Gee – Learning and Identity

Learning and Identity: What does it Mean to Be a Half-Elf?

by James Paul Gee

[ Gee, James Paul. 2003. “Learning and Identity: What does it Mean to Be a Half-Elf?” Chapter 3 of What Video Games have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy. Palgrave Macmillan, NYC]

THREE IDENTITIES: VIRTUAL, REAL, AND PROJECTIVE

Points & Quotes:

Virtual Identity

“First, there is a virtual identity: one’s identity as a virtual character in the virtual world … “James Paul Gee as BeadBead” … given the sort of creature Bead Bead is (a female Half-Elf) and how I have developed her thus far, there are, at any point, things she can do and things she cannot do.” (54)

“The successes and failures of the virtual being Bead Bead (me in my virtual identity) are a delicious blend of my doing and not my doing. After all, I made Bead Bead and developed her, so I deserve—partly, at least—praise for her successes and blame for her failures. Yet Bead Bead is who she is—a female Half-Elf—and must move through the world of Arcanum and be formed, in part, by it, a world I did not create.” (54-55)

Real Identity

“A second identity that is at stake in playing a game like Arcanum is a real- world identity: namely, my own identity as “James Paul Gee,” a nonvirtual person playing a computer game. I will represent this identity as “James Paul Gee as Bead Bead,” where James Paul Gee is italicized to indicate that, in this identity, the stress is on the real-world character James Paul Gee playing Arcanum as a game in real time (though Bead Bead is the tool through which I operate the game).” (55)

“In the real world I have a good many different nonvirtual identities . I am a professor, a linguist , an Anglo American, a middle-age male baby boomer, a parent, an avid reader, a middle-class person initially raised outside the middle class, a former devout Catholic, a lover of movies, and so on through a great many other identities … Which of these identities, for instance, was at play—positively or negatively—when I got such joy at having Bead Bead pick rich people’s pockets? When I chose to be a female Half-Elf in the first place? When I chose to use my points to make her as strong and good as a male at melee fighting with a sword?” (55)

Projective Identity

“A third identity that is at stake in playing a game like Arcanum is what I will call a projective identity, playing on two senses of the word “project,” meaning both “to project one’s values and desires onto the virtual character” (Bead Bead, in this case) and “seeing the virtual character as one’s own project in the making, a creature whom I imbue with a certain trajectory through time defined by my aspirations for what I want that character to be and become (within the limitation s of her capacities, of course)” … “James Paul Gee as Bead Bead … the stress is on the interface between—the interactions between—the real- world person and the virtual character.” (55-56)

“The kind of person I want Bead Bead to be, the kind of history I want her to have, the kind of person and history I am trying to build in and through her is what I mean by a projective identity. Since these aspirations are my desires for Bead Bead, the projective identity is both mine and hers, and it is a space in which I can transcend both her limitations and my own.” (56)

“For example, on my first try at the game, early on I had Bead Bead sell the ring the old man had given her. … It’s a move allowed by the internal design grammar of the game and one for which I would have suffered no bad consequences in the game world. … However, the act just seemed wrong for the creature I wanted Bead Bead to be (or to have become, however partially, by the end of the game). … I felt I had “let her down” and started the game all over again. Thus, in my projective identity—Bead Bead as my project—I am attributing feelings and motives to Bead Bead that go beyond the confines of the game world and enter the realm of a world of my own creation.” (57-58)

TL;DR

“This tripartite play of identities (a virtual identity, a real-world identity, and a projective identity) in the relationship “player as virtual character” is quite powerful. It transcends identification with characters in novels or movies, for instance, because it is both active (the player actively does things) and reflexive, in the sense that once the player has made some choices about the virtual character, the virtual character is now developed in a way that sets certain parameters about what the player can do. The virtual character redounds back on the player and affects his or her future actions.” (58)

Annotation Summary for : “LEARNING AND IDENTITY: WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE A HALF-ELF?

Page 1, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “This chapter uses learning to play video games as a crucial example ofhow identities work in learning, an example that illuminates how active and critical learning works in any semiotic domain, including in school. Video games recruit identities and encourage identity work and reflection on iden­ tities in clear and powerful ways.”

Page 2, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “Arcanum takes place in a massive world called Arcanum, a world made up of a great many countries and towns.”

Page 2, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: ” A variety of races-Humans, Elves, Gnomes, Dwarves, Ores, and Ogres, as well as Half-El ves, Half-Ores, and Half-Ogres (each of which haveone Human parent)-cohabit this world, each orienting to the conflicts be­tween magic and technol ogy in different ways. “

Page 2, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “Before you start playing Arcanum, you must construct your character. Each race and gender has different natural characteristics. For example, I chose to be a female Half-Elf, whom I named “Bead Bead.” Half-Elves, likeall other races, have their own unique degrees of strength, constitution, dex­terity, beauty, intelligence, willpower, perception, and charisma. Each of these traits will affect how your character-that is, you-carries out dialogue and action in the world of Arcanum and how other characters in the world respond to you (e.g., if you are not strong enough to fight in a given situa­tion, you better be intelligent enough to think your way out of the problem, or beautiful or charismatic enough to get others to want to help you). “

Page 3, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: ” The game involves not onh- th.:’ :L:_::1 quest ofcarrying out the dead man’s wishes, a quest that eventual ly :=.,,~, : G :1 2Te:1t “

Page 4, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “many sub-quests that are part of the main quest. It also has lots of side quests, given to you by characters you meet throughout Arcanum, which you can choose to do or ignore. (Though you can gain experience and, thus, more ex­perience points to distribute to your character if you do them.) By the time you finish, your character is very different from the characters other players would have built, and the game you have played is very different from what it would have been had you built your character differently initially and throughout the game. “

Page 4, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “THREE IDENTITIES: VIRTUAL, REAL, AND PROJECTIVE”

Page 4, Underline (Blue):
Content: “THREE IDENTITIES: VIRTUAL, REAL, AND PROJECTIVE”

Page 4, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “·when one plays Arcanum, and role-playing games like it, three different identities are at stake. All are aspects of the relationship: “A real person (here James Paul Gee) as a virtual character (here Bead Bead).” They operate all together, at once, as a larger whole.”

Page 4, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “First, there is a virtual identity: one’s identity as a virtual character in the virtual world of Arcanum-in my case the Half-Elf Bead Bead. I will repre­ sent this identity as “James Paul Gee as Bead Bead,” where Bead Bead is itali­ cized to indicate that, in this identity, the stress is on the virtual character Bead Bead acting in the virtual world of Arcanum (though I am “playing/de­ veloping” her).”

Page 4, Underline (Blue):
Content: “First, there is a virtual identity: one’s identity as a virtual character”

Page 4, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “given the sort of creature Bead Bead is (a female Half-Elf) and how I have developed her thus far, there are, at any point, things she can do and things she cannot do.”

Page 4, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: ” Half-Elves are, by nature, pretty intelligent, and I had built up Bead Bead to be persuasive during the game (i.e., given her points in this area). Thus, she was able to pull off the task at the town meet­ ing (something I very much doubt a Half-Ore could have done, though Half­ Ores have other talents). T hese traits (her intelligence and persuasive skills)and her accomplishment at the town meeting-for praise-are which she received ample part of my virtual identity as Bead Bead. “

Page 4, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “The successes and failures of the virtual being Bead Bead (me in my vir­ tual identity) are a delicious blend of my doing and not my doing.”

Page 4, Underline (Blue):
Content: “The successes and failures of the virtual being Bead Bead (me in my vir­ tual identity) are a delicious blend of my doing and not my doing.”

Page 4, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “After all, I”

Page 4, Underline (Blue):
Content: “After all, I”

Page 5, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “made Bead Bead and developed her, so I deserve-partly, at least-praise for”

Page 5, Underline (Blue):
Content: “made Bead Bead and developed her, so I deserve-partly, at least-praise for her successes and blame for her failures. Yet Bead Bead is who she is-a fe­male Half-Elf-and must move through the world of Arcanum and beformed, in part, by it, a world I did not create”

Page 5, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “her successes and blame for her failures.”

Page 5, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “Yet Bead Bead is who she is-a fe­male Half-Elf-and must move through the world of Arcanum and beformed, in part, by it, a world I did not create. “

Page 5, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “A second identity tl-iat is at stake in playing a game like Arcanum is a real­ world identity: namely, my own identity as “James Paul Gee,” a nonvirtual person playing a computer game.”

Page 5, Underline (Blue):
Content: “A second identity tl-iat is at stake in playing a game like Arcanum is a real­ world identity: namely, my own identity as “James Paul Gee,” a nonvirtual person playing a computer game.”

Page 5, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “tl1e stress is on the real-world character James Paul Gee playing Ar­ canmn as a game in real time (though Bead Bead is the tool through which I operate the game).”

Page 5, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: ” in the real world I have a good many different nonvirtual identities . I am a professor, a linguist , an Anglo American, a middle-age malebaby boomer, a parent , an avid reader, a middle-class person initi ally raised outside the middle class, a former devout Catholic, a lover of movies, and so on through a great many other ident ities”

Page 5, Underline (Blue):
Content: “in the real world I have a good many different nonvirtual identities . I am a professor, a linguist , an Anglo American, a middle-age male baby boomer, a parent , an avid reader, a middle-class person initi ally raised outside the middle class, a former devout Catholic, a lover of movies, and so on through a great many other ident ities”

Page 5, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: ” “\Vhich of iliese identities, for inst ance, was at play­ positively or negatively-wh en I got such joy at having Bead Bead pick rich people’s pockets ? “\Vhen I chose to be a female Half-Elf in the first place?”\Vhen I chose to use my points to make her as strong and good as a male at melee fighting with a sword? “

Page 5, Underline (Blue):
Content: “I am playing Arcanum. “\Vhich of iliese identities, for inst ance, was at play­ positively or negatively-wh en I got such joy at having Bead Bead pick rich people’s pockets ? “\Vhen I chose to be a female Half-Elf in the first place?”\Vhen I chose to use my points to make her as strong and good as a male at melee fighting with a sword? “

Page 5, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “A third identi ty that is at stake in playing a game like Arcanum is what I will call a projective identity, playing on two senses of ilie word “project,” meaning both “to project one’s values and desires onto the virtual character” (Bead Bead, in thi s case) and “seeing the virtual character as one’s own proj­ect in the making, a creature whom I imbue with a certain trajectory through time defined by my aspiration s for what I want that char acter to be and be­come (within the limitation s of her capacities, of course).” “

Page 5, Underline (Blue):
Content: “A third identi ty that is at stake in playing a game like Arcanum is what I will call a projective identity, playing on two senses of ilie word “project,” meaning both “to project one’s values and desires onto the virtual character” (Bead Bead, in thi s case) and “seeing the virtual character as one’s own proj­ ect in the making, a creature whom I imbue with a certain trajectory through time defined by my aspiration s for what I want that char acter to be and be­ come (within the limitation s of her capacities, of course).””

Page 5, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “in this identity,”

Page 5, Underline (Blue):
Content: “in this identity,”

Page 6, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “the stress is on the interface between-the interacti ons between-the real­”

Page 6, Underline (Blue):
Content: “the stress is on the interface between-the world person and the virrual character. interacti ons between-the real­”

Page 6, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “world person and the virrual character.”

Page 6, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “In my projective identity I worry about what sort of “person ” I want her to be, what type of history I want her to have had by the time I am doneplaying the game”

Page 6, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “A good role-playing video game makes me think new thoughts about what I value and what I do not.”

Page 6, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “the real-world person, James Paul Gee, a crearure with multiple identi­ ties, face the fact that I am fixed in certain ways. Though”

Page 6, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “Though I am, like all human beings, ever changing, at the moment I am who I am (I wish I had more hair, but I don’t; I wish I was thinner, but I am not; I wish I was a better game player, but I am not). At least for the moment , I must live with my limitations. Bead Bead, my virtual alter-ego, is a creature who is, at any moment in the game, also fixed in certain ways- she is skilled in certain areas, not others (e.g., while she was pretty good at picking pockets, she was lousy at picking locks). At least for the given moment in the game, I/she must live with her limitations.”

Page 6, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “The kind of person I want Bead Bead to be, the kind of history I want her to have, the kind of person and history I am trying to build in and through her is what I mean by a projective identi ty. Since these aspirations are my desires for Bead Bead, the projective ident ity is bot h mine and hers, and it is a space in which I can transcend both her limitati ons and my own.”

Page 6, Underline (Blue):
Content: “The kind of person I want Bead Bead to be, the kind of history I want her to have, the kind of person and history I am trying to build in and through her is what I mean by a projective identi ty. Since these aspirations are my desires for Bead Bead, the projective ident ity is bot h mine and hers, and it is a space in which I can transcend both her limitati ons and my own.”

Page 6, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “The virtual character Bead Bead (my alter-ego) can fail to defeat anothe r character in battle because, as a Half-Elf, at that point in the game, she just is not strong enough to win.”

Page 7, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “The real-world person Games Paul Gee) can fail to use the game controls in an effective way, thereby causing Bead Bead to lose a fight against a weakercreature she could have otherwise beaten; “

Page 7, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “The projective identity of Bead Bead as a project (mine) in the making can fail because I (the real-world James Paul Gee) have caused Bead Bead (the virtual me) to do something in the game that the character I want Bead Bead to be would not or should not do.”

Page 7, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “For example, on my first try at the game, early on I had Bead Bead sell the ring the old man had given her.”

Page 7, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: ” It’s a move allowed by the internal design grammar ofthe game and one for which I would have suffered no bad consequences in the game world. “

Page 7, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “However, the act just seemed wrong for the creature I wanted Bead Bead to be (or to have become, however partially, by the end of the game).”

Page 7, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: ” I felt when I (Bead Bead) had sold the ring that I was forming a history for BeadBead that was not the one she should have. “

Page 7, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “I felt I had “let her down” and started the game all over again.”

Page 7, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “Thus, in my projective identity-Bead am attributing feelings and motives to Bead Bead that”

Page 7, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “Bead as my project-I am attributing”

Page 8, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “go beyond the confines of the game world and enter the realm of a world of my own creation.”

Page 8, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “Likewise, while some young people will let a superhero first-person shooter character kill “civilians” and not just enemies, a good many others will not, since they feel that it just isn’t fitting for such a superperson-that the person they are projecting into the world-to is,do such a thing. “

Page 8, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “Players are projecting an identity onto their virtual char­acter based both on their own values and on what the game has taught them about what such a character should or might be and become.”

Page 8, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “This tripartite play of identities (a virtual identity, a real-world identity, and a projective identity) in the relationship “player as virtual character” isquite powerful. It transcends identification with characters in novels or movies, for instance, because it is both active (the player actively does things) and reflexive, in the sense that once the player has made some choices about the virtual character, the virtual character is now developed in a way that sets certain parameters about what the player can do. The virtual character re­ dounds back on the player and affects his or her future actions. “

Page 8, Underline (Blue):
Content: “This tripartite play of identities (a virtual identity, a real-world identity, and a projective identity) in the relationship “player as virtual character” is quite powerful. It transcends identification with characters in novels or movies, for instance, because it is both active (the player actively does things) and reflexive, in the sense that once the player has made some choices about the virtual character, the virtual character is now developed in a way that sets certain parameters about what the player can do. The virtual character re­ dounds back on the player and affects his or her future actions.”

Page 8, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “As a player, I was proud of Bead Bead at the end of the game in a way inwhich I have never been proud of a character in a novel or movie, however much I had identified with him or her. “

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