Clash of Realities 2015

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This week I attended (and spoke) at my first Clash of Realities conference and it was a wonderful experience! This conference was able to successfully achieve what a lot of conferences do not by bringing together various groups of scholars, educators, and professionals to share their areas of expertise.

When I originally decided to pursue a scientific career, my primary motivation was to develop and carry out research projects that would help clinicians to better carry out their professional tasks. Specifically, I wanted to uncover new information about online gaming and media effects that would better inform clinicians about these topics so they, in turn, could better inform their clients. Clash of Realities had a similar goal: to bring together game scholars, game educators, and game developers and designers so we could inform each other of our particular fields of expertise which, in turn, makes our own work more informed and more valuable.

Clash of Realities was organized differently this year as it consisted of a summit (a four track day with each summit focusing on a particular area of research) and a main conference day. I was privileged to be able to give the opening keynote at the Ethics in Digital Games - Media Education summit, where I spoke about the intersection of our online and offline lives and what kind unintentional social consequences this may be having. While all of the talks in the summit were quite good (I cannot think of a single one I did not enjoy) the work of Aleksander Husoy and Tobias Staaby was a particular standout.

Alex and Tobias are high-school educators in Norway and they are using games such as The Walking Dead and Dear Ester to engage their students in their curriculum - whether it be about moral decision-making and ethics, history, or social studies. The way in which they use these games is quite novel, not least of which because of the stress they put on the fact that they are not engaging in so-called “games for learning”. Perhaps the take home lesson here was that learning doesn’t happen through gameplay in isolation. The reinforcement of the lessons that are conveyed through the game play needs to occur in the classroom. This is an integral component and its importance should not be overlooked (although it often is).

This example is just one of many ways in which the Clash of Realities inspired me this week. Despite the fact I am not currently teaching, their work has given me a new perspective about the research that I do, the things that I should be researching, and the ways I should be approaching the study of games.

I very much recommend attending a future Clash of Realities conference if you have a chance - it was truly inspiring!

P.S. There was also a fabulous talk by Robyn Tang Gray who talked about her game apartment. It is totally worth checking out!