So I didn’t post anything this week because life happens, but I did want to share two things I read recently. One was this really cool ethnographic study that was done around 2004 with Ultima Online players. Albeit dated, it’s worth looking into because it is a great example of Game Studies conducted via approaches used in sociology.
Another tid-bit I wanted to share was this piece of games-as-education history. I’m still working my way through the article, but this quote is worth seeing.
The Future’s Language
…gaming is a future’s language, a new form of communication emerging suddenly and with great impact across many lands and in many problem situations. This new communication form represents the first effort by man [sic] to formulate a language which is oriented to the future. This future will in all certainty differ dramatically from the past, and the languages which have passed to us from antiquity will no longer suffice. (Duke, 1974).
When Richard Duke wrote these words in 1974 he was not, of course, writing about either videogames or recreational gaming. Duke’s game Metropolis, developed ten years earlier for the city council of Lansing, Michigan, involved resource allocation issues in an urban environment – an early analogue ancestor of Will Wright’s SimCity (1989) and any number of other resource management games (Starr, 1994). At the time, the game contributed to the emerging role of simulation gaming as educational and analytical tools. Duke proposed that such “serious” simulation games would one day replace the traditional lecture as an entirely new form of communication – “a future’s language.” He suggested that simulation games might offer a possible answer to the problems of education in an increasingly complex society (Duke, 1974).
What has been termed “the modern era of simulation gaming” (Wolfe and Crookall, 1998) began in 1955 when the RAND corporation developed a logistics system simulation for the US Air Force. The development of simulation games following World War II was fueled by the understanding that techniques used in training military personnel might be equally effective in business management (Jones, 1998). The Air Force simulation Monopologs placed participants in the role of inventory managers in control of the Air Force supply system (Faria, 1998). One year later the American Management Association (AMA) had developed Top Management Decision Simulation for use in management seminars (Faria, 1998, Lopez, 1999) while in 1957 the first simulation was used in a business college class at the University of Washington (Dickinson and Faria, 1997). During the late 1960s and early 1970s simulation gaming began to move into other areas of training and education, leading Seay to conclude:
Gaming, then, was thought of as a new language with which to educate. It was the new way to educate. Simulations and games were developed that taught social systems, communication, politics, ecology, health, history, relationships, marketing, business, language skills, economics, geography, and mathematics. Games were used to help make decisions on marriage, career exploration, hiring decisions, or deciding admission into college (1997).
In 1969 the International Simulation and Gaming Association (ISAGA) was formed as a response to a growing call for academic exploration of this powerful new technique (Duke, 1974). It is apparent that educational game designers of the time had begun to see the potential of simulation games as a facilitator of social change, resulting in powerful games that generated significant “holistic” understandings of dynamic systems and relationships. Furthermore, some of these games had demonstrated how effectively the format of a game might not only train people, but assist them in thinking critically about the culture and society in which they lived. Such games can be broadly termed social-system simulation games.
And this piece of history is from an article called Loading the Dice: the challenge of serious games