Still have folks in your department who dismiss games as…, well, games? Then you need to check out this article in the latest edition of the Escapist. Todd Bryant has been experimenting with using games like Civ IV in history classes. This is no unthinking use of the game, though. For Bryant, the value lies in exploiting the gap between ‘real’ history, and the way that history is modelled (or argued, as it were: see Bogost) in the game:
A student came to my office last week and asked for help setting up a LAN game of Civ IV in one of the college’s computer labs. He was going to play my Age of Conquest mod scenario with some friends that afternoon. While I showed him in the menu how to set up a multiplayer game, he shared his strategy to play Spain and attack the Aztecs. It’s a bad idea.
For the class, students had to play the game in addition to their readings and discuss whether the scenario accurately represented the period. One of the key concepts students should have learned about was the role of belief systems as described in the book “The Conquest of America: The Question of the Other.” In essence, the book and the game make the same argument: Had the Aztecs viewed the world differently, their clash with the Spanish conquistadors would have been radically different.
He goes on to describe exploration of language teaching through immersing students in a German server for World of Warcraft. Mein Gott! Das ist wunderbar! (all that I remember from a freshman German class; that and a song set to the Blue Danube… perhaps if I’d been gaming language, things would be different…)
There are people doing similar things with Latin, as it happens (I had experimented with old school text adventures for Latin teaching, but this might be a bit more *sigh* exciting) … sign the petition now!