Connecting With Generation Xbox

You’ve no doubt been following some of the discussion about gaming, and how higher education responds to this massively influential societal trend. Even before the Chronicle partially covered the issue with their story about the Millennial Generation – many who are gamers – publications such as Library Journal devoted articles to gaming and OCLC sponsored a lengthy program about it at last year’s ALA midwinter conference, and offered some articles in one of its newsletters. That program offered the wisdom of Jon Beck and other gurus of the gaming phenomenon’s impact on society and culture.

So having digested all of what’s being said about gaming, what position are most academic librarians taking? I had no doubt that there was a gaming culture among the students at my own institution. The big question for both our profession and our faculty is do we change our methods to accommodate the changing nature of our students. Should faculty seek to integrate gaming techniques into the teaching and learning process? Should academic libraries offer video game titles for loan, or sponsor video game competitions in the library? What are we willing to do to reach Generation Xbox and draw them into the library? What if you and your library staff know zilch about video games, or perhaps you see them as abhorrent wastes of times, not to mention finding the shoot ‘em up, violent aspects of some video games to be morally repugnant. How do you respond to the video game phenomenon?

No matter how we may feel about it personally, I don’t think we can ignore it professionally. Last week, along with the Dean of my institution’s Design and Media College, we offered a program on “Teaching Generation Xbox”. Our speaker, Christopher D. Clark, developed sixteen video games, and currently develops simulations for the government. He spoke about the history of video games and current industry trends. He then explained how games are developed, and the factors that go into making a game irresistible to players. Clark stated that the best games get players emotionally involved, and he believed that educational simulations can do the same. Clark’s most memorable statement: video games and learning simulations have 30 seconds to hook the player or the player is gone for good. Once hooked however, gamers will spend hundreds of hours to master the game.

I’ve been thinking about that with respect to what happens in most campus classrooms and my own instruction. I think most of us would fail the 30 seconds test. Then again, we can’t offer car chases, create war battles, put a laser sword in someone’s hand, put them in the cockpit of a fighter jet, or offer any of the many other escapes from reality offered by video games. All we can offer is a chance to learn something new to help a student successfully complete an assignment or achieve lifelong learning. It seems our challenge, in reaching Generation Xbox, is to establish methods to get students emotionally connected to our content and to do it quickly. It’s much easier to simply say “they’re here and they have to learn it my way,” but perhaps that mentality no longer gets the job done. I’d like to know what you think. I hate to do this to you again now knowing most of you feel over surveyed, but please take a few minutes to complete this six-question survey instrument, and I’ll share the results in a future post.

6 thoughts on “Connecting With Generation Xbox”

  1. (I also posted this in the survey.)

    I fail to see how gaming has infiltrated college campuses. In my college experience (1999-2004), I saw only a niche group interested in gaming (computer, video, or whatever mode), and an even smaller number devote hours and hours to this experience. Personally, I tried games, on several platforms, and couldn’t get interested (“a” + “b” buttons plus “over” … who can remember that stuff?). Maybe I’m biased because of my own disinterest in the activity, however….

    As for the 30-second “hook” time, I am not convinced that this has anything to do with games. After all, 30-seconds has been the standard length of commercials for a long time. I guess what I’m trying to say is: we never had more than 30-seconds to hook a student, regardless of whether his/her leisure activities involves playing games, reading books, or dancing around like a chicken.

    If we want to identify the trend in generation Y/ Xbox/ whatever, I think we need to look at social networking on the Web. Try out, and you’re bound to see a large portion of your students using and networking on this read/ write web. Even if you don’t use it yourself, you’re bound to see it appearing on the screens in your computer lab. In my mind, this is the technology that libraries need to pay attention to if we want to reach the current generation of learners.

  2. I usually have two reactions to “millenial” prescriptions: a) none of the students I rub elbows with every day fit these new stereotypes and in fact are quite different from one another (and tend to either roll their eyes or make barfing noises when anyone over 45 tells them they’re millenials) and b) if we want so badly to tap into college youth culture why don’t we just serve lots of beer?

    Seriously, people want more than one experience in their day and to take something they do for relaxation and say “we’ll imitate this in class because that’s what they want” ignores the fact that people don’t want to do the same thing all day long. Except maybe a handful of addicted gamers (or alcoholics). And you know, some students come to school to learn. I really think we’re characterizing them all as babies. Sure, games may be fun (for some) but why assume that’s all they want? Or treat it as some kind of stealth marketing campaign. Fool them into using the library by giving ’em what they want (even though maybe the only want whatever that is some of the time).

    Sorry – must be a cranky Monday Morning thing…..

    I do think we could heed the advice a student once gave me in a class evaluation: “Don’t be so boring.” Okay, I’ll try that next time. And I like the idea of exploring the social networking idea. Any thoughts, Gen Y, on how that could apply to libraries (as opposed to, say, courses, where it’s a natural fit as you create a small but like-minded community)?

  3. The issue of social networks is an important one, and one that I’ve become especially aware of teaching a class for first-year students this semester. It was also a presentation topic at the ALAO meetiing from which I just returned (and blogged earlier).

  4. Videogames are a source of recreation for some people, they play because it takes them into another world. Taking away videogames from any university is exactly the same act as burning books that belong to people who love reading. To stereotype game players as underachievers or mindless people would be typical for most librarians, professors and the older generation. The reason professors, librarians and older people speak out against videogames is because they don’t understand them and they are afraid of them.

    Professors: Professors are afraid because they see kids today are favoring a visual stimulus that is interactive and evolving. Professors are largely unable to cope with this because of their own inadequacy at producing an evolving, stimulating learning environment.

    Librarians (basically anyone who doesn’t favor visual stimulus): Largely people who do not favor visual stimulus. Do not understand or enjoy videogames because they cannot understand the interactivity of the environments and the non-linear storylines based in videogames today. Librarians and book-lovers prefer the simple, linear storylines fused to blank, boring pieces of paper to the vivid, exciting and fulfilling storylines that you interactively participate in inside videogames.

    Generation Old: They were used to getting beated by leather belts by the “greatest generation”. They have to be submissive and “take it like a man”. Now, the younger generation has taken the place of the “greatest generation” in being dominant. The younger ones have it their way. The older generation tries to instill fear in the hearts of the younger generation because they have plenty of stories about “what your grandfather would have done in a situation like this”. Well, grandpa is dead, and that old expression will never work again. (Now relating this back to videogames)
    Generation old will try and pick away at the younger generation (Generation Xbox) and stand against things that represent the younger generation… What would that be? Xbox! They figure if they can take away what represents us that they can dominate us like their parents did to them. Well, they’ll try to their grave.

  5. Unfortunately I think that some of you have missed my point and most of are proving my point. I am not suggesting that game be introduced to the classroom. I am saying that you have built a system of learning that has and will never be as effective (in the proper context) as experiential learning. Play remains nature’s oldest and most effective learning method. It direct extension purpose driven drill and practice remains the best training for the best way to keep these skills fresh.

    What I am saying is that we live a world of three contextual states the Environmental, the Instructional, and the Internal. The Environmental provides the content of the Instructional, i.e. what is the environment trying to tell us? The internal state contains our belief system our focus, and our commend sense schema, etc. and is a huge influence on how we perceive and more important How We Translate our Environment and Instructional cues.

    What I suggesting is that use of games as a medium for your instructional quiver. It is not true that 30 seconds is the average time of a commercial. In fact they are often 1 mi 30 seconds or two minutes 20 seconds.

    Taking the careful application of gaming methodologies to your content has the power to change your classroom for your relationship with your students.

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