Why should we talk about the relationship between the real and virtual worlds? We can say with utmost certainty that whoever approaches the educational value of video games necessarily confronts this question but, does the issue arise with the same strength in light of any of them? This project demonstrates the importance of working with sports video games, such as ‘NBA Live 07’, and with ‘The Sims 2 Pets’. They both provide different possibilities to tackle the contrast between real and virtual worlds.
Data for this project was collected in a Year 5 classroom of Primary Education at the school CEIP Ciudad de Jaén in Madrid during the 2006/2007 school year.
Playing with ‘NBA Live 07’ enabled us to approach a virtual world as a team through the “multi-tap” tool that allowed children to play together to try to beat the “machine”. When we use ‘The Sims 2 Pets’ we have the opportunity of creating our own virtual characters as we wish. In this way we can live in a virtual world and, moreover, we can learn how to compare it to reality.
In both video games the player decides the game, the one he or she wants to play, and its characters. This feeling of a certain freedom before the game is the one that, most probably, generates a strong desire to live in a virtual world in which, to a certain extent, we own our characters and their actions.
In addition, the workshop was very important for the children to reflect based on what they had done when playing with the video game. They adopted the role of video game critics and wrote in their blogs what they had learned each day. These texts and the use of portable video consoles allowed us to interact with the families.
The virtual world presented by ‘NBA Live 07’ is closely related to a deep awareness of one’s own body. We can feel as champions, if we beat the opponent and we can learn a lot about basketball. We should highlight the fact that this project included the participation of boys and girls with motor disabilities. They were integrated in the class group and participated in all the activities without any difficulty. On the basis of the video game they had the opportunity of collaborating with their classmates in a real basketball team.
On the other hand, when playing with ‘The Sims 2 Pets’ the characters and spaces move according to our wishes, but we don’t necessarily identify with them, even if we have the possibility.
Starting with the teamwork developed throughout the game we were able to collaborate to learn and create. From the video games, used as “new educational media”, children became video game critics. Thus, in addition to playing with the consoles, they thought about the games by explicitly expressing their ideas and writing their conclusions in a blog as a space to share.
In this experience we tried to integrate the family. Although parents and children don’t usually play video games together, children like to think it would be possible. In fact, a learning space could be created in which the child, an expert, would be the one who taught adults.
Research project “Commercial video games as educational tools” included within an agreement signed with Electronic Arts.