Previously on “I Was A Video Game Addicted Teacher:” MMORPG markets provide interesting places to manipulate prices by flooding items… Or supply and demand.
It’s not often that there’s a game available that could possibly allow me to attempt teaching teamwork to students. In fact, I remember teachers using instructional “games” that made you do some sort of task when I was in school. It didn’t matter if you failed or not, but it was supposed to make you “work together” with your team members. In reality, most kids shoved it off on one or two people who didn’t want to fail. That person was usually me.
So when my students started exhibiting a lack of desire to work together (residential drama, general disgust with each other, whatever), I decided that something had to be done. No one wanted to participate in anything, and they really only wanted to argue among themselves. Many of them, I would later find out, didn’t really want to do anything in any class. Some cited boredom with the topics while others just assumed that, well, what they learned at school didn’t matter. To some extent, it made sense why they thought that because most of them were from environments that didn’t encourage it. So how were we supposed to engage them in learning while also teaching them how to work as a team rather than frequently fighting?
That’s where I brought League of Legends into my classroom. Having played it from the beginning, I was already intrigued by the mechanics that made all players learn to work together. I figured that it would be a great environment to express why teamwork was important: There was a visible goal to achieve, it was interactive, and it was competitive. It really played on their collective personality and was a way to teach them to cooperate if they wanted to succeed.
That, and it let me bring in something that kept me interested while trying to teach something that is already difficult enough for people to be interested in. It’s kind of like “image and etiquette consulting,” except people actually need to engage in situations to learn to work together. It was multi-functional!
Except I initially had no idea how I could possibly work it into a lesson, which either meant I wouldn’t be able to use it or it would be incredibly frivolous. Honestly, I didn’t want either.
So I designed something to cover two days. The first day would be the obnoxious “lecture” with boring slides in the background to provide them with typical “qualities” of effective team players (which really falls into about five useful categories, but people seem to put it into four thousand because being concise apparently isn’t part of that). The second day would be a 3v3 match as a mini-experiment to see how they felt about working together (and hopefully not explode at each other, if everything went to plan).
Conveniently, most of my tiny class had already played League of Legends, so I didn’t have to explain too much of it. There were, of course, a couple who had never had any experience with it. The handy thing with League, though, is that it’s fairly easy to see who is doing quite well and who is absolute rubbish (and anywhere in between). There are a few mechanics that would be helpful to know about – items, runes and masteries, and neutral minion camps being the major ones – that add more to the matches, but they aren’t really things that beginners need to understand immediately.
Discussing pre-recorded games, they had to identify bad team work in positive ways. That meant they couldn’t tell me that someone was an idiot – or worse, which was far more likely – without providing evidence for it and using more polite vocabulary. (Note: I can happily handle the use of “daft” or even an antiquated analogy like “a few cards short of a deck.”) They had to tell me why it was good or bad teamwork, then tell me how they would correct that person if they were playing with them (aside from flaming them for being stupid).
The discussion led to interesting points. My students were more likely to point out bad plays of all sorts, but they were only willingly to express appreciation for exceptionally great plays (or those that normally would have gone badly but were horribly lucky). Support roles were relegated to “pointless” because they were considered to be “space wasters,” supposedly providing absolutely no help in terms of damage and leaving their partner to fend for themselves. Finding this quite interesting, I provoked them to explore that in another situation. What about the people who supported them, directly or indirectly? Were they pointless? “No, they’re giving me an advantage.” So what was the difference?
After discussing the stereotypical qualities in “effective team members,” I brought out the laptops (and their IVs connecting them to their electronics) and introduced League of Legends. They all started with basic level one accounts (well, level two since they went through the tutorial), ensuring that no one had an advantage over each other (except for prior knowledge). I split them into convenient 3-against-3 groups, placing two “veteran players” with one newcomer. After they were put into a custom match, I walked about keeping track of what they said to each other both between teams and within them. There was one stipulation: The couldn’t seriously insult someone, and anything of that nature would cause a loss of points in the project (because I’m just cruel like that).
In the end, most of them voiced frustration with team mates who wouldn’t work with them and forced each other to deal with it. It took about two games for them to realise that, in order for their teams to function, they really couldn’t ignore each other. They discussed item builds with “veteran” players started giving tips to the new players, allowing them an understanding of how certain characters or items worked in-game.
They were actually playing nicely with each other and connecting over something other than drama. This was a phenomenon in my classroom, where I was growing accustomed to listening to them verbally abuse each other. I could only hope they’d continue using those skills outside the classroom, but I was still glad to see that it had changed my classroom environment from profane to functional.