Gaming, in general, is a mixed bag when it comes to favorable versus unfavorable experiences and results. It’s growing as an industry year by year, proving that it’s profitable and likable. And yet, many still look at it through negative lenses. And for good reasons, as, like any other form of gadget and activity, it can cause addiction and some other negative consequences. In our modern times, education faces the challenge of not being boring. And more than that, as technology and life become more advanced, education needs to keep up the pace. One thing that people like nowadays is interactivity. How do we make education more fun and interactive? Well, a potential answer would be a controversial and yet promising education: video games. How can video games be more educational? In more than a few ways, they already are.
Types of games
This is not the first time I’ve talked about gaming, as I write quite a lot on the subject. In the past, I emphasized some life lessons you can take from games (click here to read that). Now, in the context of education, we need to look at games responsibly. Sure, you can learn a thing or two from a random game, but implementing it into classes? That’s another cup of tea and certainly not every game can be put in a class lesson.
This way, we can have games specifically designed for a class, and games that aim to help the educational process in an auxiliary fashion. In the first category, you have the types of games that smaller kids play as part of the class to more easily understand numbers, letters, concepts, etc. In the second category, you can put any game that’s on the market, but especially commercial video games.
The education tailored game
I’ve read that some schools in the US have already implemented video games into their curriculum. A few of these platforms and games include DreamBox and Classcraft. The idea is that students (especially very young ones) will learn new things incentivized by playing games. For example, upon answering a few questions, the student will get “experience points” (XP) and money in-game which they’ll use to feed their virtual pets and level-up.
This also promotes team spirit and empathy, because if one player doesn’t have enough money, another student may donate currency to the one in need. Why does it work? Because video games tap into our intrinsic motivation to achieve, and they are very efficient at making us “want more”. A downside that I certainly agree with is that kids already spend a lot of time in front of screens, and this type of education would just add more time on top of that.
The commercial game
I’ve been a gamer for more than 15 years and I’ve played a plethora of COTS (Commercial Off The Shelf) games. They’re the ones developers create for entertainment. When they develop the game, they put “fun” (and money) as the foremost objectives. However, they have a robust set of attractivity to them that I say can aid with the educational process. And here I’d like to diverge and explain how commercial video games are valuable. First, they’re valuable because they teach skills and sharpen abilities, and second, they can improve general knowledge. And I’ll analyze each of them.
Skills and abilities they teach
You’ve probably already heard about the benefits that games give to motor skills, reflexes, and coordination. For example, first-person shooter games and action games can improve reflexes. We’re talking about peripheral vision, meaning focus on the edges of your eyesight. They can also help with multitasking because often the many things happening on-screen can make the player make faster and preciser decisions in a split-second. The downside? Well, let’s just say shooters are kind of shooty. Meaning they more often than not use guns and involve hurting and killing, which means that a lot of parents and authorities will be tempted to say no.
Even though games like Call Of Duty or Battlefield may not be entirely accurate on the war and tactics aspect, the military uses other war games like ARMA in the training of soldiers. Pilots in the airforce often use video game flight simulators to train cadets.
Certain things you probably expect less from a video game
Let’s deal with the elephant in the room first. Minecraft. I doubt you haven’t heard of it. Teachers worldwide look to it when it comes to boosting creativity in a fun way. Then again, if you’re a physics professor or like a good mind game, try Portal (and its sequel, Portal 2). The game revolves around creating a portal of entry and one of exit to pass levels, but it’s fascinating how it uses the laws of physics in its gameplay. Moreover, games like The Sims have been given as an example for their “social simulation”, meaning they can teach social skills. Let’s not forget about the plethora of strategy and historical strategy games such as Age of Empire or the Civilization series. They’re a good place to go if you’re interested in problem-solving, spatial skills, and knowledge strategies.
Knowledge improving games
The problem with entertainment games, although they can offer knowledge, they are more often than not targeted to mature audiences. They are usually for older players, those who attained a certain age, be it 15, 16, or 18. They are usually packed with violence, use of drugs and alcohol, sexual themes, mental health themes, and others. So, knowledge takes a seat and can be left out of the spotlight. No, they probably won’t necessarily influence you negatively. I played 18+ games when I was 8 years old and now at 21 still don’t drink, do drugs or kill real people for fun. But, regulation is regulation.
Still, I would like to see that after a class, the teacher would recommend, besides additional bibliography, maybe additional “gameography” if such a word exists. For instance, when talking to more grown students about WW2, maybe the teacher can recommend a game to experience World War 2 for themselves. “If you want to see how gruesome and bloody the war was, play Call of Duty: World At War and see how depressing of an experience it is. This way hopefully we’ll respect our ancestors more for what they did” the teacher might add.
Do you have a geography course about Egypt? Recommend students to boot up a few hours of Assassin’s Creed Origins. Both Origins and the later installment Odyssey have historical guided tours on ancient Egypt and ancient Greece. They might help students get a better feel of the contents they are learning in school. Or maybe you want to learn more about ancient civilizations and their tactics? Try playing Rome: Total War.
What will the future hold
I think, as time passes, education, in general, will become a lot more oriented towards interactivity and fun learning processes. As a gamer myself, I would love to implement games in the learning process, as I’ve learned so much from them. Games can even make you discover passions that you didn’t know you had. I started loving history more and picked up on a lot of books after I first experienced the subjects in games. It gives you a feeling of accomplishment when you have academic knowledge on the subject, and then be able to see how the game depicted the whole subject, what artistic liberties it took and such.
I believe in a world where games will provide at least a fun way to enrich knowledge on a subject. Online games have been much more prevalent in recent years, and I see that as an opportunity to gain social skills and linguistic skills because often other players are from foreign countries and English is the lingua franca.
To conclude, this is how I see it. A controversial and yet promising education. Video games are complex and there’s a lot more to say on this subject. But I want to read what you think about them. Use them or keep them away from education?