Video Games, more than meets the eye

The Book

I chose to read the book, “What video games have to teach us about learning and literacy,” by James Paul Gee. I chose this book because I enjoy playing video games and it’s quite tiring to hear people mindlessly say that they are a waste of time or that “real” adults don’t play video games. This of course is a whole different blog post discussing the idea of child rearing and how people are raising children to be adults, and shouldn’t they learn the balance between work and play…but I digress.

Gee wanted to know why his four-year-old child was willing to put so much time and effort into something so challenging and even enjoyed it (Gee, 2008). Which is a great question given all the things that can happen.


Good video games teach a gamer to leverage knowledge of others [through walk-throughs, chat rooms, cheat codes and RL (real life) discussions] and to utilize various tools and technologies, to empower the self as well as the community (Gee, 2008). This is where I see people, technology and information coming together and forming something greater or what I hope it to be, a library.

Unfortunately, technological progress has many barriers especially in the field of education. For some reason many people believe the two cannot co-exist and that learning shouldn’t be something you do. As in learning shouldn’t be a verb. But Gee shares that video games require a player to learn [his focus is on role playing video games (RPGs)]. “Good” video games teach an active way of learning through encouraging “reflective metatalk and thinking,” which crosses over into the real world (Gee, 2008, pg. 46). When video games are designed well they not only walk the player through how to play the game correctly but also encourage exploration and adaptation. In the web post “The hyperlinked school library: engage, explore, celebrate,” Michael Stephens highlights key components of the report, “Listening to Student Voices,” which includes, “Technology is not extra, and computers and the internet are communication tools first,” (Stephens, 2010). The article goes on to develop the idea of expanding creativity which mentions how the “gaming generation” has impacted the mindset with teaching that it is okay to fail. I would also argue that playing video games also teaches the gamer to not be afraid of change. Gamers also come across obstacles where a technique doesn’t work which signals to the gamer that they should try something else. It also teaches persistence, this technique didn’t work so see what does, don’t be afraid to explore. “A good video game is often good learning,” (Gee, 2008, pg. 199).  And a good video game will teach a gamer how to succeed, reward persistence, but also keep the gamer on their toes and changes things up so that the game stays entertaining and the learning gets more advanced. And some game creators learn from their teaching mistakes.

“Learning should be both frustrating and life enhancing,” but in the right ways (Gee, 2008, pg. 6).


But video games are not something that Gee believes should be replacing the learning that comes from books or even movies, he states that, “stories in books and movies…are different. They offer different pleasures and frustrations,” (Gee, 2008, pg. 83). The following video illustrates that there are different ways to do so with RPGs as well.

I believe video games should be a part of the answer to the question Brian Mathews poses in, “Think like a start up.” What do “people need it (libraries) to become?” (Mathews, 2010, pg. 2). Mathews speaks of considering, “bigger bolder possibilities…transformative ideas…new processes,” and incorporating 21st century learners into the evolution of the library (Mathews, 2010, pg. 1). I love that the potential of what a library can be is demonstrated in the article, “Unquiet library has high schoolers geeked.” Where Mathews showcases a library that has changed students’ “social devices into instruments of learning,” by embracing technology that students are familiar with, their smart phones, and connecting it to a smart board in the library (Mathews, 2010). The library has merged with technology and teachers creating a media center with “distinct zones,” and librarians that are “full members of the teaching team, (Mathews, 2010. Now that is a thing of beauty.


All this has boiled down to one thought in my mind. The library can be so much more than I have ever imagined. This assignment has opened my eyes to just how behind or underutilized my local library currently is, although I look forward to helping to better it. Overall I believe Gee is on the right track, “video games are powerful learning devices for shaping identities… and learning content,” and libraries as well as schools would benefit from implementing active learning (Gee, 2008, pg. 199).


Gee, J. P. (2008). What video games have to teach us about learning and literacy. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Mathews, B. (2010, June 21). Unquiet Library Has High-Schoolers Geeked. Retrieved from

Mathews, B. (2012, April 3). Think Like A Startup: a white paper to inspire library entrepreneurialism. Retrieved from

Stephens, M. (2010, March 2). The hyperlinked school library: engage, explore, celebrate. Retrieved from

1 comment
  1. Hi @gloria

    Video games really can be great teaching tools, just as much as toys, puzzles, board games, and other interactive media can be used for learning. You did a good job linking this idea to the hyperlinked library, and I wish libraries would expand their offerings in this area. My local library has learning computers for young children, and each one has a healthy offering of learning games, but wouldn’t it be great if there were equivalent offerings for older children and teenagers? Even adults can learn through gaming! These are definitely the kinds of things to think about when considering the future of libraries.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *