Friday, March 16, 2012

Mass Effect 3, D&D and James Paul Gee's Identity

March Break is winding down here at our house which means we are trying to squeeze in as much game playing and fun as we can before we get back to school.

The kids aren't the only ones playing lots of things. My husband has begun to play Dungeons and Dragons with his special world, Dwimmermount, on Google Plus with people who have contributed to his Kickstarter project. Sometimes it's challenging to coordinate the schedules for this weekly Friday evening session but I can tell he enjoys it because by the end of the evening, his voice is hoarse from all the talking. You can read about their adventures on James' blog, Grognardia.

Hubby also purchased Mass Effect 3 and finished it. He said it took him about 20 hours over the course of a week. We talk about the games he plays and he was telling me how some people finished the whole thing in less than a day. Sometimes that mystifies me, how people can wait for months for something and then consume it so quickly instead of savoring it - but then I connect it to buying a long-awaited sequel to a book you've been dying to read. He also reported that many people were quite upset with the resolution of some of the plot elements and that some gamers are even starting a petition on Facebook to get BioWare to change it. These gamers are even collecting money for charity as part of their campaign and have raised quite a pretty penny so far. He said that he felt that there were enough suggestions and hints in Mass Effect1 and Mass Effect2 that this was the route the storyline was headed and that, although it may be a disappointment to some that things end the way they do, it was not the "betrayal" many players have complained that it was. Hubby felt that many people wanted a happy ending for their character and when it didn't happen the way they envisioned, they got angry. Some even suggest that it was a conspiracy.

This ties in nicely with the book I've been reading over March Break - What Video Games Have to Teach us About Learning and Literacy by James Paul Gee. I just finished reading Chapter 3, on Learning and Identity. It was fascinating, and made me realize I should resurrect my grade 3 library lesson on "what is a researcher?" because it helped students construct their identity as a researcher just like the book's example of becoming a scientist. I could totally relate to Gee's description of the three identities: virtual (Diana as LIRAGRIM), real (DIANA as Liragrim) and projective (Diana AS Liragrim). For instance, there are a couple of pet dogs hanging around our various houses in Minecraft that do not belong to any of the Grims. They look kind of sad waiting there for their owners. Part of me has considered just slaying them to get them out of the way, but my projective identity balks at that - my virtual character Liragrim just successfully bred her dogs and got a puppy, and me in real life as a pet owner and Catholic (Chita and Chilli the chinchillas, Max and Wilbur the skinny pigs, and L'il Tweet the budgie) would object to euthanizing an animal just because they were "in the way". It was only recently that Phisagrim (aka my son) allowed me to kill pigs and chickens but I'm only permitted to kill animals that are not penned up - any of my farm animals cannot be slaughtered. The boy has no qualms about OPing steak so he can regain his health. We talked about it a bit and that's partly why he relented his strict stance - I think the fact that he gets XP by whacking a pig may have influenced his decision as well.

This is my favourite James Paul Gee quote so far in the book (from Chapter 2).

Good games ... are crafted in ways that encourage and facilitate active and critical learning and thinking (which is not to say that every player will take up this offer). The other is the people around the learner, other players and non-players. If these people encourage reflective meta-talk, thinking, and actions in regard to the design of the game, of video games more generally, and of other semiotic domains and their complex interrelationships, then this, too, can encourage and facilitate active and critical learning and thinking (though, again, the offer may not be taken up).

And this quote is why I don't feel guilty about staying up until 1:00 a.m. with my son helping him with his sheep breeding business on Minecraft, cursing the dimness of herd animals but grateful for their ability to be led and squeezing a little religious discussion in among the creeper-blasting.

1 comment:

  1. Just to update: this link will take you to an article about the controversy over the Mass Effect 3 conclusion.