This study aims to build on Gee’s (2003) earlier question exploring specifically the learning processes associated with broadening cultural empathy and exploring personal bias through gameplay in the role-playing game, Oblivion.
Methodology for this case study (Stake, 1995) was informed by narrative (Reissman, 2001) methods that focused on collecting descriptions of the unique experiences of participants while being engaged in gameplay and their personal reflections synthesizing game-based engagement and course content. “Narrative research offers the possibility of exploring nuances and interrelationships among aspects of experience that the reader might better understand other related situations” (Josselson, p. 239). Our study focused on using narrative research methods to examine embodiment within the fictional world of the game as an experiential participatory-learning experience.
All participants indicated that the most salient learning experiences of the course was playing the game. The process participants underwent the experience of an event in the game and linked this gaming experience to their personal real-life reaction combined with emotions and thoughts. They then self-reflected on those reactions, which cumulatively contributed to self-reported increased self-awareness in the areas of personal bias, stereotypes, attitudes, values, beliefs and privilege. Three themes were identified from the data, namely, increase or variance in levels of self-awareness, navigating unfamiliar cultural systems and increased understanding and cognitive empathy for others. In addition, a fourth additional theme of embodiment and the value of embodiment were identified.
Lacking in the findings were reports by participants regarding application of skills to different cultural populations. Future research will focus on how integration of application of skills can be facilitated using similar pedagogical practices. Because this study included a small number of participants who were counseling students in a master’s program, the applicability of the findings to other student populations is limited. Further research would need to determine whether or not the findings could be replicated with other types of students.
Embedding the intervention within the structure of a course appeared to provide a supportive and safe space for experiencing embodied selves, it also provided a mode for performing their future selves for and with colleagues experiencing similar situations. In this way, they were able to venture with and among their colleagues toward a fuller understanding of self, and particularly in conjunction to diverse populations. These features of the intervention appeared to work in concert together holistically affording a space where they could be vulnerable enough, open enough, to begin questioning their central thoughts and beliefs and increase their empathy for others who are different.
Using the game of Oblivion allowed our students to have an embodied experience in a virtual space where they got to experience being in a completely different culture and experience culture shock. They had to make decisions that forced them to review their belief systems, go against their belief systems, or explore options that were against their belief systems in a safe way with no real-life repercussions. This embodied experience allowed our participants to engage in behaviors that none would dare to do in their real world and provided a comfort zone to explore taboo subjects.
Embedding the game within the curriculum encouraged participants to experience feelings of embodied empathy (Gee, 2010). Oblivion assisted in this process by providing participants the opportunity to gain entry into a unique designed world, a realistic but pseudo-cultural world replete with social and institutional structures both familiar and foreign to their real life. This appeared to provide a realistic manifestation of self, positioning participants toward experiencing embodied empathy for the designed scenarios in the game.
Anderton, C. and King, E. (2016), "Promoting multicultural literacies through game-based embodiment: a case study of counselor education students and the role-playing game Oblivion", On the Horizon, Vol. 24 No. 1, pp. 44-54. https://doi.org/10.1108/OTH-09-2015-0061Download as .RIS
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