Vincent Buyssens, lecturer of Innovation and Communication, teaches about the impact of technology - and therefore also of the game industry - on society. Usually this happens in an auditorium, in front of the students of Communication Management and International Communication and Media, but now that we are all hit by the global game named Corona and are obliged to sit at home, he thought: 'Let’s make a virtue of necessity and teach my lesson in World of Warcraft.' Not a bad idea, as it turned out, because the lesson quickly went viral and even made the newspaper. For the non-players among us: World of Warcraft is a popular role-playing game, in which millions of people all around the world - or their characters - compete against their virtual enemies.
"I've always been an avid gamer," Vincent said. Already in high school and while I was studying Journalism at Thomas More. Among other things, I teach about the social impact of games and now that it's no longer possible to work at school, I thought the time was right to give this a try. Now, World of Warcraft is a 'heavy' game, you need a lot of bandwidth for it, so I streamed my game on Twitch, a streaming platform for gamers. By the way, a couple of students helped me set up the lesson and other students were with me in the game itself, but most of them followed it on the streaming. Everyone could react or ask questions on the chat. It was a successful experiment, I think, worth repeating.”
Actually, as it turns out, it's exactly what Vincent wants his students to learn: the power of online gaming and the whole industry around it, but also the dangers, how players can be unconsciously influenced and controlled, not only in their consumption behavior, but also in their political convictions.
'The economy behind the games is huge,' explained Vincent. 'Some gamers have millions of followers on YouTube and generate so much revenue through advertising they no longer need the industry's sponsorship money. Their humor, their style, their messages have become a brand of their own; they have a great influence on their followers and they are powerful. In the United States certain ideological groups, often from the Alt-Right, are skillfully exploiting the power of games and the algorithms of YouTube and other channels to spread their messages. In Belgium it’s not that bad, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be aware of the impact technology can have on these niches. Gamers are often dismissed as a somewhat peculiar target group a bit out of touch with society. Gaming as an act of resistance, of being different. That's why it's important, I think, that we keep monitoring this and that people like myself offer an alternative voice and work on awareness, show and explain the mechanisms'.
Teaching is not the only game Vincent plays, he is a real digital jack-of-all-trades, a modern teacher, not above but between his students, a coach, an inspirator and a fellow player ...
'In addition to my job at Thomas More, I also work as a freelance digital strategist', he added. For me this is an ideal interaction, teaching is also a way to document and store my knowledge, what I learn every day, and through the dialogue with my students, I experience what occupies them and i learn from them as well. This is my second year at Thomas More, I started at Media and Entertainment Business and now I'm at Communication Management and I am considered to be the social media expert here. I'm glad I get the chance to do my thing and find my own way in this profession'.
'Hopefully, this catastrophe can also yield something good: a growing awareness that resources are available to work and learn more efficiently and to make better use of our time.'
In this way, this crisis can also become a wake-up call for education, Vincent thinks, and give a boost to all kinds of distance education, both for teachers and students.
'We’re in this together', he said. 'And we're starting to realize that we all have to pull together, that our old patterns no longer work. As we are locked inside our homes now, we have to come up with solutions if we want to keep moving forward. And my students want to move forward, they want to get to that second or third year in September and focus on their projects and on the tools we can use to learn and work anyway. Hopefully, this catastrophe can also yield something good: a growing awareness that there are resources available to work and learn more efficiently and to make better use of the time, cause time we suddenly have in abundance now'.
Inspired by this testimonial?
Take at look at the webpages of International Communication and Media.
In the paper