Video Games Provide Meaningful Context for Diversity

Earlier this week at the Iowa ACRL Spring Conference, Dr. Roberto Ibarra presented an update from his ACRL National Conference paper. His presentation, "Context Diversity and the Role of Academic Libraries," applied much of the initial findings from his "A Place to Belong: The Library as Prototype for Context Diversity." While his speech had a number of messages for libraries as a whole, I found his "high context" and "low context" discussion important to the appeal and success of video games.

Ibarra described "high context" as a need to have more social and cultural context to communicate and interact with the world. Knowledge and learning in "low context" is isolated and divorced from real world application, it is simply words and tasks. "Low context" learners do not need additional information to make the content meaningful. "High context" learners do. "High context" includes gestures, social setting, history, posture, tone, and status in addition to words and tasks. These learners see the full picture and each part as equally important.

Video games allow a player to be either high context or low context.

Players with a "low context" model can be successful in a game based on the straightforward information a game offers. They can understand the words and text in a game and give it meaning. The task are straightforward tasks the allow the player the ability to keep moving forward in the game. "Low context" players can enjoy the game and be successful with this learning diversity model.

Video games are also "high concept." Players with a "high context" learning style can understand a video game through much more than the information presented in the gameplay. Video games players gain a deeper understanding and meaning of a game with the "high context" elements are applied. Players gain the history of the character, the social tone, and the interactions with non-playable characters (NPCs), in addition to the gameplay and tasks involved in a game.

"High context" diversity, according to Ibarra, includes a personal commitment, is a nonlinear process, and applies comprehensive thinking. Many researchers have said similar things about why video games are engaging and attractive to players. The player has the choice to engage in these aspects of a game and add meaning their.

This is one reason why video games are engaging across cultures and ages. If a player is from a "low context" understanding of the world and knowledge - video games work. They appeal to the factual and direct tasks of learners. But they also work if players live in a "high context" understanding of knowledge based on the comprehensive experience that video games can offer.

Now, I'm not arguing that video games create diversity. Video games do allow all contextual diverse players to be successful. Video games can connect with players regardless of their cultural background. And this is why understanding video games' application of contextual diversity is important. Video games provide a valuable common cultural experience.

Ibarra's keynote was insightful and he pushed that we as libraries can create spaces of both "low" and "high" contextual meaning. Video games are creating diverse learning experiences and our classrooms and libraries can too.


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