Video games are a relatively young form of entertainment. It’s been only about 60 years since the first barebones game saw the light of day in one of the computer science laboratories.
That first crude and pixelated replication of ping-pong didn’t have much substance to it at the time. But that only makes the game development’s evolution that more impressive.
Today games are widely recognized as a form of art and self-expression. It stands on equal footing with literature, music, and cinematography. And occasionally it tries to transcend the status of entertainment medium and make its way into more grounded matters – matters like education, for example. Can video games really be used to help students learn more efficiently? Let’s find out.
Video games use a slightly different set of tools to reach their audience. It can easily combine the narration element used by books with all sorts of visual storytelling devices employed by moviemakers.
Apart from inheriting the best traits of their predecessors, games also bring their own unique thing to the table. And that is the ability to directly influence the world of the game instead of being a passive observer.
So it’s fairly evident that video games have all the potential needed to be a potent narrative tool. But what of actual educational value? Let’s brush aside the lessons of morality and other abstract subjects.
Is there a videogame counterpart to technical literature and educational movies? There certainly is and it doesn’t necessarily mean that games falling under that umbrella have to give up on their entertainment value.
Games that make education their primary goal (as opposed to games that can teach you something in general) have a rather specific niche.
It can be pretty hard to gamify the routine tasks. But then you don’t really need additional incentives on top of something as simple as, for example, searching for writing services reviews on study help websites like nocramming.com and the like. On the other hand, a virtual environment allows developers to create all sorts of simulations.
Their applications can vary from running simple stylized tests for the youngest of learners, all the way to creating a complex and layered flight simulation. And there are plenty of fields that could benefit from an immersive yet completely safe training environment, such as:
- Law enforcement agents;
- Military personnel;
All of these professions already have access to game-like simulations throughout their training. These aren’t yet commonly used. But as the results of this sort of training show its undeniable benefits, it is sure to become a more popular learning tool.
Okay, so games can be used to train young professionals. But why would we prefer games to traditional methods of education? The psychological factor provides a simple answer. Games are entertaining.
They make us pay attention to what is happening on the screen. And once the player has their attention focused it becomes much easier for them to digest the information they are presented with.
Games are already more than capable of creating an addictive loop. Driven by the spirit of the competition, an engaging story, or fun mechanics, people spend hours learning and mastering the rules of the game they are playing. And it becomes simply a matter of creativity and game design to replace the game-specific knowledge with something slightly more grounded in reality.
Player agency is another tool that helps get people immersed in the game. The ability to be an active element of the events shown to you helps the player to build a rapport with the game. It makes it easier to care about what you see before you. And it becomes much easier to maintain focus even though the motivation might be artificially created.
Case in Point
The benefits of video games can be theorized and speculated upon for a very long time. What can actually put an end to this argument are some solid examples of the video games’ educational value. And this is something the game industry can definitely provide plenty of.
Kerbal Space Program has a pretty unconventional approach for your regular game. It is entirely centered around simulations of space flights. Who would have thought that a slow and tedious process of carefully putting together a spacecraft to see if it can break atmosphere and go on to explore the galaxy could be so entertaining and semi-realistic at the same time.
Events of the Assassin’s Creed game series are rooted in real-world history. And every game offers you to visit existing locations all over the world with meticulously recreated architecture. While sightseeing isn’t really the main goal of the game, you are free to stroll the 15th century Venice or visit a near-perfect model of the Colosseum.
Microsoft has recently released its flight simulator. It is a great game regardless of if you are an aspiring pilot or just someone who appreciates bird’s eye views of the real planet Earth sceneries. It can be used as a basic pilot training simulation and as a great evening retreat to just have some fun with your friends.
Disco Elysium in its entirety can be used as a primer for aspiring game-designer and writers. Unlike most games, it is centered almost entirely around its incredible dialogues. The game’s script is over a million words long. And even though you can spend literal hours simply chatting with the game’s characters about menial things unrelated to the main plot, it never feels boring or stale.
Video games have received plenty of unwarranted pushback throughout their existence. Even today modern politicians can’t leave the industry alone. But the progress it has made over the years both in terms of visuals and substance is a testament to its immense potential.
Even though video games are relatively young compared to books or even movies, there is no doubt that they are capable of catching up to them and going even further.