What Games do Teachers Play?

It’s getting easier to find statistics about how many students are playing games and even what game genres and specific titles they play. But data about what teachers are playing? Not so easy to find.

The Joan Ganz Cooney Center has organized teacher surveys to gather data about which teachers use games, and how (Games & Learning reports on game use in class). But they’ve also asked some questions about teachers’ personal recreational gameplay, and that’s what I’m interested in today. After all, it’s hard to imagine asking someone with no interest in books to inspire kids to have rich reading experiences; if we’re going to expect teachers to use games in their classrooms — and increasingly, we do — shouldn’t we invest in the gaming lives of teachers?

Data Theory Play Llamas in RPG costumes

Here’s the report I’m talking about. It came out just last year, and (bonus!) it’s full of wonderful graphs and charts. According to this research, 74% of American K-8 teachers play digital games for fun. This is well above the 59% of the general population of Americans (according to the 2015 Big Fish survey). The JGCC study groups teachers into four categories based on how much they play on their own, and then breaks results down by category when looking at what game genres and titles they use in class and how they talk about barriers and benefits.

But the report doesn’t ask what games teachers play. And it only addresses digital games (true for much, if not most, of current research on games in education).

I, for one, am very curious about this. In the interest of exploring the question, I’d like to offer a few anecdotal data points from my own cohort, teachers of college-level French, 9 women aged about 25 to 35 (including myself). All of these teachers know me well personally, and this “data” comes from our conversations, mostly on-campus, sometimes more personal:

  • All of us are interested in using games in the classroom.
  • One teacher plays World of Warcraft recreationally and has talked about encouraging students to use it as a language-learning opporutnity.
  • One teacher plays some digital games a few times a week, and is interested in board games.
  • One teacher (me) plays digital games almost every day, and is interested in board games, playing them a few times each month.
  • At least one teacher has professed ignorance of digital games.
  • Five teachers have never mentioned playing games recreationally.

That doesn’t paint a picture of a group of teachers who know the ins and outs of games and their uses. But maybe we’re just not talking about our gaming experiences — and nobody’s asking us.

So let’s ask. Do you play games for fun? What are your favorites? What do you like about them?

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