Although I’ve long been a big fan of video games (mainly, it must be said, those that involve shooting a lot of things in what passes for their face), until recently very few games seemed to have much relevance or application to A-level Sociology per se.

Unless you count a predilection for pretend shooting as “educational”.

Which most people, probably rightly, would not.

However, teachers who have given this a lot more thought than I – Matthew Noden being one – have started to see sociological teaching and learning possibilities in different types of video game, particularly more-recent offering that have started to explore economic, political and cultural questions that are generally a step-up from “Collect all the Golden Rings” or “Shoot all the Aliens in the Face”.

As evidence of this Matthew has suggested a number of contemporary games – and their main sociological take-aways – that teachers and students might want to collectively explore.

For my part, I’d add to the list games like:

FarCry 3 with its exploration of interesting moral questions and player choices.

FarCry 4 that examines the nature of revolutionary and fundamentalist politics, with a variety of outcomes.

None of which end well.

FarCry 5 and its exploration of religious fundamentalism in the contemporary American South.

Bioshock, set in a dystopian Far Right world of rampant economic individualism, that forces players to confront ideas about structure and action, as well as having to make some difficult, fundamental, moral choices.

On a slightly different tack, games such as Second Life and, more-recently, Fortnite with its in-world concerts by real-world musicians, have suggested a different way for games to develop – as on-line “Metaverses” that encourage players to live and interact in a virtual world in ways similar to their interaction “In Real Life”.

These are just a selection of possible ways to use video games as a teaching and learning tool in sociology and you may have your own ideas about what works and what doesn’t.

If you do, feel free to add them into the mix via the medium of the Comments section…

One thought on “Sociology Through Video Games”

  • Matthew Noden says:

    Hello everyone. Matthew here, admittedly I’m along time out of the gaming scene and so I don’t really know whats out there. But if anyone’s interested in exploring this further, it might be worth asking your students what they are playing and asking them if they see any sociological applications. If not, a nice little exercise is to get them to screen shot a gaming scene as they play that somehow triggered there sociological imagination and feedback.

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