in the case of the Italian Fammi vedere la lunaShow me the moon) managed to end up in our publication, also seem to begin to outline a trend to produce videogames that are points of arrival of educational or training projects – like the one (which we described) that won the SALTO Award for the digital transformation of education.

This will soon, I believe, open another debate on the actual playability of products that propose themselves as videogames, but to work must have the first characteristic of games, namely to entertain and involve: will educators and operators be able to defeat their uncontrollable urge to preach, and to propose immersive experiences from which players can draw teachings – perhaps to be reworked together with some lateral proposal of debriefing of what happened?

a publication collecting examples of uses of videogames and interactive digital spaces in education

Another note on the margin of the work of composition and creation of this gallery of experiences: virtual reality / VR… has not yet arrived.

We have encountered at least three promising experiences, but none have yet achieved a user base that allows for a serious description of their impact, or are even still in beta-testing and will be released sooner or later. Once again, chasing after what is fashionable risks losing sight of what is really happening, and although many interesting experiments are moving in this field – even more so with the release of Apple’s headset, which I had the opportunity to try but… we’ll talk about that another time – we are still far from being able to consider the AR / VR horizon as something ready and available to do its part, let alone in an educational context.

In the meantime, visit the SALTO Participation Pool and download the PDF of our gallery of experiences. You can find everything here – let us know what you think!

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