Choices in Video Games: Selection from Public Services Quarterly Editorial

The following is a short segment from my 2010 editorial in PSQ which discusses video games as potential models for research behavior and the general research process. This segment is focused on categorizing different types of choices players make. These three categories originate from Charsky's 2010 article "From edutainment to serious games: A change in the use of game characteristics" in Games and Culture.

Video games are a shared experience that require interaction and engagement from players.Players are actively engaging with the game, making decisions based on the information available to them, and shaping an experience that may be different for each player. While there are interactions in games that the designers force on a player either for the sake of gameplay or narrative, there still remain choices left in the player’s hands.

Charsky(2010) discussed how games provide players with three types of choices:

· Expressive

· Strategic

· Tactical

Expressive choice allows the player to create a character and personalize that character looks and abilities in order to create a sense of ownership over the character.Gee (2003) talks about this same idea when he discusses how games create a sense of agency for players. This expressive choice helps to create a personal connection with a character that a player may spend 10 – 50 hours with depending on the game.

Strategic choice discusses the technology and systems within the gameplay mechanics. Strategic choice creates systems for players to approach challenges in various ways and still arrive at successful and satisfactory outcomes. This is often done through branching paths and open ended choices that players must decide upon.Bogost (2007) discusses how games create systems for the player to apply various potential solutions to. This idea of systematic thinking that Bogost discusses creates the framework to allow the player to reach a conclusion with the given information, apply it to the game’s situation, and evaluate how successful the choice was.

It is these smaller individual choices that Charsky (2010) describes as tactical choices.These tactical choices are where information literacy skills are applied. Evaluating which piece of information or experience is essential to solve a given challenge.

Succeeding in these challenges requires the information literacy skills of collection, evaluation, organization, and application. Johnson (2005) sites these skills as how video games help players develop organizational and problem solving skills. Gee (2003) looked to these series of decisions and interactions as the ways in which games create good pedagogical models to engage and teach. De Freitas and Oliver (2006) describe the tactical choices in video games and the feedback they provide the player, as a way to create effective learning activities. The unique attributes, interactions, and choices video games create provide justification and interest for libraries to explore ways to integrate video games into learning.

I will be discussing more about these types of choices and what they can mean for library instruction during Friday's ACRL panel session with Neal Baker from Earlham and Katherine Todd from Manhattenville College.

Bogost, I. (2007). Persuasive games: The expressive power of videogames. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Charsky, D. (2010). From edutainment to serious games: A change in the use of game characteristics. Games and Culture, 5(2), 177-198. doi: 10.1177/1555412009354727

DeFreitas, S. & Oliver, M. (2006). How can exploratory learning with games and simulations within the curriculum be most effectively evaluated? Computers & Education, 46, 249-264. doi: 10.1016/j.compedu.2005.11.007

Johnson, S. (2005). Everything bad is good for you: How today’s popular culture is actually making us smarter. New York, NY: Riverhead Books.