Videogames have emerged as the entertainment medium in the US in terms of both dollars and time spent. In 2010 in America alone, total consumer spending on the games industry totaled $25.1 billion (Siwek, 2010), surpassing both the music industry ($15.0 billion) and Hollywood box office movies ($10.5 billion). The amount of time young people spend with entertainment media in general is staggering. Youth ages 8 to 18 year olds consume about 10.45 hours per day of media (compressed into 7.38 hours per day thanks to multitasking: Rideout, Foehr, & Roberts, 2010). Console and handheld videogames alone account for roughly one hour and 13 minutes of that screentime, not including computer games. And the majority of unit sales come from games targeted at children, with ESRB ratings of E for everyone (56% of unit sales), E10+ for ages 10 and up (18%), or T for ages 13 and up (21%) (Entertainment Software Association (2011).
But what is the literate and linguistic nature of such sociotechnical spaces and what role do they play, if any, in literacy and language learning? From simpler titles for young pre-literate children like Peekaboo Barn to larger, online immersive social worlds for teenagers and young adults like Club Penguin and World of Warcraft, games provide learners rich multimodal environments that ground literacy and language learning in the situated context of its meaning and use (Gee, 2010), thereby enabling meaningful learning and sense-making to take place. It is no surprise, then, that game-based instruction has markedly higher effects in the domain of language learning compared to other domains (Peterson, 2010; Young et al, 2012; Wouters, van Nimwegen, van Oostendorp, & van der Spek, 2013). As Young et al. (2012) conclude, games designed to teach language learning “may be the most effective use of educational computer gaming to date” (p. 74). Such conclusions, however, treat games as a single category of technology and ignore the details of their design, context, and function.
This colloquium unpacks the dynamics of interactive media and its role in language and literacy development, drawing from a wide range of game contexts and genres to address the complexities of designed architectures for engagement, entertainment and education.