Required Reading: Portal
Are games just mere entertainment? Or can they be more? Obviously, I strive for the second part – and here is why I might not be that wrong.
This year, for the first time, a video game will appear on the syllabus of a course required for all students at Wabash College, where I teach. For me - and for a traditional liberal arts college founded in 1832 - this is a big deal.
Alongside Gilgamesh, Aristotle's Politics, John Donne's poetry, Shakespeare's Hamlet, and the Tao Te Ching, freshmen at Wabash will also encounter a video game called Portal.
This comes, of course, from the Brainy Gamer, Michael Abbott. And it is a logical consequence: games are becoming more and more mainstream. Practically all kids that are just a bit younger than I am (and a lot of my own generation) have grown up with games, they know the game's language, they can read those texts1.
But most of the time, they can not analyse it. Just as you have to re-learn to read literature and watch films in university, you have to re-learn to play games. It is time that universities and colleges catch up on that, or they will be overrun by students that want to deal with the topics they find most pressing – and find that there is no place to do so.
It will not be easy to start, but then again: a pioneer's life has never been easy.
I also need time to help acclimate some of my colleagues to "reading" a modern game. They're less resistant than you might think, but they need more than my speechifying. They need sound pedagogy. They need to taste it for themselves. We'll get there. I'll let you know how it goes.
Well: good luck from me.
And they understand it differently than, for example, the people from the Vereinigung gegen mediale Gewalt, who never learned to read games and, obviously, have no intention to do so. It is much easier to confine yourself to banning something you do not understand. ↩