March 2018
TESOL HOME Convention Jobs Book Store TESOL Community

Steve Daniel Przymus,Texas Christian University, Fort Worth, Texas, USA

¿Eres un gamer? This question is an example of the translanguaging and language socialization that takes place in the game-ecology of massive multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs), such as Dark Souls. This article highlights the need for creating opportunities for Dreamers and Los Otros Dreamers (Anderson & Solís, 2014), on both sides of the border, for language and identity socialization within peer-interest-based communities of practice. Findings suggest that creating blended affinity spaces (Przymus & Romo Smith, 2017) for youth to play MMORPGs at school could provide for the maintenance of online connections with friends in their home countries, the creation of important friendships in their new communities, and the development of positive identities needed for successful and healthy integration in their new schools.

Who Are Los Otros Dreamers?

Over the past decade, more than 800,000 transnational children who have grown-up and attended school in the United States have moved to Mexico with their families (Zúñiga & Hamann, 2013). Many of these youth, who Anderson and Solís (2014) refer to as “Los Otros Dreamers,” currently attend school in Mexico, struggle to learn in Spanish, and endure inequitable educational experiences (Despagne & Jacobo Suárez, 2016, p. 16). As educators, our social responsibility to youth facing uncertain futures is great. Although it may be more concrete for U.S. educators to advocate for the students we see daily in schools, our social responsibility and resulting advocacy should include Los Otros Dreamers who have left our schools as a result of reverse migration.

With an increasing environment of anti-immigrant rhetoric and legislation, which includes many U.S. state policies, such as the Texas Senate Bill 4 “Sanctuary Cities” ban, uncertainty over the future of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy, and the upcoming cessation of the Temporary Protection Status (TPS) for more than 200,000 individuals from El Salvador and 60,000 from Haiti, even more youth could be facing the future of going home to a home they really have never known. The current political climate has once again awoken us from our indifferences and in addressing the needs of Los Otros Dreamers, we prepare to meet the needs of other students facing a tenuous educational future, such as Dreamers, DACA recipients, and children of TPS families still living in the United States. This article is a call to action for teachers to create third spaces at schools, within and outside of classrooms, for youth to meet and play MMORPGs to capitalize on Los Otros Dreamers’English linguistic capital (a valued skill in MMORPGs) and provide these youth with opportunities for meaningful language socialization and space to perform positive, desired identities.


MMORPGs take place in a persistent state world, where events constantly occur, regardless of whether players are actively logged on. Millions of players create characters in this role-playing environment and they “seek, disseminate, refer and pass on their knowledge and tacit resources, sociocultural norms of games, tools, and techniques” (Duran, 2017, p. 2). All of this interaction, socialization, literacy, content, and identity development takes place in what my colleague, Alejandro Romo Smith and I (Przymus & Smith, 2017) call the game-ecology. We explain the game-ecology as

1) meta-game discourse, or the talk about playing, before, during, and after, either in person or online in chat groups and blog posts, and 2) the intra-game discourse of interacting with other players from around the world within the game interface. (p. 275)

In our same 2017 article, we propose the idea of “blended affinity spaces,”where youth from the same schools are encouraged to meet and play together and interact in the game-ecology (p. 271). These blended affinity spaces provide Los Otros Dreamers with access to the global community online, including sustained communication with friends in the United States, and also important interaction with peers at school who share the same gaming interests and who could act as multilingual language and content mentors.

What Lessons Can We Learn From Los Otros Dreamers’ Participation in MMOROPGs for Education?

During summer 2017, I interacted with three Otros Dreamers in the Mexican states of Sinaloa and Guanajuato, to learn from them about the English/Spanish language development that happens in MMORPGs and how educators in Mexico could create blended affinity spaces at schools for game-play. I have summarized data from an anonymous online survey and semistructured interviews, following, to present their ideas that are most central to my call to action.

  1. Thinking beyond traditional pedagogy will open up creative ways to integrate gaming into content learning at schools.The participants in this study give several suggestions for game-based learning in content classes, such as Atomic Mass for science, Assassin’s Creed for History, and setting the language of games to English for EFL classes.

  2. Valuing the multilingual language practices of Los Otros Dreamers, such as translanguaging, at schools is a recognition of these students’ identities, lived experiences, and potential.Research has highlighted translanguaging as a necessary practice in schools to combat the monolingual paradigm and pedagogy in Mexico (Despagne & Jacobo Suárez, 2016). Translanguaging while playing allowed for Los Otros Dreamers in this study to use their full linguistic repertoire and fully participate in activities while improving both their Spanish and English abilities. This same opportunity should also be available to these youth at school.

  3. Recognizing and encouraging the kinds of knowledge and identity cocreation present in the game-ecology will open up opportunities at schools for Los Otros Dreamers to demonstrate knowledge and ability, develop positive relationships, and facilitate healthy identity development. Participants in this study commented on how their peers in Mexico leaned on them to learn how to play against foreign players. Their English and gaming skills provided them with an identity of knowledge, ability, and importance.

  4. Creating after-school or weekend gaming clubs will mirror the experience that many Otros Dreamers had in the United States.Participants expressed that they participated in many after-school clubs, such as the gaming club, associated with their schools in the United States. These blended affinity spaces for gaming do not have to have internet connections. Computers, PlayStations, and other devices can be connected locally and support local-area network (LAN) games without an internet connection.

  5. Encouraging and facilitating gameplay interaction will provide a valuable and necessary link for continued and sustained communication with peers in the United States. Participants expressed feeling forgotten by those in the United States and of not being accepted by those in Mexico. This continued connection to friends in the United States is an invaluable component to a healthy (re)integration in Mexico.

Allowing Los Otros Dreamers to talk about playing MMORPGs reveals the expertise, knowledge, experiences, value, and potential that these youth can bring to school, if only these resources were recognized by their new classmates and teachers. This is a call to action for educators to mine these valuable resources, often overlooked and overshadowed by how these youth are positioned socially and politically.


What we have learned from the current political climate is that educators on both sides of the border need to advocate for the vulnerable students positioned as pawns in an ongoing political chess match. What we can take away from the lessons presented to us by three Otros Dreamers, currently living and attending school in Mexico, is that these students display much agency, creativity, criticality, and resilience. The game-ecology of MMORPGs presents an environment where the English linguistic capital of Los Otros Dreamers provides these youth with immediate valued membership in gaming communities of practice. Creating blended affinity spaces at schools for this interaction facilitates needed bilingual language socialization, friendship formation, and opportunities for Otros Dreamers to demonstrate knowledge, expertise, and positive identities in their new educational contexts. The participants in this study also present educators with ideas for creating blended affinity spaces at schools. They suggest that MMORPGs could be part of existing or new after-school/weekend clubs; LAN parties could be created in classrooms; and content teachers could capitalize upon the strategy components, language features, and content of MMORPGs for supplementing and enriching content classes.

In presenting some of these students’ lived experiences with gaming and (re)integrating into Mexican society, it is my hope that this article highlights the language and identity socialization that can happen in MMORPGs and casts a light on the strengths and resources that Los Otros Dreamers possess.


Anderson, J., & Solís, N. (2014). Los otros dreamers. Ciudad de México, México: Offset Santiago.

Despagne, C., & Jacobo Suárez, M. (2016). Desafíos actuales de la escuela monolítica mexicana: el caso de los alumnos migrantes transnacionales. Sinéctica, 47, 1-17.

Duran, C. S. (2017). “You not die yet”: Karenni refugee children's language socialization in a video gaming community. Linguistics and Education, 42, 1–9.

Przymus, S. D., & Smith, A. R. (2017). ¿Eres un Gamer? In J. Perren, K. Kelch, J. S. Byun, S. Cervantes, & S. Safavi (Eds.), Applications of CALL theory in ESL and EFL environments (pp. 269–290). Hershey, PA: IGI Global.

Zúñiga, V., & Hamann, E. T. (2013). Understanding American Mexican children. In B. Jensen & A. Sawyer (Eds.), Regarding educación: Mexican American schooling, immigration, and binational improvement. New York, NY: Teachers College Press. Retrieved from

Steve Daniel Przymus, PhD, is an assistant professor of bilingual education at Texas Christian University. Steve’s experiences as a U.S. Peace Corps volunteer (Dominican Republic, 2003–2005), Fulbright Distinguished Awards in Teaching Grantee (Mexico, 2010), and U.S. public school teacher have driven his passion for developing and promoting multimodal/multilingual pedagogies that recognize individuals’ full semiotic repertoires and educational life histories.

« Previous Newsletter Home Print Article Next »
Post a CommentView Comments
 Rate This Article
Share LinkedIn Twitter Facebook
In This Issue
Search Back Issues
Forward to a Friend
Print Issue
RSS Feed
SRIS Open Meeting
Please join us at our open meeting on Wednesday, 28 March from 6:45 pm - 8:15 pm in room N132. We will also livestream the meeting on our Facebook page.
Next Issue's Theme: Continuing the Conversation, Building Solidarity
How can we build a strong community for social justice in TESOL? What conversations should we continue beyond the convention? How can dialogue build solidarity? Submissions due 1 May 2018.