I’ve posted before here about using RPGs as a learning tool with students. One of the things that’s important when you do this is to (a) choose a story structure that emphasizes communicative tasks: your students should have to talk a lot, whereas combat is something they want to avoid, or something that must be coordinated when it’s absolutely necessary.
That is to say, pedagogically, it’s better for students to end up having to negotiate treaties or beg for their lives than it is to have them running around doing hack’n’slash adventuring, or dungeoneering of the type epitomized in the phrase, “kick in the door, smash the monsters, grab the loot.” You probably do need to include combat once in a while–and the kids really do enjoy it more, the more occasional it is–but something closer to “Deep Immersion Storytelling”mode (as described here) is more effective.
The problem, of course, is that some kids are conditioned by computer games to see all gaming of any kind as basically an opportunity to fight, fight, fight, kill, kill, kill. While I disagree with the idea common among their moms that video games lead to violence or derangement, I do think that playing games that feature, almost exclusively, fights to the death (often as the sole form of conflict resolution), tends to condition kids to equate conflict in games with combat only. They have a vocabulary for that kind of resolution, gleaned from whatever games they are playing, for example.
Korean schoolboys these days seem to mostly be mired in League of Legends territory, for example, and they all seem to know and use phrases from the game, like these:
In fact, one of the things I’ve been struggling to get these kids’ moms to understand is that not all games involve killing killing killing. They don’t seem to believe me that there are games with interesting puzzles, problem solving tasks, or even language tasks. Part of the reason is that kids are all playing the free games, and the free games are often kill kill kill. You can tell a mom, “Well, yes, but look at this wonderful, amazing game that doesn’t involve any killing! And it’s only $10!” they kind of default to: “Games? Paying, to play a game? Meh, I’ll just ban games in the house and make my son study instead!”
Yeah, like that’s gonna work.
Anyway, beyond all that, I’ve still made some inroads with some kids, though I’ve gotten more selective in who I used games with, and how much. The RPG portion of any lesson is always a supplement, either to generate more material for homework tasks, or to give the kid a context to practice language structures in a way more interesting than a simple a drill.
Lately, there have been a few interesting examples I’ve tried with my students. Continue reading