Restaging the epic for computer game literacy education
Roessel, Lies van
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This thesis is an account for more attention to computer games as a cultural phenomenon that can be taught about. Due to the overemphasis on computer games as either causes of aggression and addiction, or the new means to educate our curriculum content, an elaborated concept of computer game literacy education, i.e. teaching about computer games, has not been developed yet. Media education, to which the idea of the ‘constructedness’ of all media is central, can serve as a framework for teaching about computer games. Its two pillars of critical reflection and personal media production can apply to computer game literacy education. However, since computer games are, next to media - with their own medium specificities - also ludic configurations, the theory needs to be adjusted. From the infant theory on computer game literacy education it becomes clear that the twofold nature of computer games as both representational media and rule-based systems is at the core of computer game literacy education. Furthermore, attention to the increased responsibility of players, as a result of the interactive nature of computer games, plays an important part. Both the small field of computer game literacy education and the broader field of new media literacies mostly stress the production part, while critical reflection receives less attention. For that reason, I argue for a particular kind of computer game that could teach critical reflection by commenting on its own built-in assumptions. I therefore look into the so-called epic theater of German theater practitioner and theorist Bertolt Brecht. He tried to accomplish a critical attitude to his audience by emphasizing the artificiality of his plays, rather than to present the depicted world as natural and unalterable. In order to bring about a critical distance, he employed so-called alienation effects, which were to accomplish a feeling of estrangement. Since both theater and computer games are representations of actions, and thereby have the ability to simulate, a translation from one domain to the other proves fruitful. Two of Brecht’s alienation effects, the break of the fourth wall and the separation of the elements, are particularly suitable for a translation to computer games. I provide several examples of how these elements manifest themselves in computer games, elaborating on the effects these epic elements can bring about and how they can serve computer game literacy education.