Having Fun and Learning Too with Video Games

At the age of 24, most activities still struggle to hold my interest. As you can imagine, the rigid structure of the educational system played havoc with my attention span back in my school years. I did the bare minimum to get by, and came away with nothing more than average grades as a result.

Video games have been a constant backdrop throughout the course of my life, and they, along with my family and friends, have provided me with a second education. For the past twenty years, I have obtained all sorts of valuable skills through the medium of games that I’ve been able to implement in the real world. As a young child, games captivated me like nothing else, serving as a pathway to attentive learning. They were one of the only forms of education I felt consistently engaged with.

champ managerThe prospect of copying long division into a textbook was practically sleep-inducing for me, but learning how to manage wages and transfer budgets in FIFA captivated my imagination. It left me eager to learn more, teaching me valuable lessons about real-world finances in the process. Further, my love of Championship Manager (later known as Football Manager) was the catalyst for a number of educational benefits I gained throughout the initial stages of my life. By learning about statistics, wages, budgets and much more, I was able to improve my basic maths skills.

Thanks to Championship Manager also, I even gained an intense geographical knowledge of the UK due to the various leagues and teams that populated the game.

typing of the deadSimilarly, reading Shakespeare’s Hamlet or Macbeth felt like a slog in my younger days, but I was able to improve my English skills through games like Typing Of The Dead, which helped to hone my grammar skills and ultimately develop my love of the written word. Because of gaming more generally, my reading abilities were above average for my age, partly due to the countless hours of text-based dialogue and instructional resources I was regularly presented with

Games acted as a coping mechanism for the day-to-day stresses of exams and coursework, so I spent countless hours playing them. But beyond their use as a distraction, practically all video games incorporate educational values. Rocksmith taught me how to play the guitar as I grew older, while SingStar depressingly confirmed that I, in fact, cannot sing. Dance eJay offered me a chance to harness my creativity, and experiences such as The Secret Of Monkey Island served as a way to force my young mind into thinking in clever, problem-solving ways.

I developed similar “soft skills” with Championship Manager, which teaches players to use tactical game strategies and how to play to an individual’s strengths – abilities that can be applied in all sorts of areas in the real world. My near-addiction to this series admittedly almost got out of hand on occasion, but also provided me with invaluable educational skills I continue to utilise today. A lot of the information I gained would be taught differently, or simply not taught at all in a traditional educational establishment.

My school-based education provided me with crucial skills I’ll forever be thankful for and I certainly don’t intend to suggest that video games can provide an adequate alternative on their own.

That said, I believe that those who enjoy games as a form of entertainment could benefit from their qualities within a school environment. So, here’s the question: is there a place for video games in our educational system? Some teachers appear to find it hard to utilise games in the current curriculum. Others simply believe that Occasionally, it’s argued that the types of video games most children play these days have little-to-no educational value.

minecraftI have to disagree, especially when surveying the incredible worlds created in games like Minecraft. In fact, Minecraft has the distinction of not only being one of the most popular games on the market; it’s also one of the most educational too. Among its beneficial teachings are hand-eye coordination, creativity and teamwork. As an added bonus, willing schools have the option of investing in the Minecraft Education Edition, providing teachers with tailored worlds in which to set children educational tasks. As a game that’s bound to cater to practically all tastes in some way or other, it would surely present itself as a captivating activity for children of all ages.

Unfortunately, video games continue to suffer from a poor reputation due to a number of isolated cases of horrendous violence (combined with the media’s influence of them) as well as a general lack of understanding. Because of this, video games aren’t used as an educational tool as often as I believe they should be, although new concepts like Penn State College’s Gaming 2 Learn program are starting to encourage teachers to learn more about games as a potential training resource.

Plenty of studies have confirmed the educational benefits of video games. Professor Simone Kuhn’s study of their effects on the brain led her to conducting a two-month investigation on a number of adults. They were tasked with playing Super Mario 64 DS throughout that time, and she found that areas of the individuals’ brains had developed. In the case of children, studies have suggested that video games can help

Video games are also a fantastic tool when it comes to multisensory learning, which incorporates two or more of students’ senses. For example, games like Rock Band are able to cater to a range of diverse learning styles in a music lesson. Those who prefer an auditory teaching method enjoy the simple pleasures of listening to music, while tactile and kinaesthetic learners are enticed by the ability to pick up an instrument and press specific buttons at regular intervals. Those who are best taught visually are able to stay engaged because of the brightly coloured visuals and constantly moving notes on the screen.

In the classroom, teachers are equipped with all sorts of resources. The internet is packed full of educational games to suit just about every category. Most of these are free, and they do a good job of engaging children despite their simplicity. Alternatively, asking kids to complete creative, time-based tasks in more popular video games is an even better alternative. Some console-based games come equipped with the ability to play with gamepad or motion-based controls, allowing teachers to tailor the experience based on the preferred learning style of each pupil.

Speaking of motion controls, I’d argue that the educational capabilities of video games have greatly improved over the years due to advances in technology and creative potential. One of the most promising innovations on the horizon is that of virtual reality. Surely it won’t be too long before we’re using VR to craft new educational experiences, the likes of which have never been possible before.

As a child, video games were incredibly important to me. I only ever saw them as a form of entertainment, but they were secretly providing me with all sorts of knowledge, preparing me for the future in ways that I, and others, hadn’t anticipated. They also allowed me to engage with learning in a way that classroom teaching struggled to. I’m grateful for what they’ve given me in that respect, and I’m fascinated to see how their educational uses will evolve in the years to come.

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