Video Games as a Teaching Tool
I’m not trying desperately to come up with an excuse to play more video games.
Video games are highly immersive and interactive. I have most successfully reached a state a flow either playing or writing about video games.
It was in this state I also felt like I grew the most. I often learned and accomplished more in these moments than almost any other.
Intrigued by my experience, I looked into whether video games have been used to help teach tasks.
Technically, gamification isn’t an example of how to teach with video games. Gamification is more accurately described optimizing task completion. Gamification is the practice of designing tasks which have a clear process, end goal, and constraints.
Gamification, done right, can make a mundane task into a game (duh.) It has been preliminarily shown that making the task fun and “winnable” leads to increased completion.
I’ve had personal and professional success using gamification. Although I didn’t acquire any new information, I did learn how to effectively arrange my work. My work also became more enjoyable.
Because of my success, I am considering gamification an avenue through which games can teach people. Gamification is a meta-skill which enables efficient, effective skill learning.
I believe a strong real-world example of gamification done right is Mike Boyd’s “Learn Quick” YouTube series.
I should acknowledge gamification isn’t unique to video games. Its origins are rooted in games like Chess. Still, video game analogies were how I was I was introduced to gamification.
Rote Motion & Simulation
Shockingly, Wii’s are useful for teaching real-life motor skills. Recently, (within the past 5ish years) physical and occupational therapists have begun to use Wii’s to reteach specific motions.
Admittedly, I was surprised a virtual medium could teach physical skills.
Upon digging deeper, I discovered other professions have used virtual games for training purposes.
Pilots endure a grueling training prior to getting their wings. It requires several thousand hours flying in simulators and in planes. Simulators are particularly useful for running pilots through worst-case scenarios they can’t recreate in real life.
Pilots further hone their flying prowess through simulated scenarios. They also get to learn potential responses to nightmare scenarios.
Virtual teaching is also used by Law Enforcement, Surgeons, Military, and other high stress, high stakes jobs.
Personally, I wouldn’t be surprised to see this trend continue as VR becomes even harder to distinguish from reality. One potential expansion could be top athletes drilling skills virtually.
Subjects like History and Math
I love Assassin’s Creed. This game inspired me to learn more about history. This is because the personal stories resonated with me, and made history matter beyond boring facts.
I suddenly found that history wasn’t just a list of names and dates, but it encompassed entire stories, people, cultures. Because I could explore independently, I was eager to learn more about the time periods I found myself in.
I’ll admit, this format isn’t perfect. Because games, especially Assassin’s Creed, still need to drive a compelling plot historical inaccuracies or exaggerations occur; however, I believe this is a case of don’t let perfect get in the way of good.
I could easily see traditional curriculums integrate games as additional resources. This is where careful examination of how to integrate video games as one of many teaching tools is valuable.
I used video games to learn basic arithmetic. The game I played had a fun story but required me to do basic math quickly to advance. I partly attribute my basic mental math skills to this game.
Lastly, just today I had a co-worker tell me kids were learning how to code through a game. While the kids were thrilled to get to play a game, they were also learning the basics of programming logic.
Despite all the negative attention video games receive in the press, there are also novel and valuable uses for video games. I look forward to watching the medium mature into an indispensable teaching aid.