Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Gaming for Grades--Plug in the PlayStation Now!

From the Wired Campus blog comes the link to this story about the use of games in higher education to develop business skills. Let Chip Luman, Human Resources Vice President at Charles Schwab give you his take:

The people who play games are into technology, can handle more information, can synthesize more complex data, solve operational design problems, lead change and bring organizations through change.

Here at Socrates Tech our faculty were already aware of Mr. Luman's insights. In fact, his thoughts mirror those of our founder Socrates, "I cannot teach anybody anything, I can only make them think." Mr. Luman is saying that those sexist, violent, and sometimes racist video games that he's referring to in the quote enhance the thinking abilities of gamers. What turned him on to these insights? He read and reflected on Got Game: How the Gamer Generation is Reshaping Business Forever by John C. Beck and Mitchell Wade. This book received a five-star rating from reviewers on Amazon.com. What's the Beck and Wade bottom line?

Gamers are better risk-takers, show particular confidence in their abilities, place a high value on relationships and employee input and think in terms of "winning'' when pursuing objectives.

I don't play games myself, but maybe I'll start. If playing games can make me smarter, then why not? I should add that for years I've advised my students that a good leisure-time activity that develops the ability to think is poker. I haven't done any research to prove my contention that poker makes you smarter, but poker involves math, reasoning, risk-taking, self-confidence--in short, many of the skills that are of value in the business world.

The interest in the relationship between gaming and business success is just starting to prompt academic research into this fascinating subject. As those of us with the coveted Ph.d. after our names know, things are not always as straightforward as they appear to be. It could well be the case that smart people self select to play games. Thus, it wouldn't be the gaming that made for smarter people, but the other way around.

Gamers' families must have a nice disposable income. A couple of hundred bucks for a PlayStation plus the cost of the games wouldn't be a good use of money for many families. More family income provides those gamers with additional advantages in life that non-gamers don't possess. Better schools, clothes, diet, and medical care are examples.

Then, too, my understanding is that the great majority of gamers are male. If you buy in to Beck and Wade's gaming theory, then where does that leave women and female students, few of whom play games. I guess it leaves them to be sex objects, the way they're portrayed in so many games-- skimpily clad, extra large bosoms heaving, and at the mercy of powerful, ruthless males. Now that I think about it, I think I see why females avoid games. Gaming does seem like macho territory, doesn't it?

My female students do just as well in my courses as the male students. Maybe better. That tells me that gaming isn't the only game in town when it comes to success in the classroom.

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