Doing Justice to Videogames, Sandra Day O’Connor Speaks at Gaming Conference

sdo space invaders.jpgOyez, oyez, oyez! On our list of People We Wouldn’t Expect to See as Speakers at Videogame Conferences, retired Supreme Court justice Sandra Day O’Connor is right up there, but we should know better than to underestimate a ranch-raised Texan whose childhood pets included a bobcat (“Bob”) and a couple of javelinas. Yesterday in New York City O’Connor gave the closing keynote address at the fifth annual Games for Change Festival, which focuses on how to use digital games for social change.

After two days of discussion about things such as ARGs (Alternative Reality Games), XNA Game Studio, and SimCity as a tool for teaching urban planning, O’Connor took the stage at Parsons, The New School for Design’s Tishman Auditorium. “If someone told me when I retired from court that I’d be talking at a conference about digital gaming, I’d think they’d had one drink too many,” WIRED quotes O’Connor as telling the conference crowd of academics and gaming professionals. She then announced Our Courts, a soon-to-be-released civics learning game that she has been working on with University of Wisconsin professor James Paul Gee. Notes WIRED:

The game “lets students engage in real issues and real problems,” O’Connor said. It will allow them to “step into the shoes of a judge, a legislator, an executive — teach them how to think through and analyze problems, take action and voice opinions to their elected representatives.”

An early exercise in the game will likely deal with educating students about their First Amendment rights, using examples like Tinker v. Des Moines and the “Bong Hits For Jesus” case.

Proving once again that those armband-sporting Tinkers and bong hits are much better at enticing the interest of schoolchildren than the comparatively dull-sounding Marbury v. Madison.