News / Edmonton

Video game university course gets a reboot for teens

U of A professor argues high schoolers need to be video game literate with course offered later this year.

Sean Gouglas is the professor at the University of Alberta who created an open online course about video games, now aimed at teenagers.

Kevin Tuong/For Metro

Sean Gouglas is the professor at the University of Alberta who created an open online course about video games, now aimed at teenagers.

Should high-school students study video games when they study media?

The professor behind a hugely popular online video-game course at the University of Alberta thinks so, and has rebooted it to give teenagers the same education about games that they’re given about other media.

“Video games are, in my mind, the most important cultural media being produced right now, especially for younger generations," said Sean Gouglas, a professor and senior director of interdisciplinary studies.

"It’s one of the first they come up against as they try to make sense of the world."  

A couple of years ago Gouglas created a massive open online course, or MOOC, called Understanding Video Games. It discussed things like how games tell stories, and how they tackle issues like violence, race and sex.

The course was open to anyone and was eventually viewed by almost 30,000 people.

Gouglas says he heard from high-school teachers locally who were using the university-level version in their classroom, so this year he got to work on version specifically tailored to teenagers.

Gouglas and his team have now reworked much of the material — adding more video and interactive content — to aim it at a slightly younger audience.

He argues that the scrutiny aimed at other cultural forms is needed in gaming as well.

He points out that the amount of money spent on games every year worldwide is more than music and movies combined.    

“Understanding how games make arguments about the world is important for any sort of informed citizen,” he said.

The Edmonton Public Library is offering the course until the end of the year.

Starting in January Gouglas plans to pilot the course in an Edmonton high school classroom next semester, and hopes to see it in more classrooms in future.

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