The Agony and Ecstasy of Social Gaming

I’ve been fortunate enough last weekend to have had a go on some of the different games consoles that are currently out on the market without hemorrhaging my wallet or bank balance. A work colleague has a Nintendo Wii and my partner’s brother has a Microsoft Xbox.

The Nintendo Wii (or simply “Wii” as the manufacturer prefers to market it) is currently en vogue at the moment with it’s unique wireless controller and nunchuk that acts as pointing devicea that senses positions across 3 dimensional space. I got to try out “Mii Maestro” and “Handbell Harmony” minigames from the Wii Music suite and Star Wars: The Force Unleashed. The first thing you notice is that the wireless controller is not as difficult to operate as the dual analog controllers of the Xbox and Playstation games consoles. The second thing you notice is that there is still a degree of eye – hand co-ordination going on (something that I am not particularly good at).

Whilst I am very competitive with board and card games, I have found myself not being quite so competitive with the computer / video games as I have wanted the opportunity to test the features of the software and hardware to try and gain a better understanding how it all fits together especially where my wretched eye – hand co-ordination is concerned. The rather nice thing with the Wii was that there was six of us having a go with it – it’s the social aspect of gaming that I have always found appealing and it was nice to see it here again with a computer-based game rather than a board game.

Microsoft’s Xbox is a more “traditional” games console that uses the dual analog contollers which takes a little getting use to as each button, toggle and trigger performs different functions that tend to come into play simultaneously – which means hand, eyes and brain need to work together (you really begin to appreciate Prensky’s (2001) “digital native” concept at this point). My partner’s sons, Josh (10) and Nathan (14), opted for Colin McRae Rally 04, F1 2002 and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

The two racing games were very much about eye – hand co-ordination and manoeuvring the cars around the track without crashing them. The game that interested me the most was the Harry Potter game and the situation that arisen from it that reminded me of Gee’s (2007) discussion about the social aspect of gaming. Josh is the most dextrous out of myself and Nathan as far as videogaming is concerned and how adroit he is at handling the controls. Josh is well versed with platform games and adventure games.

The Harry Potter games has dozens upon dozens of rooms that contained different types of logical puzzles. Josh would run around in each room like a headless chicken using his wand to smash open boxes, etc whilst completely missing that each room might have a special clue or puzzle that needed solving. This is where Nathan and I would come in to advise / coach / “bossing around” Josh what he needed to do. What struck me was that although neither I nor Nathan had access to the controls we were able to take a full part in the game by collaborating with Josh as to what needed to be done and how to go about it – this for me demonstrated the reflexive and critical elements that Gee (2007) was talking about in terms of learning and understanding along with group collaboration to getting the task completed. Whilst at the beginning Josh was a little irritated by our input, it didn’t take long for him to see the value in it as he was able to complete tasks more efficiently and more quickly because the group was working to their strengths to get the tasks done.


Gee, J.P. (2007). What Video Games Have To Teach Us About Learning And Literacy (Revised and Updated Edition). New York, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan.

Prensky, M. (2001). Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants. On the Horizon, 9(5), NCB University Press.