Shameless Plug #2...

On Monday, Jenny Levine's featured a story that Chris covered over at Bibliographic Gaming. Great exposure for the blog and hopefully opens up the discussion for others.

Chris, Christy and I have had an ongoing discussion about the use of mods and other video game engines , like Half-Life,for educational uses. Neverwinter Nights is one popular video game that contains a powerful toolset in order to mod the game.

The creator's of the "Revolution" mod for Neverwinter Nights will actually be presenting next week at GDC (Game Developers Conference). GDC is still focused on commercial games, but they've added a serious games summit this year. Check back for any coverage of the event.

Read, Relax, Reflect...

I've been reading and throughly enjoying the newest issue of The Gamer's Quarter. It was just released this week and like the previous seven issues is full of enjoyable essays. The Gamer's Quarter is about as close as I've seen to a creative writing anthology for video games. As librarians and others in education, it's worth your time to check it out and see how games transcend the activity of play and settle into our memories and emotions.

Here are some of the articles I've enjoyed from previous issues as well (all of which are available for download)...

Issue #7:
Faith & Fantasy - Heather Campbell
Use Your Illusion - Amandeep Jutla
Mushroom Hunting in Heels - Matthew Collier

Issue #6:
Console Identity - Heather Campbell
A Brief Note on Pacing in Videogames - J.R. Freeman

Issue #5:
I Shoot Therefore I AM - Francesco-Allesio "Randorama" Ursini
Shadows - Brian N. "Antitype" Wood
Why Game? - M. "dhex" O'Connor

Issue #4:
Shadows of an Art Form - Mr. Mechanical
Shadow of the Colossus - PS2
The Hero and the Sleeping Woman - JMG114
Myth and Good Storytelling in Video Games
Controller (R)Evolution - dessgeega
Wall-Jumping for Kicks - Swimmy
The Happiest Time of My Life - Pat the Great

Gaming Aggression: It's not what you play - it's what you do

As my students are forming a thesis to show that video games increase short-term aggression, a new study comes out from Texas A&M International University which conducted a meta-analysis of research into violent video games. The results of the study match what our students found. Here are a few comments from the author of the study from the story in

"Overall results of the study found that although violent video games appear to increase people’s aggressive thoughts (which it would not be surprising that people are still thinking about what they were just playing), violent games do not appear to increase aggressive behavior. "

"Thus it was concluded that there is little evidence from the current body of literature on violent video games that playing violent video games is either causally or correlationally associated with increases in aggressive behavior. "

There is an interesting and worthwhile discussion about what players do with the increases in aggression. If we can prove increases in aggression, the question is what do we, as gamers, do with that aggression? Does it result in action? If gamers are aware of this emotional reaction can they prevent violent action? I started this discussion with the English students and I would be interested to know your opinions as well.

I say yes, increases in aggression levels does not need to result in violent action. What do you think?

Find the full story on here...

Gaming Aggression: It's what you play

Over the last two weeks another librarian and I worked through 3 different scholarly articles about violent video games and aggression with two sections of English composition. The goals of the assignment are to construct and prove a thesis based on proven evidence and to read and dissect a peer reviewed journal article. While forming and proving a thesis is vital, getting the students over the "fear" of a scholarly article is one of the key benefits that helps prepare them for research in other classes. Here is the common thesis the students' developed:

The short-term effects of college students playing violent video games are aggressive thinking and behavior.

Here are some of the student's findings from two of the articles:

Carnagey, Nicholas L. and Anderson. Craig A. “The Effects of Reward and Punishment in Violent Video Games on Aggressive Affect, Cognition, and Behavior.” Psychological Science, 16.11 (2005): 882-889.

· - “Violence in a video game, regardless of whether it is rewarded or punished, can increase hostile affect” (Carnagey and Anderson, p.885).

- “Rewarding violence in video games can increase aggressive affect, aggressive cognition, and aggressive behavior” (887).

Kirsh, Steven J., Olczak, Paul V., and Mounts, Jeffery R. W. “Violent Video Games Induce on Affect Processing Bias” Media Psychology 7: (2005): 239-250.

- Findings show violent video games play brings forth more obvious aggressive behavior in players (p. 247).

- A non-hostile person was brought to the level of a hostile person by playing a violent video game (p. 248). - In short term, aggression with violent video games is a proven fact while in the long term it isn’t proven (p. 248).

The discussion about playing video games and violent games was interesting. The students were able to come up with many "ifs" or "buts" for violent games and aggression. This was very instructive because the students then were able to discover how the research tried to account for these "ifs."

In addition, the students made the important distinction between speculation of violent games creating violent personalities and the evidence that showed only short term increases in aggression levels. The literature stressed the evidence in a variety of studies about the short term, but only could hypothesis about any long term increases in aggression.

photos provided via by:

Gamer Ghost

This past weekend my relatives came for a visit. This was the first time they had come since the death of their son (link here). I love their entire family and was very glad to spend time with them, but I couldn’t help but feel the shadow of my godson Luke. He was so filled with life and joy that his light is sorely missed. If felt this way, I can’t even begin to imagine what his parents feel on a daily basis.

I am glad to know that all of the things we did together were what Luke would have enjoyed as well. Our main activity for most of the weekend was playing video games. As I sat with my son and Luke’s sister playing our DS and Gameboys, I could clearly feel Luke with us watching over our shoulders and playing right along. I miss him.

Luke’s dad and I had good conversations about games, what he likes to play and what Luke played. We talked about the strategy games Luke played and all the logic and skills he used playing. His dad was impressed with Luke’s ability to successful manage resources and run small medieval villages in Stronghold or conduct attacks from three theaters in other RTS games.

I’m thankful for the love and spirit Luke shared with me during his life and I grateful for his continued inspiration.

Library Dusk... A point & click research adventure

At the end of January, I taught an instruction session for an upper level Communication class where the assignment was relatively straightforward (find scholarly articles/works to write a response paper on), with a few additional requirements.

I wanted to do something different from what the students "felt" they already knew, while still allowing us to focus and pull out some targeted search strategies and higher level information literacy skills... And thus, I created "Library Dusk" which was inspired by the DS game Hotel Dusk: Room 215

The new Nintendo DS game, "Hotel Dusk," is an interactive graphic novel / adventure game. You play as a former police officer trying to solve a murder through the use of clues and investigation. A lot of the progress is depended on what sources of information you follow (people, clues, evidence) and what the quality of those sources are.

Sources of information, quality evaluation...

It sounded like a nice parallel to some information literacy skills. And so I wanted to try something similar as a review/walkthrough on locating sources for the Communication class. Using the Turning Point technology, I created a multiple path, point & click adventure. Or at least, a multiple path, click & vote research process. The diagram shows the paths the students could take. The objective was to find two sources that could be used for the assignment. The 1st choice was between books, articles, or the web. The 2nd choice was a database/website/catalog decision. Choices 3 and 4 were on search terms and narrowing results. Any dead end paths brought the students back to the nearest choice or "fork" in order to choose again.

Every path was hyperlinked within the Power Point slides, so that any decision the students made could be followed seamlessly. We used turning point to vote on each path and choice as a class. Voting on a class level was beneficial since it allowed for more discussion than if voting was done either in groups or individually.

Overall, it was a pretty successful review. Most of the students stayed engaged in voting, reacting to the results, and discussing the choices. In fact, the students even discussed Boolean searching on their own.

I'll post some more thoughts on it later, after more of the evaluations are back. But I'd love to know if anyone is doing something similar and how it's worked out.

Research isn't that different than a traditional adventure game... we've just got to create the adventure to draw them in.

The game photo is from

Simple Facts Make a Difference

Over the past few weeks I’ve spent time with a literature review on the issue of violent video games and aggression. I started the literature review in order to find a number of focused articles for a small thesis paper. The goal of the assignment is to help first year students use facts to prove a thesis through scholarly articles. There are a series of posts coming about my literature review, but also on my experience using it as a research topic for two English composition classes.

The students entered the topic with a variety of personal opinions and biases. But part of the challenge of doing the literature review was to recognize and move beyond the personal opinions of the researchers. Published statements like, “the hit Grand Theft Auto for the Sony GameBoy Color,” raise eyebrows and suspicions from students. (Fact #1: Sony produces the Playstation 2(PS2), Playstation Portable(PSP); Fact #2: Nintendo produced the GameBoy Color). Students know these facts through experience and pop culture education. And to give them an article with what they consider an obvious fact incorrect in the first sentence, does not bode well for their acceptance and belief of the remaining research. This inaccuracy not only discredits the research findings in the students’ view, but also leads them to the conclusion that for the writer video games are not even a serious enough topic to make checking a few widely held facts a priority. “They just want to find something to blame,” were the words of one student.

This discovery not only helped me to be more aware of my own fact checking (and those peer reviewing research), but it served as an example for my students as well. If they would discredit a researcher based of incorrect facts – what would (should) their professor do to their work if they use and site facts incorrectly.

WoW - Worlds Apart

I just finished listening to David Warlick's podcast Connect Learning from back on January 8th. David interviews his college aged son while playing Blizzard's World of Warcraft.

While I've never played (two small children and two master's degree's put a stop to the time commitment) I'm familiar with the game and have heard a variety of podcasts on the game. David's interview really shows the complexities and vocabulary of the game. I take a lot of the gameplay and terms for granted, but listening to the podcast gave me the perspective from those outside the game.

There's been a lot written about WOW and the literacy skills involved. But a lot of what I've been reading digs deep into the game. But for anyone just getting started David's podcast is a nice start.

The conversation between father and son and between gamer and non-gamer, isn't all that far off from a reference transaction. "Why are you going that way?" "How come you clicked there?" "What does that label mean?" It's all a matter of perspective.

Image provided by Kingfox via

Coming in From the Cold...and Fighting the Dragons Along the Way

I’ve been in a blogging drought as of late, with only one post last week. Maybe it’s too cold, maybe I’m lazy and even though I’ve had stuff going (LOEX) and ideas running around, but I just couldn’t get them out. Part of the reason for the drought was my single minded determination to complete Final Fantasy III for the Nintendo DS.

I had started the game at the end of December, but was just picking away at it. Last week I got to the final section and died making my way through the final castle. I first I was frustrated since I was able to handle most other enemies, but the dragons killed me (granted I’ve since found out that they are as powerful as some of the final boss battles). While the game through up high levels of challenge every now and again, I really asked myself if it was worth continuing playing. While I enjoyed the gameplay (it’s a classic turn-based RolePlaying Game), the narrative is incredibly weak. But I enjoyed playing and felt enough of a connection to my characters to spend the next few days leveling up my party. After finally winning a battle against one dragon, I felt ready to tackle the end game. The final areas in the game were easy compared to my “dragon hurdle” and I breezed through the remainder of the game.

While I’d love to ramble on about the old-school RPG fun I had, I’m telling this story for a reason… my frustration, determination and success were not that different to what I see students go through on research projects. The overwhelming hurdles, the idea to give up and call it “good enough” and the rewarding feeling of success fall right in line with a challenging paper. The more I’ve thought about it, I’ve realized that the reasons I stuck with the game could be useful in helping us get students to stick with assignments.

What kept me coming back…

- Intuitive interface: Not only knowing how to navigate, but wanting to navigate as well; if only students would say the same about our catalogs and databases; I felt I could be successful because I knew the overall game system, without that sense of confidence giving up would have come easier

- Personal investment: I cared about these characters, not enough to actually create an emotional connection, but enough to want to know what happens; The game used a customizable character system that made me more involved with each character since I spent time developing their skill sets; Customization, plain and simple; A piece of the game/project/search was mine since I was able to customize it; Systems with customization could provide some of that same sense of attachment

- Determination & Accomplishment: My personal resolve to see it through, might be because I'm stubborn, but it's also because I wanted that sense of accomplishment; our students are not any different - I've spent time at reference coaching students through a tough paper and helping convince them that they could do it and that it is worth pushing through; A little coaching now and again is needed, we all need some help with our egos now and again; If we can not only help foster that determination, but encourage it along the way our students will be better off

Images from

LOEX Bound... Yippee

I was surprised yesterday to read that the LOEX conference had filled within a few minutes of opening up. Andrew over at library+instruction+technology blogged about the frantic pace of registration as well.

I felt lucky last week when I found out my poster presentation was accepted at LOEX, now I feel incredibly lucky… and nervous. This will be my first national offering and I’ve got a nagging ego. But I do believe in my content and believe that many people can be successful integrating gaming strategies without years of game development. I’ve had success and I hope that sharing my work will help others (Which is also part of the reason I blog).

Here is my initial poster presentation proposal, feel free to give me feedback:

“Grand Theft Information Literacy: Teaching with Video Game Strategies”

Video games do teach. The challenging question is not if they teach, but how. Gee (2003), Prensky (2006) Shaffer (2006), Van Eck (2006) and many others are part of a growing body of research devoted to answering how video games teach. But how can librarians integrate games and game strategies into the classroom? And how do these strategies change library instruction? The answers do not need to be complicated. This presentation examines how the Charles C. Myers Library at the University of Dubuque integrated gaming strategies into the existing instruction program and witnessed increases in student creativity and productivity.

Regardless of if the students are gamers or not, gaming strategies are rooted in educational theory and can create a new classroom experience. Since getting started can be intimidating, the University of Dubuque took small steps. The goal of the program was to integrate the educational benefits of games, without the complex creation of original games.

Through the 2006 report by the Federation of American Scientists and a review of the literature, the instruction program identified 10 specific video game strategies. Over the course of two semesters, the instruction program used these strategies in two sections of a world music course and eight sections of a research writing course. These sessions focused specifically on the research process and website evaluation.

The presentation describes how the instruction program mapped game strategies to ACRL outcomes, created activities based on game strategies, assessed the success and modified the instruction sessions. The program used both qualitative and quantitative assessments to evaluate the gaming instruction sessions. Through these strategies the students were more engaged in discussion, more willing to ask questions and performed more authentic demonstrations of information literacy skills.

This research found that students benefited from these strategies, regardless if they identified themselves as gamers or non-gamers. The how to integrate games and what they teach does not need to be complicated. The poster presentation provides a starting point for librarians wondering how to get started incorporating video games and strategies into library instruction. Starting small, understanding the concepts, and being willing to explore and stumble along with the students resulted in rewarding experiences for both the students and the librarians.

ESA Outcoming President Pushes Games as Education

At the DICE (Design Innovate Communicate Entertain) Summit today, the out-going ESA President Doug Lowenstein had this to say about the educational importance of video games:

I also hope the industry, writ large, will take the games as education movement more seriously. Very serious people in government, politics, and academia see serious potential in games. It's a huge opportunity for this industry…

(via Chris Kohler’s live blog coverage at Wired’s Game|Life)

Read Lowenstein’s comments gaming’s educational uses and the rest of the industry here