Chapter 6: 21st-century media and issues

6.5.2 How video games affect literacy (synthesis)

Anonymous English 102 Writer

February 2021

In the world of literacy there are many common everyday activities that can be used to get closer to literacy without even realizing it. Most things people do within the day may improve or at least relate to literacy without them even realizing it. Video games, for example, can improve a person’s literacy each time they play it without even knowing. Whether it’s through communication between players or improvement of reading and writing skills, video games are much better at improving literacy than advertised. I chose this topic for this essay because video games are a hobby of mine and I believe they are very good at increasing a person’s skill in literacy than most would assume.

The way video game players communicate with each other is a very specific variation of standard speech. Rather than communicating through long, full, detailed sentences, they instead most of the time speak in short bursts of specific details about what they’re trying to tell each other. In James Gee’s “What is Literacy”, this is what would be known as an identity kit for the community of video game players. An identity kit is basically a set of instructions for how the members within one community act and interact with each other (18). With this kit of instructions players have found a new and more specialized way of communicating that is more efficient for them. When communicating in a more streamlined way like this, players cut out unnecessary details and only say what they need to. This concept works for the reading and writing aspect of literacy as well. When reading and writing within a game or community of video game players it is more efficient to use a shortened and simplified form of it. Skimming texts and writing with abbreviations are a few examples of this. In his article Gee discusses what he refers to as discourses which are the groups of people who use the identity kits for their specific needs (Gee). In this case the discourse of video game players uses an identity kit of efficient communication and simplified reading and writing to help them do better in their games.

In “Video Game Literacy Exploring new paradigms and new educational activities” by Damiano Falini it is further proven that video games have an effect of literacy. Playing video games usually subconsciously leads to the player improving their literacy skills whether they know it or not. Media analysis of video games causes the viewer to acquire more literacy skills such as language and technology (Falini 4). This acquisition of skill may not be as extreme as learning a language in school or from reading texts specifically designed for education, but it still has an effect on the players that can benefit them and their literary abilities. Many see this type of learning as negligible and a waste of time but learning in a way that is also enjoyable can often be much more efficient than traditional education. Throughout this article Falini cites several other articles including one that was also written by James Gee to support his argument about video games. Falini also references an Italian study that was still in progress at the time of writing that was meant to determine what effect a media education course about video games would have on students (Falini 4-5). With the finalized results of this study, it is possible Falini would have had even more support for his argument, but it seems he has high hopes for the results of this research. Falini then dedicates a section of the article to detail how he believes young students who wish to be educated in video game design should work step by step. In order the steps are introduction, then on to paper designs, followed by full production and concluded with testing (Falini 7-9). To conclude the article, Falini discusses a similar study to the previous one where students were surveyed about how well they like the video education course. The study concluded that for these students the course had proven the importance of collaboration and teamwork skills and that the students had learned something and done well on the tests attached to the video education course (Falini 11). Overall, it is apparent these video game development courses had a positive effect on the students involved.

Similar affects are analyzed in “The Game of Reading and Writing: How Video Games Reframe Our Understanding of Literacy” by John Alberti.  The correlation between video games and literacy is often not clear but it has always been there. Video games have always challenged players to broaden their view on reading and writing through new literary practices and firsthand experiences within the games (Alberti 260). Interaction with a virtual world is bound to cause the player to experience new things and expand their scope of understanding. Experiencing new things through video games challenges our pre-existing version of literacy in a way that can make the player view literacy in a new and possibly more beneficial way (Alberti 261). Alberti then discusses the visual aspect of gaming and how it plays a role in literacy by being a more non-static and moving way of seeing something that can be educational (Alberti 264-265). Through these and several other aspects it is clear Alberti believes that video games can have quite an effect on the literacy of someone’s mind. Alberti often discusses the aspect of motivation in education and believes the playing of video games has a similar aspect to it when determining why people play the games in the first place. Playing video games and reading is motivated by pleasure and results in questions about why people play them, what exactly that pleasure is and where it comes from (Alberti 268). Overall Alberti is more on the fence about the effectiveness of video games as a whole but still discusses how video games and literacy are tied together in multiple aspects.

Literacy within video games is even further discussed in Silviano Carrasco’s “Meta-Literacy in Gameworlds”. The beginning of this article relates somewhat to Gee’s concept of identity kits by discussing how games interact with their players. Meta-Literacy is someone’s ability to differentiate different sections and understand their differences when playing a game (Carrasco 32). Interacting with a game world has the ability to bring out many aspects of the players’ literacy abilities. Carrasco cites another source to discuss how the motivation to become more literate in a subject such as possibly video games is the appeal of sharing a common knowledge with everyone else which can apply to many types of media literacy including video games (Carrasco 33). With this type of motivation many people would be much more likely to want to be involved in a certain group of others that also enjoy a piece of media which in turn would help them be more affected by wider ranges of literacy. Carrasco also discusses video games’ connection to outside media. Video games that reference external media act as a new perspective on another piece of work that can possibly give it extra or entirely new meaning (Carrasco 37). The enjoyment of video games is partially dependent on the players knowledge of the world through past experience, without previous knowledge of the game world the player is in they are possibly missing out on aspects of the game that would go unnoticed by players that are not already well versed in the game’s world and story (Carrasco 39). With possible faults such as this it would be very helpful to a player’s literacy within the game they are playing to seek out and learn more about what they are experiencing, thus improving their literacy. Carrasco then discusses how so-called tutorials improve the players’ ability and literacy. Often early in the game a text message will show on the screen telling the player how to do something and with few reminders after this that action will become second nature to the player, and they will not need the text reminder anymore but instead will already know what to do (Carrasco 40). The player’s literacy is subconsciously improved throughout a game when they pick up on new tips and tricks without needing to be constantly reminded. When the player knows what to do on their own, they have genuinely learned something new. Video games are less geared toward learning through heavy reading and more geared towards learning through association with images and narratives that are displayed throughout the game (Carrasco 41). The repetition of the games story and main themes throughout a game is a more effective form of learning in a game than ordinary learning and data memorizing like learning in school. Carrasco concludes by discussing the potential emotional value that video game stories can hold and how it further draws the player into a game and story it is telling.

Ultimately, these articles may be different in some respects, but overall contribute to the conclusion that video games can be closely related to the development of literacy. Gee’s description of discourses and identity kits very accurately summarize the community of video game players and how their shared common literacy helps them communicate effectively about their shared interests. The other articles also broadened my view on this subject, especially in the aspect of specifically video game development rather than just video game playing. The development aspect contains even more hidden literacy than I had previously thought it could with the various routes to becoming more educated and well versed in the subject. Overall, after writing this essay I believe even more in the role video games play in literacy.




Works cited

Alberti, John. “The Game of Reading and Writing: How Video Games Reframe Our Understanding of Literacy.” Computers and Composition, vol. 25, no. 3, Jan. 2008, pp. 258–269. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1016/j.compcom.2008.04.004.

Damiano Felini. “Video Game Literacy – Exploring New Paradigms and New Educational Activities.” Medienimpulse, Dec. 2010. EBSCOhost,

Gee, James. “What Is Literacy?” Journal of Education, vol. 171, no. 1, 1989.

Silviano Carrasco, and Susana Tosca. “Meta-Literacy in Gameworlds.” Anàlisi: Quaderns de Comunicació i Cultura, no. 55, Dec. 2016, pp. 31–47. EBSCOhost, doi:10.7238/a.v0i55.2936.




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Understanding Literacy in Our Lives by Anonymous English 102 Writer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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