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Video game fans can play at the Taylor Family Digital Library.
Nathaneal Darrell/the Gauntlet

Video game symposium comes to U of C

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Midterm season either drives students to furiously study into the wee hours of the morning or to procrastination by playing the newest World of Warcraft expansion. Division of study and play has been the downfall of many students' GPAs, but new research suggests combining education with interactive media like video games is beneficial to students.

Together, the Canadian Games Studies Association and the University of Calgary are hosting Scholarship, Learning and the Digital Video Game; An Interactive Media Symposium. The symposium, spearheaded by U of C librarians Jerremie Clyde and Leeanne Morrow, is the culmination of current research in the field of interactive media in education and health from the U of C as well as national and international levels. Through debates, presentations and interactive demonstrations, researchers will showcase their knowledge over the span of three days.

Clyde has been trying to create a more engaging way of teaching students how to research since he came to the school.

His frustration led him to explore ways of reaching students who otherwise wouldn't see research instruction in the classroom.

"Pretty boring stuff that needs to be covered, like how to use a library, I started looking at game-based learning as an option to do that," said Clyde.

Clyde's foray into more interactive forms of learning eventually took him to investigate games as teaching and rhetorical tools.

Getting students to write their own educational games is a large part of Clyde's focus.

"It forces someone to more critically aware of what they are saying," said Clyde.

As new modes of education are implemented, the issue of media literacy comes to surface. There are some students who have never interacted with video games which might put them at a disadvantage. Clyde said media literacy may be an issue, but argued there is room for many different learning styles.

"For others, something that is much more visual, audio or interactive, especially if it's a medium they're much more comfortable with, it's much more effective," Clyde said.

Clyde said there is not enough research to say whether students exposed to video games and interactive forms of media at a young age are better equipped for interactive learning.

The world of games and interactive media is not only limited to rhetorical formats. Research in fine arts, history, education and kinesiology with games and interactive media is what sparked the symposium.

"One of the ideas a lot of the faculty brought up was it would be nice to know what the other faculty are doing with games because they're quite siloed and all over," said Clyde. "Really, that's the case for games studies across Canada."

Clyde started speaking with other scholars in Calgary and throughout Alberta. The CGSA soon joined, taking the symposium to a national level. The CGSA will publish a special edition of their digital journal Loading to expose new scholars and graduate students in the field.

The Taylor Family Digital Library will contain a games and related media area, with a collection that covers games from the early '70s, including a couple copies of the first home Pong edition, right up to the most current popular consoles.

"We have six PS3s, four Xbox 360s, six Wiis, and a couple PS2s and a hundred games to go with those," stated Clyde. "Hopefully no matter what you are studying we will have something to get you started."

The new video game space in the library will have at least one of each console available and will operate similar to the film/media library where students can book time slots.

Also presenting at the symposium is Glen Wilkinson, an adjunct assistant professor in history and communication and culture, who will look at how a game might be able to relate scholarly history in the same way as a written history article.

Another presenter at the symposium is faculty of kinesiology sport technology research lab director Larry Katz, who will present on exergaming, a form of gaming that incorporates physical activity, like Dance Dance Revolution or Wii Fit. Katz's research deals with exergames and how they can improve children's balance.

Katz work also focuses on creating enthusiasm for physical activity with kids.

According to his research, children do not have the fundamental movement skills required to move effectively and efficiently.

Katz sees getting students to combine their health and education with play as necessary in this digital age when distractions are readily available with a click of a button.

The symposium hopes to create awareness on these new forms of education.

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