I am not a gamer.

At the height of “cool” amongst my friends, I owned a Gameboy in the 90’s and had three games—Super Mario, something involving Krusty the Clown from The Simpsons, and one of the Kirby games.  I played Mario to the end, but never got into the other two.  I played this handheld game for maybe two or three years, then never touched it again.  I couldn’t even say where it is now—somewhere in a dusty retirement.  Just two years ago, my husband and I received a Wii for Christmas (regardless of the fact that I was vocally opposed to receiving one as the holiday season ramped up).  I can count on one hand how many times we’ve turned it on in the last two years.  We are not gamers—nor are we interested in spending any time on them with friends or family when we attend parties. So, when I started reading Gee’s book, I was very skeptical that video games had any power to teach, and honestly still am.

While I don’t disagree with Gee  that video games have a very large capacity to teach and reach players through developing skills such as role playing, critical thinking, multi-modal literacy, and exploration, I think there are equally legitimate ways of learning that don’t involve children (or adults) sitting inside on their behinds, and getting dizzy with too much screen time.   Gee says, “learning encourages exploration, hypothesis testing, risk taking, persistence past failure, and seeing ‘mistakes’ as new opportunities for progress and learning” (37). He references in this part of the book that a game called Pikmin is perfect for teaching these skills; however, wouldn’t going outside and using one’s imagination also practice these skills (and  be healthier)? How about meeting up with a few friends and building a fort, pretending to be knights of the highest order?  Sure, video games can offer a different environment to learn and grow, but I think Gee is a little one-sided. He says his argument on video games is “a plea to build schooling on better principles of learning” (9), which seems to assume that schools have no pedagogy, no idea what all this teaching is building up to, or how to effectively reach students.  This offends me.

But this is not to say that I disagree with everything Gee is arguing.  He convinced me that students who spend many hours playing games – even violent ones—are NOT wasting time.  I now understand that there is a lot of value in playing games, many of which are more complicated and thoughtful than I had originally believed. The story lines encourage multi-modal learning.  However, what bothers me about these students playing for hours on end or even all night is that they then come to school without their homework completed or without enough sleep to keep their eyes open in my class.  This, I think, is why I came into this book with such a negative attitude towards video games.  I couldn’t see beyond the games as obstacles to learning what I wanted them to learn.  Instead, I need to figure out a way to incorporate gaming into my classroom.  But how?