Baylor > Lariat Archives > News

New class applies video game technology to real life

Sept. 25, 2003

By Cindy Kittner, reporter

Who says class isn't all fun and games? Students enrolled in the telecommunications Diffusion of Innovations Theory video game class discuss these elements each class meeting.

'Our purpose is twofold,' said Dr. Corey Carbonara, professor of communication studies and director of digital communication technologies project. 'One is to understand the Diffusion of Innovations Theory in helping us to understand how people adopt different technologies. You have to understand the issues behind any industry to see how that affects the way in which innovation takes place.'

The course begins with a 10- minute session for students to try out the latest video games.

Kerri Sterling, a Westlake Village, Calif., senior, said she never played video games while growing up but enrolled in the course for an upper-level elective. Her classmates discovered this and made her volunteer for a demonstration, she said.

'I actually played the game and after a few instructions on, the controllers, the class was humored as I crashed into walls, and my car fell over cliffs,' Sterling said. 'It's interesting to see the implementation of innovations and how games' success has been paralleled with things like TV sets or DVD players.'

Student excitement for analyzing something close to them, which has a serious academic approach, builds a way to interpret media's impact in their lives, Carbonara said.

'What seems like a video game box today may become our digital media portal in the near future within a couple of years,' he said. 'This will be a device of education and entertainment and is going toward a knowledge navigator.'

Carbonara said the importance of the course centers on the impact of video games and their $20-billion-a-year industry.

'When we say impacts and we say issues, we're looking at what are the economic and technological drivers for the industry and what is the regulatory environment in which this exists along with sociocultural impact,' he said.

Carbonara, whose favorite video game is 'Madden 2004,' said the course is a cross section of the university and blends both theory and practice.

'It really shows how interdisciplinary it really is, which helps to achieve one of the goals of Baylor's new charter,' he said.

Sandy Kenyon, a Cincinnati senior, said he wanted to take another course taught by Carbonara, and this one seemed most interesting. 'We have a benchmark we're familiar with that we can apply when we enter the career field,' he said. 'We can see a modern application of something we're involved with an how it grows and develops.'

Students critique games each week by analyzing story line, redeeming value, graphics and skills players can get out of it. Carbonara said that game boxes can be used in very constructive ways and possess the capacity to change the way people are educated. Development has started on a game set inside the human body for primary school children, he said. Scientists hope to use video games to create a pure and innocent discovery for curing Lou Gehrig's Disease, Carbonara said.

'From children we might find that a very simplistic approach to battling these invaders [diseases] and using a game reality might be a break through for scientists to unleash a cure,' he said.

'There have been clinical psychologists, for example, who have used these [games] to help traumatized children by playing a game and moving them into a game world,' Carbonara said. 'They are able to cope with stresses and some of the key problems that they have by giving them an environment that's not real.'

Baylor was invited to join the Digital Media Collaboratory, founded at the University of Texas, along with Stanford University, Carnegie Mellon University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dr. Michael Korpi, communication studies department chair, and Carbonara are senior research fellows for the DMC, which examines the impact of video games on learning as the next generation knowledge network generator, Carbonara said. This connection has allowed Baylor to bring in industry professionals and scientists to further explore video game impact on our society.

Social scientists at Stanford are studying the cognitive narratology theory on how people learn, Carbonara said.

'In a video game, people try, fail, try, fail, try, fail, try, succeed. Have you learned a lot in those failures? Yes,' he said. 'You've probably learned more than if you were just given the exact, perfect path to be trained on how to win all the time.'

Although being told how to accomplish a goal may be a more straightforward way to learn, Carbonara said, people don't receive the correct knowledge and cognition but merely information to win a game. When applied to education, he said, if people enjoy trying and failing until they succeed, then it could be a new approach to the exploration of knowledge.

'One of the things we make sure we look at is ethics,' Carbonara said. 'Baylor's a great place to look at ethics and social value, but we are able to blend philosophy into it as well.'