In Ender’s Game, most of us would look at how the simulations and mock battles helped Ender to learn command and strategy. But I think the most powerful game of all in the book is actually the immersive role-playing game with the Giant. This game is unique in that although the landscape, objects and characters are fictional and fantastical, there are inherent links with the player’s background and experiences (eg. the image of Peter).

Instead of taking on a fantasy role, Ender plays the game as himself. There is no tripartite identity as mentioned by Gee. Hence, the whole game is about Ender’s own psychological development and allows him to explore his own identity, emotions and character. I would contend that this game is largely responsible for shaping Ender into who he was. It may also have been an emotional outlet that helped prevent him from going insane.

The great amount of violence in the game probably had two outcomes. Dying in multiple ways and so many times might have accustomed Ender to his own death, and so he did not really fear death. It might also have desensitized him to violence, and might have contributed to his killing Bonzo somewhat as a reflex.

The game also had a focus on problem-solving (for survival mainly). Allowing repeated tries probably helped the players to have more perseverance, and the possibility of multiple and personal solutions could have encouraged creativity. Like so many 3D role-playing games, there were also minute details that the player had to notice in order to succeed at tasks.

All in all, the Giant’s game probably contributed to Ender becoming a more cold-blooded, fearless, persistent, creative and perceptive commander, as his trainers would have wanted. Although such outcomes are hard to measure and attribute to the effect of playing games, many educational interventions also face this problem, and like games, perhaps it is sometimes sufficient to look at just the intended outcomes and create a possibility space for learning to occur. The rest, is up to the player or student.

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