Greetings everyone!

TL:WR (Too long, won’t read): I created a couple high school video game clubs, current one is in Detroit. I’m trying to give schools/students/parents the tools they need to start their own successful video game clubs. We have an opportunity to engage students into school through their interests in gaming. Everyone wins: students’ education, parents, and gaming companies.

My name is Nick Lenk. I am a physics teacher in Detroit Public Schools Community District teaching at Cass Technical High School. With enrollment at ~2400 students, it makes Cass Tech the largest high school in Detroit.

I run the Cass Tech Video Game Club. Without going into too much detail here, boiled down to the basics, the club meets nearly every Friday from 3:30-6:00pm and through our 26 meetings last year we had an average of 110 students come each week. The basic model for the club is that the students bring in their gaming consoles (one kids brings in his PC), and I provide the monitors they use. We’ve 13 monitors that typically all get used each meeting. The games range from NBA 2K, to Smash, to Just Dance. There’s also a lot of students who bring their TCGs in, with Yu-Gi-Oh! being the most popular.

I am a PhD candidate at Wayne State University (3rd largest public Michigan university located right here in Midtown Detroit). My dissertation is studying how after-school video game clubs have affected their student’s engagement. In my multiple case study of video game clubs in Canada and the US, I’ve found them to be incredibly beneficial at helping the students feel better about school.

Specifically, the most beneficial part is the students feeling like they have a community at their school. The students felt like because of the club they’ve been able to meet several people who they didn’t think liked the same stuff they liked. The students routinely described being appreciative of having peers, and a support community, surrounding their interests. They described this as a large factor in their happiness about school. Students describe their club as being a significant factor in forming their group of friends.

I am trying to lay down the literature that students, teachers, parents, and administrators can use to convince their peers that these kinds of clubs are far more than just a place where students can come to play video games. They’re a place where students build relationships with classmates, have healthy interactions with adults, have a place where video game addiction can be discussed, and have a place that will help them reengage with schooling.

The after-school club model has existed for nearly a century. We can still use this approach for our current students’ interests. Sports teams, drama, chess, and debate clubs all have been positive influences on our students’ lives. Video game clubs can achieve just as positive results those groups historically have.

I have created the website www.videogameclubs.org as a means to help anyone who is interested in seeking information regarding starting their own video game club at their school. It has recommendations of successful video game clubs, helpful structural suggestions for your club, and published literature that you might be able to use to help support your argument if you’re facing stubborn administration. Also, people can use /r/videogameclubs as a way to shoot questions off me if they’re not feeling my website.

If I couldn't pick teaching science, I think my dream job would be to work for a video game company or be a consultant or something, traveling and helping interested k-12 districts and universities start these kinds of programs. It helps them recruit prospective students; but most importantly it helps their current students stay engaged with school and gives them a vector to feel like they have a community in which they belong. I really feel like I'm helping the world become a better place through these clubs. That being said, I’ve no idea how to pitch this job to Blizzard/EA/Riot/Nintendo/etc., hah!

Special thanks need to go out to /r/leagueoflegends for helping me get the attention of Riot Games back in 2014. They flew out to my club in Des Moines to make a video feature about the League club I had there. That video can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eWysttc6aqw . I didn’t know what I was doing was so valued by parents and students at the time. Shortly after that video came out, I decided to pursue this as a PhD topic. 3 years later I’m about to defend my dissertation, and I’m here to help anyone else start their own club through the resources I’ve found helpful.

Proof: https://www.videogameclubs.org/about-me/

Edit 1: I'll be back in 2 hours to start answering questions.

Edit 2: Forgot to plug my recent video about the club in Detroit: https://youtu.be/s4T51_1Zgbw . Keep sending the great questions everyone!! I'll be up for a few more hours!

Edit 3: Alrighty everyone, I'm heading to bed. Please feel free to post questions here still and I'll get to them in the morning.

Edit 4: Ok, awake again, I'll be around all day answering any more questions you all have. :-)

Comments: 85 • Responses: 31  • Date: 

sinkingcloud20 karma

Bravo!! I wish a video game club existed at my school in the 90's.

I have a few questions.

Have you had any communication with university gaming clubs like the one at Robert Morse? On top of your club being an excellent way to teach students how to socially grow, I imagine it can evolve into a feeder program for future university gaming teams.

Do you teach students how to effectively control their emotions related to playing video games? I know lots of people (manly guys) who regularly have emotional outbursts when they lose during game play.

Thanks for your answers and good like with your dissertation defense!

goldraven13 karma

First question - I'm involved with Colorado State University's e-sports club. My brother started the Arizona State League of Legends club, oh, probably 4-5 years ago at this point, with my guidance. That being said, I haven't focused too much on universities, not because I don't want to but because I'm simply maxed out right now teaching full time/doing my dissertation/running my own club/being a husband. I'd love to get in touch with more universities though! I'm just not sure how to do that.

2nd question - Regulation of their emotions, yes yes yes. We talk all the time about doing this in the club. It's actually not as hard as you might imagine. Once the culture is set in the club that we don't allow people to be mean to each other, it usually polices itself. If a student is a jerk, their peers will come down on them without my intervention usually. If they want to be back in the club, they'll have to change their ways. I give a speech during each meeting talking about controlling your own behavior, and being accountable to yourself. Also, I think playing a game with someone right next to you is significantly different than playing against someone online. The anonymity of it online brings out the worst in people. When you're right next to the person, it is actually much more natural to be nice. :-)

flobota7 karma

What's the reaction of the parents like? I mean probably quite different, maybe you can share one or two notable experiences.

goldraven9 karma

One of the most surprising things I've found with the 200+ guardians I've talked to is that zero of them are worried about their kids being in the clubs. That probably has a bit to do with selection bias, but when you've got zero in all those interactions, it starts to become significant. :-) My only stories are of incredible gratitude from the parents.

edit: switched of and are around...not sure why I typed it out that way originally. :-P

SVcross6 karma

Do you have any recipe to make scrambled eggs?

goldraven8 karma

It's really important to scramble the eggs while they're on heat, not before you add them to the pan. Too many people make this mistake.

_poho5 karma

What an awesome idea!

How are you measuring engagement? Does your PhD fall under the category of social sciences?

goldraven7 karma

Oh boy! I could write a whole dissertation on this one. :-P

To boil it down to the bare basics, student engagement has many branches that are measure differently. For my dissertation I'm focusing on what's called affective and behavioral engagement. Affective being how students feel about their relationships with school/their peers/their teachers/if they think they can succeed/etc. Behavioral engagement is measured in several different styles, sometimes looking at students' attendance, how much time they're working on homework, how much time they're working on stuff in school, how often they practice positive behaviors or how often they behave in negative ways...things like that.

Both affective and behavioral engagement of students is tied to students succeeding more, academically, in schooling.

Hopefully that answers your question!

_poho3 karma

That's awesome, thank you. I'm interested in the influence of video games on mental health, and am chewing over the possible ways of measuring such an effect, so this is really interesting to read. If you're willing to share, I'd be really interested in reading your dissertation when you're done. Good luck with the dissertation defence!

goldraven2 karma

For sure! PM me in like November. Should be good to go by then.

IC-A-628944 karma

Is this an affluent, middle class or poor community?

goldraven7 karma

Detroit's public schools? You could safely say we're on the very poor end of the spectrum.

framedposters3 karma

How is it balancing being a teacher while getting your PhD?

goldraven5 karma

Busy, but achievable. Every weekend during each semester you're taking classes is usually a full day of work, and maybe a couple hours on the other day. Summers were full of proposal and dissertation writing, but so long as you give yourself a goal each day you can do it.

NotNotForrest3 karma

Hope I'm not to late...

High school student want something like this at my school what can I do?

goldraven4 karma

Great question!

First, I'd recommend finding a teacher or administrator who will want to sponsor your club. If you don't have a teacher/admin willing to put in the work for you, it makes this entire process waaaaay more difficult.

Once you found someone willing to sponsor the club, I'd say direct them to www.videogameclubs.org. I know it's cheesy to plug your own stuff, but that website I designed specifically for interested teachers/students/admin. It goes through the advantages I see these kinds of clubs having, plus it recommends some of the available published literature to back up your desires. Also, you can email me throughout your process with questions and I'd be more than happy to help answer them! Just don't feel too shy to email me, I'll make time for you. :-)

sonicHeart3 karma

Public school teacher here (Math and Computer Science); A co-worker and I have been running Game Club at our school for the past 4 years. We have a mix of special needs and mainstream students all gaming together on a WiiU, Switch, PS4 and whatever the kids bring. Last year a guy brought a table-top Star Wars game and there's word of a D&D table game starting up next week.

Need any help? :)

goldraven1 karma

You in the Detroit area?

sonicHeart2 karma

Chicago suburbs.

goldraven1 karma

Dang, wish we could've collaborated on some kind of cross-VGC project! That would've been fun. If I'm in the Chicago area any time in the next few months, mind if I PM you and come check out what you've got going on?

DrAnnMaria3 karma

Do you work with your students on designing or coding games, or is the club focused solely on playing them?

goldraven5 karma

Our computer science teacher is pulling students interested in coding aside and working with them through his expertise. Personally, I cannot code worth a darn. I've tried three times in my life to teach myself, and I just cannot do it! My mind doesn't work well with it, yet. Perhaps I'll be up for a 4th try after I defend.

klip_twings3 karma

This is brilliant. I would gladly do this in my community for not even minimum wage... for a stipend. As a past educator who's run after school writing clubs, I can only imagine how successful (and community building) a video game club could be.

Out of curiosity, do you ever include any kind of metacognitive or social exercises with the students alongside the games?

Good work!

goldraven2 karma

Good question! I do not do those at this time, but your question has made me think about some small things I could include. :-)

heywoodJablomey_2 karma

There is a significant negative stigma to gamers, despite the massive number of people that own consoles or play on pc. At my school, theres no way we could get anywhere near that many kids to come in, and theres ~2000 students in my school, due to that negative stereotype about gamers. How did you overcome that issue and get kids to come in numbers more than a few at a time?

Edit: Also I would definitely attend a club like this, but unfortunately a lot of gamers prove the negative stereotype and are severe introverts and are very socially awkward, which probably prevents a lot more of these clubs from forming. Do you do anything to help kids come out of their shell and go and become socially active and physically active people, which is very important for someone's wellbeing?

goldraven5 karma

I think you'd be surprised at just how non-existent that sigma actually is. What you perceive as a sigma might wither away when kids on the football team come in to play video games, or kids in theatre come in, or the basketball team comes in to play 2k; all of a sudden people just stop caring about which group of people you hang out with. It's just a matter of getting the kids to just come in.

Edit-clarity

drchopsalot2 karma

Pineapple on pizza or no?

goldraven5 karma

Certainly. It's fabulous.

LARPeasant2 karma

I suppose this is a bit late, but are there any clubs or members that you know of that play Dungeons & Dragons, or other similar tabletop RPGs? My friends and I had a very similar sort of club back in high school, and we also ended up getting into LARP as a result.

Perhaps that might be something to look into as well!

goldraven1 karma

Yes, some of our kids play DnD. However, I'd like to give a shout out to a club I went to in the greater Vancouver area. They have a huge DnD club, and they have a huge LARP group for the entire school district. It's actually quite incredible. They have huge buy in from the other staff members and the turnout is large. They're great. So yeah, a club like that is absolutely viable.

vodkas6662 karma

TL:WR Has your video game club helped your students develop better problem solving skills and increased their resilience? Interested in starting one at my school but will need to argue how it fits with our school vision.

UK physics teacher here who works in a good school where students often get excellent results. However with recent curriculum changes here our students are struggling more to get the results we used to get (and naturally in this country it's the teachers fault). What I have discovered is before we could get our students to memorize answers for tests but this new curriculum relies on their problem solving skills and resilience to face challenging problems. Has your video game club helped your students develop better problem solving skills and increased their resilience?

goldraven1 karma

There's a huge amount of research out there that does show games help students' problem solving skills. I don't think it applies to any game, but huge numbers of games have puzzles in them. Even games like NBA2K will have built-in higher percentage approaches to scoring and defending. If you present the problem to the students to identify what's the most efficient way to score, they stop trying to dunk and ally-oop each possession ... at least for 20 minutes. :-P

I'll bet if you google scholar search about games in education, you'll find a huge volume of detailed research of the types of games that are most effective and how to implement them.

But anyway, to answer your question, yes, I do think a video game club would help your goals. I wish there was a way I could come out to the UK and help you guys with this! That'd be a super fun project!

Bakedbrown1e2 karma

How do you manage the risk/presence of addiction?

goldraven3 karma

Talk about it constantly. Talk about what games do to get you to come back. Get the students to recognize when they're being manipulated, empower them to turn the game off. Create a culture in the club of moderated joy in gaming. Pause all the gaming during each meeting to talk about how to succeed in school, and let the club members share their success stories with their peers.

Bakedbrown1e3 karma

Interesting approach. For what little anencdotal accounts are worth I was constantly reprimanded for gaming as a kid and I think it screwed my self esteem for a long time (and didn't stop me gaming). This sounds like a much healthier approach. Would be super interested to read your research when it's done.

Edit:

Tl;dr wish I'd had a teacher like you at school!

Also just thinking out loud but might be worth screening for depression/abuse in the kids coming to the club.

goldraven1 karma

Screen them for depression? That sounds horrifying.

What I do, probably half the time, is during my mid-club speeches I'll talk about depression and things that can help students suffering from it. Certainly a huge portion of the students are feeling unstable emotions just from being teenagers. So, talking about emotions in this way helps the students explore their feelings more, and it also creates room in the club for the students to talk to each other. From this, the peer support has been incredible.

I've had students put me on their 3 person visitation list for the hospital after trying to kill themselves. Depression is horrifying, and crippling. It's really important as an adult to be available to the students to talk through their feelings.

Texastexastexas12 karma

Do you have any grade requirements?

goldraven3 karma

What I've found is that most of the time the students, or their parents, will place the grade requirement upon themselves to be able to participate in the club. When I started the research process, I would've put money down that one key component to get better results from children is to have a grade requirement, but from my research I've realized that that probably isn't true. It ends up being more important to give the children a community of peers and a supportive place to explore themselves, than to be pounding grades into their minds the whole time. One thing about giving the kids a community of their peers, is that those peers often are doing well in school, and being friends with those kids helps the others put in the work towards school.

Texastexastexas11 karma

Interesting.

I teach in a schoo of app. 850 students. The ones who are that into video games are not the ones with good grades.

goldraven2 karma

Right, so give them a community at school with this, and through the relationship you build with them, you can mentor them on putting more effort into school work. That's what really helps. Good luck! And let me know if you've any more questions!

PM_me_goat_gifs2 karma

After reading this post, I have to ask: How time-consuming was it to get your study approved by an Institutional Review Board?

goldraven1 karma

Not hard at all...kinda. My IRB submission was thorough, but it was approved in a month. So it took me a while to write it all out, but since I addressed everything, they approved me.

z0mgPenguins2 karma

O: Sorta up my alley.

What was your undergrad in and did you poke around doing video game related during your undergrad?

I'm SERIOUSLY excited about this. I finished my BA in Psych back in December and a friend and I did "video game" research during our research methods class. It was basically a self-report survey type asking if the types/genres games you play affect how you perceive social support. I really want to do more of that kind of research but I don't know how to do it really. I am considering getting a masters but still unsure if I want to continue psych (and what field).

goldraven3 karma

My undergrad is in astronomy from the University of Colorado.

Congrats on the completion of your degree! If you're passionate about studying this more, all I can give is encouragement!

project_monsterr1 karma

First off, thank you so much for offering up this AMA!

When I was a student at my high school 3 years ago, I started a League of Legends focused eSports club for everyone to enjoy. We found a lot of popularity in the first few months, and before we knew it, we had two teams ( A JV and Varsity ) good to go. We participated in a small local tournament (Chicago Suburbs) and finished second. Due to our charisma and effort on the rift, our coaching staff (including myself) had the opportunity to be interviewed and featured on an ESPN segment following High School eSports during the first ever Robert Morris University invitational.

Now graduated, I was recently contacted to come work for my school District (just a few months after leaving, I may add) to work as a TA during school and an eSports instructor after school. Our first club meeting is in two weeks!

My question: Now that I'm on the other side of the desk and I don't really have the day-to-day interactions with students with common interests, how do you suppose I recruit new faces? I'm very fortunate to have the administration on my side and they're willing to pull almost any strings they can to make us successful.

Thanks!

goldraven1 karma

Wow! What a treat for you! I'm jealous!

As far as recruiting goes. I think a good place to start will be to get on the school announcements. Start plugging your club through that, and showcase how cool it is. That should draw some students initially. Once they come in be ready to cater to their interests rather than trying to use what you did before as an unwavering model for what the current club has to be like. They'll probably get excited about it, and start telling their friends, and it'll go from there.

Don't stop plugging it on announcements. Start organizing larger events that will get attention from others. Once those events are over people will talk about it and word will continue to spread. Always try to think about how you can do more for the club. You'll build a reputation faster than you think. :-)

Edit: Also feel free to contact me through www.videogameclubs.org if you need any more suggestions. I'd be happy to continue hearing from you and working with ya!

OrbitalPete1 karma

how are you investigating games clubs generally rather than focusing on your own in particular?

goldraven1 karma

Yes, I'm investigating more than my own club. :-)

grease_gun1 karma

Upon receiving your Ph.D, will you be tea bagging your Bachelor's degree?

goldraven3 karma

No. I love my bachelor degree.

jofish221 karma

Hey, do you need funding to help study this for your phd research?

You might want to consider applying for a Mozilla Research Grant: https://twitter.com/jofish/status/902326583947440128

Srsly.

goldraven2 karma

Not sure if I'm making the internet safer or more empowering! But I'll check it out! Thanks for the suggestion!

renasma1 karma

How do you select which games are played?

Do you instruct/add in teachable tangential learning moments when they game? (Mythology from FF for example)

goldraven1 karma

1st question - The students select the games that are brought in. I simply provide the monitors and desk space to play them on.

2nd question - Sometimes times I will point out how to find the most efficient way to approach a game, and how to identify how games weigh different actions. However, to answer your question, I'd say generally I do not do this while they're gaming. It would be awkward to interrupt their game this way, typically.

SoUpInYa1 karma

Am I a pessimist for expecting kids to be robbed for their consoles?

goldraven1 karma

Been doing this for 3 years in Detroit. I try to watch 110 kids per meeting, but obviously miss things. Not once has a kid been robbed of their stuff. Not once.

twim191 karma

You drawing at all from the work of Gee?

goldraven1 karma

Good question, but Gee typically focuses on how video games are connected to learning. My research is looking at student engagement benefits of these clubs, rather than the value games have for learning.

twim192 karma

True, though reading your description, I think Gee's concept of the Discourse Community could be relevant as well. You note that their engagement stems from a sense of community, but what are the traits of community. I imagine these students, through their common gaming experience, have adopted a discourse of gamers which has it's own rules and expectations. The club helps reinforce those rules by giving students a place to practice and further refine these gamer discourses, thus strengthening the sense of community.

Gee's work on video games struck me as similar for this reason--yes, he points out that games seem to spur kids to feats of literacy we may otherwise think them incapable of, but I think at the heart of his argument is that the reason this happens is because gaming becomes it's own form of community cemented together by a common discourse. The engagement comes from the sense of belonging to this community and belonging is signified via the student's discourse.

goldraven1 karma

I agree with what you're saying, but opening up my dissertation to that perspective would make it 200 pages longer, and not much better (in fact, it might make it worse in some regards). It would be fun to do more research using his ideas though, in the future!

FallenKitsune_1 karma

Have you heard about Telsa Uni? It's a program sponsored by Blizzard.

I am a college student who is going into computer science so I can work on video games since its something I really do enjoy! What advice do you have for me to be more involved for a community gaming club?

goldraven1 karma

I have not heard about it! But now you've interested me and I'm going to go check it out!

About your next question regarding advice - I'm not exactly sure of what your question is getting at. Could you reword it and I'll try to answer it? If you're just asking what can you do to be involved in a community gaming club, my response would be to take the risk and just go up to any gaming clubs you come across. Sometimes you'll connect with the people in them, and sometimes you wont. The only way to find out if you might fit with them is to try. Hopefully this is what you were asking, but feel free to be more specific and I'll dive deeper into it with you!