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Good Game - Democracy Well Played: Games as Pioneers of Digital Maturity and Media Competition

Good Game – Democracy Well Played: Games as Pioneers of Digital Maturity and Media Competition

In the 2001 espionage adventure “Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty,” the world is turned upside down for young and naive protagonist Raiden. At the end of the game, the secret agent embodied by the players is faced with the fact that artificial intelligence anticipates and controls his every step. 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 have to be relieved of the task of selecting truths and lies so that progress in society as a whole does not stand still. . At that point, the game questions much of the events players have previously experienced. “Metal Gear Solid 2” presents players with the same challenge that protagonist Raiden faces within the story: to distinguish between fiction and reality in a world where, instead of truths and lies, there seem to be “several contradictory truths. next to

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 if today we rely on the help of algorithms to find our way through the jungle of information, we still want to retain sovereignty over the interpretation of reality and truth. Similarly, as members of a free and open society, we must ensure that young and future generations are given the right skills to do this task justice. As a particularly popular medium among 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 meet the social challenges of the digital age. What’s more, some degree of “gaming literacy” should be part of everyone’s education and media education today. With the help of the interactivity of digital game worlds, we can not only experience at a young age what it means to influence our environment (keyword: self-efficacy), but also what it means to be exposed to influence (and possibly to the manipulation). ) of our own environment to be. The learning effects of digital games do not develop overnight and do not 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 the experiences of the game into learning for reality is crucial.

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Media and information literacy

Even today’s adults find it difficult to classify 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, the younger generations are more competent than the older ones, but there are clear differences depending on their training:

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

Ideally, teaching digital media skills should become a common thread running through school curricula in all subjects. This only works if digital media is actively integrated into the lesson, and games can play a big role here too. Digital games not only combine all previous media forms and techniques with creative, narrative and representational elements; its development has also been 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 handling. 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 deal constructively with issues such as fake news. or extremism on the Internet.

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However, when in doubt, there is no need for dedicated “educational games” to learn from and with games. Just like literature or film, conventional “entertainment games” also offer many touchpoints, which can be used to inspire young people in particular on topics they may not be familiar with at first. Critical examination of a playable espionage thriller like “Metal Gear Solid 2” can be valuable in training media skills and digital maturity. Precisely because we are so fascinated by tightly knit conspiracy plots with simple causal chains as fiction, we should be particularly skeptical when presented with such narratives as purported reality. Because reality does not follow the narrative conventions or the rules established by a master of the game.

Education in media and digital infrastructure

Of course, schoolchildren cannot become digitally mature citizens if there is a lack of pedagogical specialists to prepare them for it. In a 2020 OECD special assessment of PISA, Germany was ranked 76 out of 78 for digital teacher education. The results are based on surveys of corresponding training opportunities 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 great enthusiasm. What is missing are systematic digital approaches to lesson design and corresponding additional training offerings for teachers.

For this reason, the Stiftung Digitale Spielekultur (Foundation for the Culture of Digital Games) 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 Senate Department for Education, Youth and Family is being prepared which, in addition to the use of games in school lessons, would also like to investigate what qualifications teachers need and how they can train.

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In addition to the prerequisites for teachers, the digital infrastructure in schools is also crucial for successfully teaching media skills with games. Since 2019, the federal school digital pact has provided 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 only just under 500 million of those approved.
6,000 million euros that were paid as subsidies. Schools that are digitally well-equipped and up-to-date also often owe it to digitally dedicated individual 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 first and foremost a product. But a product that can have artistic or educational value. Whether we can learn with and from them depends above all on the framework conditions we create for them and other digital media in school and education. It is important that we take seriously its role as a source of discourse and as a projection screen for many millions of people in Germany.

This text is an excerpt from the brochure:

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

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