Ctrl + Teach: Unveiling The Secret Lives Of Teacher Gamers

Teachers playing video games? I know. It’s a hard topic for many of us to grasp. With all their responsibilities and tasks, there is no way our teachers have extra time for games. It’s even harder for us to grasp that teachers can share the same hobbies and interests as us. But it’s amazingly true […]

Teachers playing video games?

I know. It’s a hard topic for many of us to grasp. With all their responsibilities and tasks, there is no way our teachers have extra time for games. It’s even harder for us to grasp that teachers can share the same hobbies and interests as us. But it’s amazingly true even if we wouldn’t think it is.

But I wanted to find out if maybe the teachers are being sneaky and gaming in class when we aren’t looking. Maybe that’s why our tests and assignments take a while to get graded. What if our teachers are spending their time gaming instead of updating grades?

After asking some random Civics questions to social studies teacher Ms. Achara Jones, I popped the question of video games and interestingly discovered that she too was a “gamer”. She has played a good amount of games ranging from Spider Man 2, Far Cry 5, Crash, Mario Kart, and occasionally Call of Duty but only for the story mode as she referred to the recent games as a “waste of money” because of the short story and focus on multiplayer.

Her two main platforms of choice are the PS5 and Nintendo Switch or what she described as the “thing with the blue and red handles”. What draws her to games and piques her interest are the graphics and images within the games, which she brings into the classroom through art based projects and drawings. She doesn’t have any particular reasons for gaming, but she uses it as a form of bonding for her and her brother.

“I play really for my brother and just to have fun or when I’m bored,” she says.

As the coach and organizer of the CB esports team, I assumed Mr. Carson Whitesell would have valuable takes on gaming. I know that he’s never played Rocket League but I was curious if this had changed since coaching the team. He recently completed the new Spider-Man 2 game but some of his common plays include Madden, Call of Duty, and the God of War franchise. All of his gaming is courtesy of his PS5, his platform of choice. He aspires to soon play Ghost of Tsushima but surprisingly has still not tried out his team’s game, Rocket League. Mr. Whitesell prefers story games because  “it’s like an interactive movie — you are playing as the main character… [it] makes it more fun”.

Mr. Christopher Symkowick-Rose, known to many as Mr. Sy-R, is rumored to have a supposed Clash of Clans addiction, so I wanted to see if this was real or just a rumor going around to slander him. It turns out that allegations of building virtual civilizations was all false and instead he only plays one mobile game: Carcassonne, a different civilization building game. He expresses that over the past 10 years and thousands of games he has played, gaming has consistently been something that keeps him from doing work on his lunch breaks and gives him some downtime. 

History teacher Mr. Thomas Fleming ‘04 started gaming when his family bought a desktop computer that came with the Civilization franchise, a turn-based strategy game where you build up a civilization, negotiate, and conquer against or with other NPCs (non-playable character) or players. Throughout his teenage and adult years, Mr. Fleming has played a plethora of games and continues to still participate in some to this day.

“When I was younger, teenager [years] into my 20’s I played a lot of first person shooter and online games”. These early games for him consisted of the Battlefield franchise rather than Call of Duty like many others played. These games have created fond memories for him. The first COD and Modern Warfare came out when he was in college.

“I played way more of that than I should have in my senior year,” he admits.

Throughout his life he has gone back and forth with PC and console gaming, and when he graduated college into the 2008 recession, he shared that “it was really hard getting a job… and for that time in my life I was a console guy because it’s way cheaper”. None of these hardships stopped him from making the most of it and creating some of his favorite moments in gaming. He has fond memories of him and his housemates passing around a controller on the couch almost every evening playing Bad Company 2 or Battlefield 2. 

“Even to this day we will still bring it up two or three times a year in text talking about how awesome those days were,” the history teacher says. “I look back on those days and look back fondly of it.”

Since becoming a teacher and dad, he spends his time playing strategy-based games like he started games he started out on. Stellaris and action role-playing and stories games have been subject to his gaming recently, but it’s a bittersweet moment for him because of the amount of high profile games coming out.

“This summer was a time where being a dad and recognizing that I’m in a different stage of life has really really hit home… it was wicked hot for AAA games like Starfield, Baldur’s Gate 3, Diablo 4.”

It was the same case for him about 12 years ago where multiple high profile games came out, but it’s been a vastly different experience this time around “This summer has been a realization of 10 years ago Mr. Fleming would be playing all of these games and now I’ve pretty much saddled up on Diablo 4, played it a lot, and burned out pretty hard”.

His desire to enjoy these new games still lives, but with being so busy, it is hard for him to remember the story and commit to games with vast amounts of content.

There’s many different parts and aspects to video games that we individually enjoy and decide is our favorite.

“I’m like a systems man,” Mr. Fleming says. “It’s the tweaking of the build or the mechanics of the game that gets me that immediate gratification”. For the extremely complex games that he plays, many would probably question how someone could learn and have fun playing these difficult games. But he finds comfort in playing the things that he has prior knowledge of and enjoys that more than anything. Over all the games he’s played and the time in his life spent on different genres and styles of gaming, Mr. Fleming recounts every memory being fond and close to his heart. 

Sound design and the mechanics of games are what have consistently been a hit for Mr Fleming. The feeling of being able to hear and be surrounded by the game and its sound effects are distinct traits for him that he enjoys. “I’ve never really been picky about graphics… the sound difference and design in [BattleField Games] really sent that difference home.”

He also likes to tweak the game to his liking and manipulate the game into his own experience. He prefers to make the character how he sees fit and stick to what he knows and likes through trial and error instead of just going straight for what’s best or “meta” by looking up a YouTube tutorial like many people do, “Having those opportunities to tweak this stat or use this gear — I can totally do this thing with my character and have that ability even if it fails.” 

The reason he plays video games is one that I think is something many “gamers” can relate to. A huge part of it for him is that he likes to interact with the entertainment he consumes and watches. “Let’s be real — it’s all wasting your time,” he says. “But I would rather engage in a game where I have some agencies order what I do versus what’s on Channel 3?”

The other interesting point he touches on is the concept of people from his generation and younger ones having some fascination about sitting at a desk with a monitor in front of them instead of sitting on a couch with a controller like how many before used to play. “It’s my space — it’s not a space that is anyone else’s and it’s kinda like my own”. He likes the feeling of being in his own space and having his own experience with the game and really just enjoying and taking in all the entertainment. 

Last year, Mr. Fleming decided to try something out and decided to write what games and shows or movies he was watching or playing on the board in his classroom to create conversation and connections.

“It wasn’t less of, ‘look at me I’m hip and I’m cool’, almost to the point where I know that people aren’t listening to this late ’70s electronic composer and I know that people probably don’t know what Stellaris is,” he shares. “But it created those talking points”.

He recounts that he was able to make a connection with a student last year through that board, evidence enough that the board did its job. Even though it was only something he tried out for a year, he confidently believes that “90% of the students that crossed my room probably didn’t even recognize it or even understand, it but I’m glad I did do it because for the three or four students who did, it created points of connection, which is core to that Lasallian spirit”. 

Mr. Fleming finds bittersweet comfort in the listening to us students talk and chat about what we are playing and what our gaming journey looks like. He takes the most amount of comfort in knowing that that world of video games and buzz around it is still alive and well still to this day. “I live vicariously through that. I like to be stoked that they are having these experiences, like the amount of interest that was evident with Fortnite going back to its OG [old] map”.  

To give the teachers credit, many video games and arcade games were revolutionary in their age, and they were there for the start of it all. I know we all tend to get upset when they bust us or slam us for gaming, but we have to understand the classroom isn’t necessarily the place for it.

Video games are used as a temporary escape from the world and chaos that goes on around us. We are able to hop into these games and be certain people and do all kinds of things we want to and make it all to our own liking and create it into our own. We play as characters that pique our interests and express our own traits through them. Video games are not only for the teenagers and younger people but also those who have been around since the beginning. They are here for us to make these connections with each other no matter what we play or what we do or how old we are.

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