presentations teaching

Video Games as Cultural Competence

Everyone plays games, and almost everyone plays digital games. The chances that, as a clinician, the person in the room with you plays video games is quite high; 214 million (64%) Americans are gamers (cite). While not every player sees gaming as part of their identity, many people’s relationship to games and the gaming community carries significant importance.

I floated the idea of a training on games as a form of cultural competence for clinicians back in the Before Times but never heard back. Then, around mid summer, one of the coordinators for the Maryland Psych Association’s conference reached out and asked if I’d be willing to present at the conference.

It’s exciting but also a but nerve-wracking. I love speaking and teaching, and I know I know my stuff when it comes to mental health in games. But that nagging doubt born of graduate school supervisors advising against studying games because “no one will take you seriously” is still there. Grad school was 6 years ago now, but all the stress and anxiety and little tee trauma of finishing that program comes rushing back and reminds me why, after 5 years of grad school, I got my doctorate and then said “peace out” to the field for nearly 5 years.

Not gonna lie though, I’m pretty excited to give a room full of mental health professionals their (probably) first introduction to games as cultural artifacts, to Self Determination Theory, and the gems like this:


The Psychology of Video Games – Week 0

I wasn’t convinced it was going to actually happen, but it looks like I’ll be teaching a course of the psychology of video games in the Spring 2020 semester. I’m equal parts excited and nervous and my brain, of it’s own accord, even rewrote Sound of Silence to reflect my uncertainty.

Imposter syndrome my old friend,
You've come to bother me again.
Telling me that I have no clue
'Bout psych or games or what to do.
But I've studied and have 3 post-grad degrees
10 years XP
So eff off from my mind.

I don’t have a future in song writing, but Simon and Garfunkel is a legitimate coping strategy.

Anyhow, it’s been a bit of a scramble to pull things together. Through a confluence of random events and the general chaos of the universe I’ve had about a week to build a syllabus from scratch, including readings, assignments, homework, and in-class activities. And let’s not even talk about the slides…

I’ve only been dreaming / studying / researching / working on of something like this for a decade, so it should be a piece of cake, right?

Thankfully, have some fantastic and brilliant friends who have no reservation about picking up the phone and calling to help me organize and process (shoutout specifically to Dr Sarah Sawyer) and a spouse who stayed up with me until midnight, which is late for parents of toddlers, to think through scaffolding learning objectives, prioritizing content, and saying reassuring and chaotic-neutral things like “It’s ok if you’ve talked about this before” and “It’s ok to reuse a slide.”

So this is where we’re at: 14 of 16 topics accounted for + relevant ‘game of the week’ that exemplifies the topic, three key texts I’m drawing from (so far), and the first 6 weeks of readings lined up.

Not as far along as I’d like to be considering the first day of class is only 3 days away but pretty good considering where I was 3 days ago – no plan and knocked out with the stomach bug.

My goal from here on out is to document the semester; the process of making this course from scratch, reflecting on what works and what doesn’t, the times I inevitably fall on my face, the moments that give warm fuzzies, and – most importantly – sharing the readings, discussion*, and games openly.

*Probably a slide deck or two as well, but I have weird feelings / ethical questions I need to reflect on and look into about sharing decks…