Thursday, August 23, 2012

Three books on games, learning, participation and expertise

Over the past several months Peter Lang has published three excellent books that look at gaming from complementary perspectives in our New Literacies Series. With a number of new books due for publication soon, this is a good time to bring these books together here.

In chronological order, the first to appear was Myint Swe Khine's collection on Learning to Play: Exploring the Future of Education with Video Games. Following the editor's careful Introduction, the book addresses nine highly relevant contemporary themes:
Simon Egenfeldt Neilson claims that "to push the field forward we need more critical thinking like this book, that will find innovative ways to get us from experiments to practical use in schools".

Next came Mark Chen's full-participant ethnographic account of Leet Noobs: The life and death of an expert player group in World of Warcraft. T. L Taylor rightly describes this book as "a must-read for anyone interested in the rich forms of action, and interaction, in multiplayer spaces". As editors we were riveted and, ultimately, traumatised by the unfolding epic recounted by Mark of what transpired over a 10 month period of involvement in a 40 person raiding 'family'. The back cover statement best describes the contents:
"Leet Noobs documents, for over 10 months, a group of players in the online game World of Warcraft engaged in a 40 person joint activity known as raiding. Initially, the group was informal, a 'family' that wanted to 'hang out and have fin.' Before joining, each player had been recognized as expert in the game; within the group they had to adapt their expertise for the new joint task and align themselves to new group goals. Through their shared activity, members successfully established communication and material practices that changed as they had to renegotiate roles and responsibilities with new situations and as the larger gaming community evolved. Players learned to reconfigure their play spaces, enrolling third-party game mods and other resources into their activity. Once-expert players became novices or 'noobs' to relearn expert or 'leet' gameplay. They became 'leet noobs' who needed to reconfigure their expertise for new norms of material practice. Ultimately, these norms also changed what it meant to play World of Warcraft; some group members no longer wanted to just hang out and have fun, and eventually the group died in an online fiery meltdown."
The most recent publication is Elisabeth Hayes and Sean Duncan's collection Learning in Video Game Affinity Spaces. It is largely concerned with what James Gee calls "the 'beyond games' part of the 'games and learning' movement -- with what people "do with games beyond just playing them".

Bookended by the editors' account of 'Expanding the affinity space' and James Gee's 'Afterword', the book comprises 8 engaging chapters on diverse dimensions of being members of affinities:
Donna Alvermann describes this book as a "highly accessible text [that invites] readers to use, expand and critique current understandings of learning in affinity spaces". Constance Steinkuehler appraises it as "a powerful empirical follow up on Gee's notion of affinity spaces that asks us to move beyond the view of games as merely a designed object to the view of games as both designed object and emergent culture".

We are thrilled to have these books in the series and thank all those who have contributed to them for gracing our series with their presence.

Might I just add that, at least for one of those books, the work and quality was not possible without some awesome series editors. :)
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