Video Games as Education

The Legend of Zelda taught me the importance of exploring to find the answer; and to connect as many dots as possible before giving up. Super Mario Bros. taught me that even something that seems impossible can become easy with practice. Monkey Island taught me that there is always a solution, no matter how weird and roundabout it may seem (along with crafting my dry sense of humor). Starcraft taught me that thinking ahead means the difference between good and great. Counterstrike taught me how to type quickly and accurately under pressure.

Would I have gotten an education without videogames? Of course. Did I spend a bit too much time playing videogames as a kid? Of course. (I logged over 100 hours on my first Pokemon cartridge.) Were some videogames simply entertainment, with little or nothing to add to my education? Of course. But did videogames help make me who I am today? Of course. And I am proud of that.

I’m not sure I know anyone who would say that reading books doesn’t change you; or that reading regularly has no effect on your future. I may be able to find a few people who would say that about movies, however. They are, after all, a newer medium – and it always takes a while for an art form to be properly recognized and appreciated. Still, the fact that certain masterpieces are often screened in schools is an encouraging sign that we have recognized the value of movies and thus solidified their status as a form of art.

If we can gain something from reading a book or watching a movie, is it so much of a stretch to say that videogames can teach us too? So why are many people still looking at videogames as a form of vulgar entertainment that must be separated completely from education?

True, there are many cutting-edge educators that have recognized the value of a good videogame. Articles like this one, which offers a guide to integrating a game-based curriculum into higher education, are encouraging to geeks like me. But it’s still the road less traveled, and I think that’s a mistake. It means we’re not making full use of all the resources available to us.

Let your children play videogames in their spare time (it might just lead to a promising career). Teach them that learning is something you can do all the time – no matter how much fun they’re having.

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