Sociology Through Video Games

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…

Update

On a slightly different tack, I came across Daniel Muriel’s “Three-Headed Monkey” site that mainly consists of videogame screenshots accompanied by short, pithy and reflective sociological commentaries designed to highlight the notion of “Video games as powerful tools to unleash our sociological imagination”.

As such, I think it adds a further (visual) dimension to the idea of teaching and learning sociology through the medium of video games – one that if you’re so inclined it should be possible to incorporate into your own teaching and learning…

The site contained 60 such screenshots / commentaries before it reached the end of its useful life and was unceremoniously left to its own devices as Daniel decamped to a new site devoted to his sociological teaching / research into video games.

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