By KAYLIE HOROWITZ
Published November 30, 2022
Making class engaging can be a challenge, but thanks to the LevelUp gaming and computing site in Lockwood Memorial Library, some faculty are finding ways to put a world of experiences into the hands of their students — without ever having to leave campus.
Michael Kicey, humanities librarian and adjunct instructor, has built special activity days at LevelUp into his Introductory Ancient Greek course that enable students to experience the sights and sounds of ancient Greece via the Assassin’s Creed Odyssey video game. The game is now part of Kicey’s curriculum and serves as an example of the myriad possibilities of collaboration between the classroom and LevelUp.
“Whether you’re talking about classics, or engineering, or anything in between,” Kicey says, “technology like that … stands in the right place to change a lot of what we think about traditional education.”
Stepping into virtual worlds through video games can be a fun or relaxing experience, but these tools can also be a hands-on means of discovery in the classroom. When Kicey was initially looking for engaging digital content for his Ancient Greek course, online sources began to direct him toward content from Assassin’s Creed Odyssey.
“I started to dig around the internet about the game and discovered that not only were researchers and archaeologists looking at it and appreciating it, but that they had a big role in creating it.”
Using the Discovery Tour mode of the game, students can explore the recreated world in Odyssey at their own pace. Each tour focuses on different places, objects or festivals featured within the main game, and students are quizzed at the end of each tour by their in-game guide.
“You can walk around the Acropolis and see the temples, you can go through the house of an aristocrat, and you can also walk through the slums and see how a huge number of people in the ancient world lived,” Kicey explains.
Using video games to supplement lectures may not sound like much, but from Kicey’s perspective the in-class activity helps students connect with course material over the entirety of the semester. With a relatively relaxed structure on the days at LevelUp, Kicey asks his students to split into groups and complete at least two to three tours during the class period.
“It’s important to establish a rhythm,” he notes. “It’s not just sort of a one-day field trip.” By bringing students into the console lounge multiple times during the semester, they gain a deeper experience with the game and its detail-filled environment, he says.
Video games offer a direct way to experience worlds unlike our own, and students can see for themselves what the ancient world looked like without relying solely on the pages of books that were written centuries ago.
“It’s increasingly difficult to keep students engaged when all they have is a black and white page,” Kicey says. “And I too, as a teacher, it can get dull when all you have in front of you is a page with Greek letters on it.”
While picking up and playing the game is the easy part, Kicey recommends instructors work closely with staff at LevelUp to ensure a good outcome for students. Putting together such a class takes time to plan and coordinate, but Kicey says the work is worthwhile in the end.
“Work with staff closely on things like licensing, and scheduling as well,” Kicey advises. “Really, everything else about this has been pretty effortless; it’s been very easy, as long as I made contact with the right people.”
Although it may feel like extra steps just to play video games for class, Kicey believes this kind of collaboration can offer so much more to the educational experience.
“I think that things like virtual reality, augmented reality and the virtual worlds you can get even inside a commercial video game like this one, they go a long way toward getting away from book-centric or other kinds of old-fashioned models of teaching, and that meet students where they are.”
To learn more about the spaces available in LevelUp, visit the LevelUp website.