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Game Over by David Sheff (1993)

Overview: This lesson covers innovations in video game consoles from 1961 onwards. It has a relay activity followed by a written paragraph with peer assessments. Complete with differentiation sheets, plenaries, starters, lesson plan and pedagogy justifications.

Cardinal’s Corner: Do not be deceived.

This is an incredibly rich and well written book. Yes, it is about video games. But that does not in any way detract from its quality as a piece of writing. The author, David Sheff, is famed for having done one of the last interviews with John Lennon and his articles have appeared in all sorts of publications. It is essentially a history of one of the most culturally important companies of the late twentieth (and early twenty first) century. Nintendo as a company is over a hundred years old and the stories goes right back to its early days in Kyoto as a maker of card games (I’ve actually been lucky enough to visit their original office when on vacation).

I got this book free with a computer game magazine when I was in high school. I read it all in about a week – not bad for a 13 year old kid. When I came to re-read it as an adult I found it equally as fascinating and if pushed I would say this was probably my favourite book of all time. It is oozing with anecdotes and provides a depth of historical contexts – from how the Nintendo company survived the second world war to a Cold War legal battle with the Soviet Union over the video game rights to Tetris.

A fascinating read – and one that be found on pdf here.

Video games are a hugely important part of our recent culture, they’re something that all our pupils are familiar with and they provide a hugely important learning tool. Even commercial games are uniquely powerful at teaching children. I was once astonished in one of my worst Year 9 classes when a child started talking with some confidence about the work of Leonardo De Vinci and asked, entirely unprompted, “Wasn’t he important during the Renaissance?”. Of course, what had he been playing? Assassins Creed. That same game series incidentally hires historical consultants to get as an accurate picture of the past, in the same way that Hollywood movies do. One of the Assassin Creed games features an accurate model of Colonial Boston – based on maps and drawings of the times – in which the player explores and meets key characters, like Benjamin Franklin. I also, perhaps flippantly, swear that is a good grounding in Civilization 2 that got me my GCSE in History and an unhealthy obsession with Sim City that let me cruise to top grades in GCSE Geography. Games are not to be dismissed as learning tools.

Indeed, my hunch is that in the near future games will do most of the teaching for us. Keep checking back at Wolsey’s Academy’s Learning Worlds page to see how that’s coming along.

Hope it helps.

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