How to Teach a Digital Game III

David Parry bio photo By David Parry


This is the final post in a series about how to conquer the technological hurdles, and teach a digital game in your class. If you haven’t already you might want to start at the first post. If you have read the first two, then you should be ready for this last post, on what you need for the “in-class” part of teaching.

Preparing for Class

One of the challenges to teaching a game in class is the difficulty of “refering to the text” during discussion or lecture. While if you are teaching a novel, or an article from a book you can say, “turn to page 42″ (and assuming students remebered to bring their books) this should be a relatively pain free procees. But with a digital game this is simply not the case, as unless you are teaching in a classroom with a PC for every student, with the game installed, or teaching a class on the Nintendo DS and every student has one, “having the text in front of you” is really not practical. Even film class is a bit easier here, as you can always excerpt stills or now with DVD easily advance to the portion you want to show. With digital games this is not as easily done, and to make matters worse, you cannot be assured that every student will have seen the “scenes” you might want to refer to. So here are some ways to get around that:

Preparing Digital Slides:As with a film one of the things you might want to do, is show “frames” of the digital game, or screen shots from gameplay that will allow you to focus the disscusion or demonstrate a particular feature. If you have a PC and are playing the game on this platform, you can always take screenshots of the portions of the game that you want to talk about. But there is a short-cut for this, and it works even if you are not playing on a PC. Fortunately, many people have already taken screen shots of whatever you want and posted them to the web, all you have to do is locate the ones you want and save them to your computer (more on how to get them into the class in a moment). The site I find the most useful for this is Gamespot. For just about any popular game they have reviews and loads of screen shots published. You can also look for specific sites for the game you are teaching. For example if you are teaching Grand Theft Auto you can always go to GTA Forums and find a picture of just about anything in the GTA world you want. Again Wikipedia is a good place to start as they might have a few screen shots, but more importantly they will have links to other sites which will have the images you want. Because I can’t be sure of what students have seen or not seen in the game, I pretty much bring screen shots of anything I know I will want to address. (Quick Hint: If you want a screenshot for which you are unable to find a picture you can always try posting to the discussion board for the respective games, and asking a “gamer” for help. I have had succes in asking for experinced gamers to send me a particular image I was unable to locate.)

Getting the Screenshots to Class: Back on one of the first posts on this blog I covered how to use a how to use a flash drive for presentations, so I want go over the step by step here, but the flash drive is the key to teaching these texts in class. With a flash drive you can take all the images you want to class, plug your flash drive into the computer, and scroll thru all the images (assuming that your classroom has a computer which projects onto a screen—if not you might have to make arrangments or actually print out copies of the images to overhead slides . . .). I save all of the images into one folder labeled with the name of the game and the date of class (for example GTA3-10) and have each image labeled sequentially with a number followed by a short description that would allow me to “know” what the image is (for example 1CJmohawk, would be CJ with a mohawk). The reason I label them with a number first is that most slide show viewers will order the slides and allow you to cycle thru them from lowest to highest, this way you can plug the flashdrive in and do a slide presentation of all the images in order, or just select a particular image.

Bringing a Platform to Class: You could always subvert this process, and just bring a machine to class, and plug it into a television. But my experince is that this is just asking for trouble, as who knows if the TV cables will be there, or if you bring your own cables if they will be the right ones. But if you do this, you can always save the game at certain spots that will allow you to immediately “jumpt to” the aspect of the game you want to address.

That’s everything I can think of for now. For other who have taught games in the past, feel free to add your comments/tips below. For those who are thinking about teaching a game and want more directed advice, add your comments or email. I am more than happy to answer questions or problem solve.