Good Game – Democracy Well Played: games as pioneers of digital maturity and media competition

In the 2001 spy adventure “Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty”, the world is turned upside down for the young and naive protagonist Raiden. At the end of the game, the secret agent embodied by the players is confronted with the fact that the artificial intelligence anticipates and controls each of his steps. It is a functional test intended to demonstrate that human behavior can be controlled with given scenarios and circumstances. According to the logic of masterless AI, digitization has led to such a waste of information and data that people must be relieved of the task of selecting truths and lies so that the progress of society as a whole Do not stop. . At this point, the game challenges much of the events players have already experienced. “Metal Gear Solid 2″ presents players with the same challenge that protagonist Raiden faces in the story: distinguishing between fiction and reality in a world where, instead of truths and lies, there seems to be ” several contradictory truths”. beside

The story of Sons of Liberty, 20 years after the game’s release, is often cited as a prescient vision of the modern post-truth era. Even though today we rely on the help of algorithms to navigate our way through the information jungle, we still want to retain our sovereignty over the interpretation of reality and truth. Likewise, as members of a free and open society, we must ensure that young people and future generations are provided with the skills necessary to perform this task with justice. As a medium particularly appreciated by young people, digital games can make an important contribution to this.

Games train our dexterity, reaction skills and spatial thinking. However, they can also inspire us to address the social challenges of the digital age. Additionally, some degree of “play culture” should be part of everyone’s education and media literacy today. Using the interactivity of digital game worlds, we can not only experience from an early age what it means to influence our environment (keyword: self-efficacy), but also what it means to be exposed to influence (and possibly manipulation). ) of our own environment to be. The learning effects of digital games do not develop overnight or emerge in a vacuum. As with all media, how games affect us largely depends on how we learn to interact with them. Therefore, a pedagogical framework with teaching and learning methods that translate play experiences into learning for reality is crucial.

Media and Information Literacy

Even today’s adults have trouble classifying digital information. In a study by the New Responsibility Foundation, only 43% of respondents recognized a staged social media post as false information. According to the study, younger generations are more competent than older ones, but there are clear differences depending on their training:

The higher the level of formal education, the higher the skill scores. Additionally, digital information literacy is particularly low among supporters of anti-democratic parties, which the study finds goes hand-in-hand with low levels of baseline trust in democracy and the media. The processing and classification of information and digital media is therefore not only a key competence for the modern working world, but also a fundamental requirement for responsible citizens in a digital democratic society.

Ideally, teaching digital media skills should become a common thread in school curricula across all subjects. This only works if digital media is actively integrated into the lesson, and games can play a big part here too. Digital games not only combine all previous media forms and techniques with creative, narrative and representational elements; its development is also closely linked to the history of the computer and the Internet since the early 1960s.

Computer games have always been a playful approach to the digital world and can therefore also be an approach to digital learning and digital information processing. Serious games such as “Bad News” (2018) or “Hidden Codes” (2021), published by the Anne Frank educational institution, illustrate how digital games can use interactive and narrative elements to motivate people to process constructively about issues such as fake news. . or extremism on the Internet.

However, if in doubt, it is not necessary to have dedicated “educational games” to learn from and with games. Just like literature or cinema, classic “entertainment games” also offer many touchpoints, which can be used to inspire young people especially on topics they may not initially know. Critically examining a playable spy thriller like “Metal Gear Solid 2” can be invaluable in shaping media skills and digital maturity. Precisely because we are so fascinated by closely intertwined conspiratorial plots with simple causal chains than fiction, we should be particularly skeptical when presented with such narratives as alleged reality. Because reality does not follow narrative conventions or the rules established by a master of the game.

Media Education and Digital Infrastructure

Of course, school children cannot become digitally mature citizens if there is a lack of pedagogical specialists to prepare them. In a special OECD PISA assessment in 2020, Germany was ranked 76 out of 78 for digital teacher education. The results are based on surveys of the corresponding training possibilities in schools. Of course, teachers in Germany cannot be blamed for this fact, on the contrary: in many places there are already individually committed teachers who bring digital media, including games, into the classroom with a great enthusiasm. What is missing are systematic digital approaches to lesson design and corresponding additional training offers for teachers.

That is why the Stiftung Digitale Spielekultur (Foundation for Digital Games Culture) wants to use the “Games Make School” initiative to examine how digital games can be used in the classroom. In Berlin, as part of the initiative, a model project funded by the Department for Education, Youth and Family of the Senate is being prepared. Apart from using games in school lessons, he also wants to study what qualifications teachers need and how they can train.

Apart from the prerequisites for teachers, the digital infrastructure in schools is also crucial for successfully teaching media skills with games. Since 2019, the digital pact of federal schools has provided for better equipment, at least in theory. Due to complicated application procedures and a lack of IT specialists in schools, at the end of 2020 there were just under 500 million people approved.
6,000 million euros which were paid out in the form of subsidies. Schools that are digitally well-equipped and up-to-date also often owe it to individual digitally-dedicated teachers.

Activate the potential of digital games

Games are not magic tools that can solve our problems without active intervention. But they are more than just entertainment machines. Like other mass media, it is above all a product. But a product that may have artistic or educational value. The possibility of learning with them and from them depends above all on the framework conditions that we create for them and for other digital media in schools and in education. It is important that we take seriously its role as a source of speech and a projection screen for several million people in Germany.

This text is an extract from the brochure:

Amadeu Antonio Foundation / Good Game – Democracy Well Played:
“Hating without pixelating. Toxic and far-right gaming communities.
Berlin 2022
90 pages

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