CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WNCN) — Students at UNC Chapel Hill are playing video games in class and earning credit for it.

The Greenlaw Gameroom is the university’s first game-based classroom. Students play all kinds of video games to learn about all kinds of subjects.

Dr. Courtney Rivard is the director of the Digital Literacy and Communications Lab at UNC.

“We have classes not only from literature, but also from Indigenous Studies, to Classics, and our class is taught totally in French,” she said.

People may be surprised to find the Gameroom in the English and Comparative Literature Department, but Dr. Rivard said it makes sense when you think about it.  

“We are really interested in narrative, in storytelling, and games represent this new form of telling stories,” she said. “We’re interested, in the English Department, what stories are being told, how are they being told? What makes them so compelling? Who is being represented? Who is not? Who is telling the stories? These are the same questions we apply to literature and film, and now we are thinking of games as texts in the same way.”

An Instructional Innovation Grant from Lenovo helped fund the Gameroom.

Since its launch, just before the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 1,000 students have taken classes in it, including Santos Lopez-Lucas.

“I think about games differently than what I would do just playing them,” Lopez-Lucas said.

He plans to go into the video game industry and said it’s fascinating to see the creative aspect that goes into game creation in addition to the more technical aspects of programming he studies in other courses.

“In this class, we talk about what makes a good game? What makes a bad game? Is there a bad game?” he said.

Some students who take these game-based classes are studying subjects unrelated to gaming.

“I think there’s a lot to say about learning how to critically analyze something, and regardless of what that story or media is, be able to apply, be able to apply that to a common world setting,” student Grayce McCarley said.

Finally, Dr. Rivard said UNC is collaborating with Duke University and North Carolina State University in hopes the program will continue to grow as the universities work together.

“The Triangle’s a great space for it,” she said. “We have a really strong game industry that kind of sits in the middle of it.”