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?

Team Selection screen for League. Or pre-game hell with the wrong team.

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?

Did they do this during the game? No? Well, good luck.

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.

4 Responses to “Learning Teamwork (or How to Tolerate Frustration) Through League of Legends”

  • Bob Saget Says:
    July 7th, 2011 at 10:16

    The League of legends approach is undeniably very creative and can be an effective way to teach teamwork.
    in LoL, everyone wants to win and so when someone does bad, the natural response is to flame them
    but by taking that out of the picture with the deduction of project points, the only other response would be to provide advice,
    which made teamwork come together.

    However, it is a double edged sword. They may have learned teamwork and may or may not apply it, but if some of them, through the introduction of the game League of Legends, which is highly addicting, becomes addicted to it, there may have been more harm done than good. When you’re addicted to a game, it just becomes the #1 thing to do. This makes things that need to be done, like work (which is necessary in this society) that much less appealing to do. Add on to the fact that they’re still young and in school, their self control may not be adequate. This can lead to failure of other things that are equally, if not more important compared to teamwork.

    So while it is indeed a creative and effective way of teaching, it is also deceptively dangerous. All i’m saying is to be careful.

  • Nikki Says:
    July 7th, 2011 at 11:13

    I will agree that it is a risky sort of way to provide a lesson on teamwork, but I think it’s for a different reason. Either you provide a strong backbone to it that could make it successful, or you make it flimsy and they’re just playing games and not understanding the point of the lesson. We really need to be tapping into different resources to provide examples, especially as educators are having to incorporate a lot of “parenting” into classrooms (playing well with others, things like that). eSports are just as viable as basketball and soccer to teach teamwork, but it draws in kids with other interests.

    However, I’m not entirely sure I agree with the point about self-control. People in all age groups have the ability to lack self-control. There’s a reason that there are adults who are addicted to gambling or other vices. It’s a psychological problem more than anything. I will say, though, that I glossed over (maybe even ran right by) the fact that we had talked about how certain activities can decrease productivity (or increase procrastination). That doesn’t mean that they’re going to take it to heart, but it’s really the most I was able to do so that I could express that they cannot live on these games (or anything, really — any addiction is fairly self-harmful). In that sense, I really believe that anyone who has an addiction that is causing problems in their lives should be seeking help.

    I don’t think using games is deceptively dangerous. There’s nothing inherently dangerous about any video game. League of Legends is only addicting if you allow it to take over your life. The dangerous part is not having someone around who encourages you to do something else.

    But thank you for your perspective, despite the trolly name.

  • Saget Bob Says:
    July 7th, 2011 at 18:06

    but regarding this topic:

    My concern is because a potentially addicting element is being introduced and so care should be taken that the addiction does not actually happen. Getting addicted over learning teamwork will not be worth it at all.

    I actually really support esports myself, but there have been many cases of internet addiction (ex: WoW addicts). Games are made to be especially appealing and to hold you as long as possible. While a lot may be able to easily control themselves, many may not. It can also be a really painful process to un-addict yourself.

    However, these games are already really wide known. Most of the kids in your classroom already knew about LoL in which case the introduction of LoL in the classroom won’t really affect them much. And while it’s easy to get addicted, it is also easy not to.

    I’m not against this method, but I see it that this method has a potential to create some problems. My wish is for you to know of these problems while teaching with the method so that the problems may be avoided.

    However I could also be wrong, but you should keep an eye on the kids and see if any problems arise, treat it like an experiment, and if no problems arise, that would be best, but if problems do arise, then perhaps reconsider, because
    Combining education with gaming (aside from game development and etc) has been pretty experimental because of their conflicting nature(at least in my opinion).

    and thank you for the reply ~ a discussion on the internet like this can be really fun sometimes, (or at least for me )

    all in all I wish you luck in your teaching career. :)

  • Nikki Says:
    July 7th, 2011 at 18:35

    Actually, I should revisit this. So you’ve given me a pretty good idea of something I’d like to write up. Thanks!

    However, I understand your concerns fully. A lot of my friends (and even someone quite close to me) are addicted to gaming in all forms. It takes over pretty much all of their interactions to the point where one friend will gladly stay at home when we’re inviting him out for lunch/dinner. Thankfully, I know that all gamers aren’t like this. And you’re right that my students were already exposed, so the chances were quite unlikely.

    But yes, treating it like and experiment was proper. It was much easier to control because I used two consecutive short days (where classes were shortened) for this rather than full days. I think it worked well to show teamwork, how it was used, and it also worked as a fun reward to end the week (even if they were being graded on their ability to work together).

    Unfortunately, and not because I enjoyed using video games for a few lessons (this was incredibly rare, honestly), I cannot monitor the progress of any of the students I once had. For right now, I’m writing up memories of what I was able to do throughout the year and hoping that maybe it’ll encourage others to use new technologies in their classrooms. I think there has been a lot of problems with this because there isn’t room to innovate and experiment. With the position I had, however, I wasn’t a traditional teacher; I was more of a vocational instructor. It’s quite awkward to explain all of the circumstances surrounding it, but I had slightly more liberty than others to try new concepts out when I wanted to see if they would work.

    As much as I enjoy working with kids, I don’t know if teaching is really what I want to go back into. I had fun, I learned a lot (and taught a lot), but I don’t think it really fit my personality to work in that environment.

    Also, that’s why I write any of this! I like having some form of discussion, so thank you.