Computers can help to develop the creative capacity of people. Today’s digital technologies like commercial games demand strategic thinking and sophisticated problem-solving skills. Educators and psychologists believe that a variety of learning principles are built into good video games. According to J. P. Gee (2003) these good learning principles may be useful in what he calls the semiotic domain of everyday life. In what follows, we present five principles of learning exemplified with L.A. Noire, a neo-noir detective video game developed in 2011 by Team Bondi and published by Rockstar Games.We believe that electronic games like L.A. Noire, where players are challenged to solve problems, give players a rich learning opportunity.
Identity: digital games motivate the player through the identity of the character who plays. This character can be inherited by the player, or created and developed by him. E.g. L.A. Noire is set in Los Angeles in 1947 where the player assumes the identity of a detective of the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD).
Interaction: video games require the player interaction for its development and from it he receives feedback and new challenges. E.g. in L.A. Noire the player can choose several strategies to solve cases.
Agency: players have a sense of control over the actions and decisions.E.g. following up clues to unravel each case’s story in L.A. Noire.
Smart tools and distributed knowledge: many aspects of video games, as their characters are intelligent tools that lend their expertise to the player, so the player only needs to know when and how to use the knowledge of these tools to face challenges. The same occurs between players who help each other with their knowledge and skills of their characters in collaborative video games. E.g. in L.A. Noire the partner of the detective player assists in location to solve game objectives.
Systematic thinking: video games encourage players to think about the relationships between events, the facts and the existing skills in them. E.g. in L.A. Noire the solution of police cases is based upon the interpretation of the events that occur in a chain of events. The detective player has skills that can assist to solve a range of cases.
Young people’s engagement with complex digital technologies brings new possibilities for learning in a much more multimodal form. So, they are relevant to young people’s success in school and society in the new digital age we are living. Good video games are digital tools for learning inside and outside of school in areas that we value.
James P. Gee. What video games have to teach us about learning and literacy (New York: Palgrave, 2003), 207.