How Entertainment is Becoming Education
Video games have matured, and so has our society. Graphics have become prettier, stories have become richer, and more involved. We have slowly begun to realize the true potential of virtual worlds for learning and enriching ourselves. With the growth of the video game market, we have also seen the appearance of “Gamification” in many industries; education being on the forefront.
We’ve started to realize that, just as people enjoy books and movies and physical media, people enjoy gaming too. And they can use it for more than just exploring fantasy worlds and raiding castles.
Why shouldn’t such a large industry be used for bettering the world?
Video games are the bread and butter of children’s entertainment. It’s a pastime that encourages teamwork, social skills, and depending on the genre, a wealth of knowledge too.
Learning Where You Least Expect It
A common example of the educational value video games offer is core English skills.
This ESL classroom case study by the Kanda University of International Studies created by Jared R. Baierschmidt has an extensive wealth of information on the topic of learning through gaming.
Baierschmidt created and employed a unique English As A Second Language course with a focus on gaming. He writes: “In terms of the activities themselves, 39% of respondents
found the cooperative multiplayer activity to be most useful to their studies. Reasons given included the fact that learners were able to use a variety of language skills during the activity and that the activity encouraged them to communicate actively with
This means that multiplayer, cooperative games can help students learn English as a second language through context, play, and social interactions.
Baierschmidt also writes: “According to the surveys, 90% of respondents plan to continue to use digital games for language learning even after the completion of the [ESL] course.
Even though study into how gaming helps people learn a second language is still so new, this research is a great step in the right direction when it comes to understanding the impact and intersection between playing and learning.
Minecraft has proven an incredible outlet for people with autism, or people with ADHD. This game helps nurture creativity and provides a structured, calming environment for neurotypical and neuroatypical people alike.
This article written by Jamie Martin explains how Minecraft is calming for their child, who has ADHD. As an educator, I know just how difficult it is when students with ADHD are asked to sit and perform a task that diverges from their neuroatypical mindset or learning style.
They want to learn, they want to engage, and when they can’t it’s upsetting for them.
If Minecraft has the capacity to help children hyperfocus, we should understand and employ similar techniques for future educational technologies.
There’s even a Minecraft server created specifically for people with autism. Not only can gaming help change education, it can give people a safe space to be themselves and learn game dynamics in the way they learn best.
Down Time is Productive
The New York Institute of Play has, since opening in 2007, used video game principles to teach and guide kids in a multitude of disciplines. Turns out breaking tasks down into quests and rewarding successes (just like video games do) is a good idea.
Cosmetics, assets to build their own games, and a great deal of support and encouragement from the staff and facility all serve as incentives for good work.
Gamifying education works. Period.
Teaching How to Learn from Failure
By encouraging students to view failure as a chance to learn, rather than a sign of something lacking with the student, they succeed.
It’s this principle of “failure is only a setback, not a disaster” that allows kids to thrive and actually enjoy learning and growing, much like a video game character progresses in their journey.
There seems to be a prevailing opinion that education isn’t compatible with fun, and happiness should take a back seat when placed in the same sphere as learning. But why?
Education should be as effective as possible at teaching, guiding, and nurturing young people, even if that means changing the system. Shocking, right? Even on the sidelines, video games can still provide great chances to educate.
A Lesson in History
Age of Empires, the cult classic RTS, ended up teaching a whole generation of gamers that the Phoenicians were a thing. The gameplay itself even provided a rudimentary layout of the various historical periods.
As someone who didn’t really learn very much in history class, I owe a lot of my understanding of history from gaming (and anime, but that’s an article for another time).
Learning history while you play a game sounds WAY better than sitting in history class for 6 months and coming away with no retained knowledge.
As a teacher, and a lifelong student, I know this is what happens. Kids check out the minute something is no longer engaging. After 15 minutes of lecture, their brains are out like a light. There’s even science to back it up.
In order to push education, further along, we need to teach people in ways they can learn. And learning through play is an amazing way to get kids invested in knowledge, their future, and scholastic topics.
Ask anyone about what they’ve learned from a video game, and they’ll tell you without hesitation. Ask someone what they learned in 5th-grade physics, and you’ll likely just get a blank look.
By educating through accessible, entertaining mediums and prioritizing teaching techniques that actually work, video game designers and educators alike can and will find unimaginable success in teaching future (and current) generations.
We’re about to see the most radical shift in education since the invention of writing, and I absolutely can’t wait.
Like this article? Consider reading another one by me about how games improve confidence.