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.
While I was developing and teaching an marketing and business program at a high school, I was always looking for new ways to either introduce or explain concepts. I knew the students had about as much interest as I once had (and I grew up doing it), which opened my eyes to one simple fact: I had to find something relevant in the available material and make them connect to it. So what could possibly be relevant in agricultural marketing to a bunch of uninterested teenagers? Learning economics! How could I reinforce some of the basic principles? By using video games!
Wait, you’re doing this by using what?
I knew there had to be a way to connect with the students I instructed (or tutored, depending on the time of day) and that, despite a possible ten year age gap, I could connect with them if I really looked for similarities between us. Then it dawned on me! Taking the hint from University of Florida and other colleges, I remembered that it was possible to use video games as a form of education, including those not originally meant to be “edutainment.”
Thinking back to UC Berkeley’s StarCraft class, I figured there could potentially be a million more options for using conventional games to educate students in any topic. Are there game mechanics that emulate things we use in marketing and businesses? Could I present this to them educationally or would it turn into a free-for-all gaming fest? Would the other staff receive it well or – wait a second, I didn’t care if they received it well; I only cared if it worked.
Teaching marketing or business (or both, in my case) requires, well, some basic knowledge of economics. Aside from “you earn money legally or illegally” and “you spend it on stuff,” my students really didn’t have a lot of experience with understanding the basic principles. Many of them just weren’t as straightforwardly obvious to the kids, and many of them had never taken a high school economics class. “Well, that’s just great,” I thought. I’d never before taught high school economics.
So when the topic of supply and demand came up, there needed to be a new technique to explain it. They were bored listening to whatever I had to say, and I was boring myself to death with saying it. Showing videos wasn’t helping, and they enjoyed that about as much as a tooth extraction. So when I was idly crafting and selling nonsense on Vindictus‘ marketplace, the answer slapped me in the face: This is what I was looking for!
I started scouring through the market, finding examples of what would fit my classes’ needs. I searched through everything, looking for cases of decreased supply causing increased prices or increased supply that decreased prices. I hoped to find samples showing a lack of demand causing low prices. Every time I found something, I made a screencap to create a presentation and an accompanying packet later. The final product had only five pictures. (Note: I hate packet work as much as everyone else, but it sometimes helps. I guess it’s the organisational capabilities.)
These graphics made it easy to create my first assignment; I made a short (and sadly crude) packet and presentation combination using the screencaps from the game. (Note: You’re either incredibly lucky or clinging to your knees while rocking back and forth because I was able to salvage the packet [PDF]. I have no idea where the presentation is, which might be for the best.) It was short of amazing looking because I had to implement it quickly, and I would’ve rather focused on the material.
I spent the whole weekend trying to figure out how I could implement using this game, especially with a few minor problems. At the time I was doing this, I didn’t have a classroom. This meant that I had no computers. So I decided to move my class to the Tech Center. Now this would’ve worked brilliantly, but their computers were all Macintosh. Let me belatedly point out: Nexon only runs games on Windows platforms (sad, I know – there are so many Mac users who would kill to be Maple Story addicts). How did I resolve this?
I brought my laptop and decided that it would be a projection-based lesson. Instead of bothering another teacher, I quietly “borrowed” (read: took over) a vacant room to hold my class in for that week. Rather than allow all of the kids to try to use the game all at once, we would work off the items that I had spent time collecting (primarily easy-to-collect items) as I went over them. We would look at crafting recipes for equipment and other items to explain price changes, later looking to see the cost of pre-made equipment versus the materials to craft it. The experiment was to watch the markets change of the week, seeing how static or dynamic prices could really be. However, I did have to negotiate that the last five or ten minutes of class would be time to have “serious game discussion.” Personally, I was fine with that if it meant they were willing to listen and learn.
As I paired this lesson with our lessons in supply and demand, it gradually started sinking in. When they saw the prices of Chieftain Leg Armor increase but that the number available remained steady, they realised that there was a significant market for them; they understood that this meant “supply remained steady but demand increased, causing prices to increase.” As they watched the price of Black Kobold Hoods topple from well over the NPC Sell Price to well below it, they knew that “supply remained steady but demand decreased, causing prices to decrease as well.” The basic principles were becoming clearer to them.
That whole week may have involved MMORPGs, but we explored parallels in real life. However, I was scared to try explaining the prices of gold because, well… Most adults already have enough problems understanding economic bubbles, and gold is a fairly large one. That doesn’t mean I shied away from trying; it just meant I had to look deeper.
Overall, it was successful in explaining basic economic principles to my students. It was convenient that they already knew MMORPG jargon without me sounding like the crazed and game-addicted teacher with a day specifically for teaching gamer vocabulary, but it was even better that they were willingly engaged in learning and actually are continuing to use that knowledge (in game, but they’re retaining it somehow).
Which, of course, meant that I was able to jump up with one exclamation: Result!