Grand Theft South Africa? Local game literacies

”]GTA meets ZA in the imaginations of SA's young suburbanites

Here’s the abstract of a paper Nicci Pallitt and I just had accepted by the journal Language & Education:

‘Grand Theft South Africa’: Games, literacy and inequality in consumer childhoods

By Marion Walton and Nicola Pallitt

Discussions of ‘game literacy’ focus on the informal learning and literacies associated with games but seldom address  the diversity in young people’s gaming practices, and the highly differentiated technologies of digital gaming in use.  We use available survey data to show how, in South Africa, income inequalities influence consumption patterns, shaping experiences of digital games. Two case studies of young people’s play practices involving digital games in Cape Town suggest the fragmentation and inequalities of contemporary play practices and the need for a more inclusive understanding of digital gaming. Mobile phones offer more accessibility than other digital gaming platforms and local appropriations include display of micro-commodities, concealment of outdated technology, control strategies and deletion of functionality. Digital games articulate between multiple overlapping communicative spaces and hence complex cultural articulations arise when global game narratives are appropriated to make sense of racial otherness, crime and politics in South Africa. Since educational curricula cater for highly fractured publics, we ask whether it is advisable to speak of ‘game literacy’. We suggest the need to validate less strongly mediatised forms of play, and to address diverse identification practices in consumer culture, including prestige and status as well as othering and shame.

Here’s a prepublication version of the full article.

 

Jenkins on children’s culture

I’ve always been impressed by the way Henry Jenkins makes connections between computer games and broader issues of children’s culture, I find this infinitely preferable to the psychological studies which treat children’s media use as a purely individual matter — (psychological studies of children and the “effects” of violence in the media etc tend to do this).
Jenkins points out that children’s culture, (by which he means “popular culture produced for, by, and/or about children”)is not something innocent and thus separate from politics, economics, morality etc. Yes, it is “kid’s stuff” but it’s also an ideological “battleground” where we play out our adult fantasies about the future.
Here’s an article from him about boy culture and computer games which I found particularly useful. This and the MySpace interview I linked to earlier both suggest that new social circumstances in fact allow more parental surveillance now, and that this is the cause of at least some of the current rash of parental anxieties and panics. (The site has lots of other links to his articles and chapters on this theme).