|Space Invaders, early 1980s|
So if gaming is wide spread and accessible, and our students are compelled to complete Halo and Modern Warfare more than their homework, why, aside from a few uninspiring “edutainment” titles, haven’t we acknowledged the educational potential of this fledgling medium?
I am convinced that video games are one of many new texts of the younger generations, going hand-in-hand with web pages, blogs and other forms of digital media. If teachers do not embrace this and other forms of neo-literacy, I fear we will be left in the Stone Age of education, hardly able to reach our students.
Now you might be thinking: “Okay, so what can a student learn from a video game, aside from how to throw fireballs and blow things up?”
According to educational theorist James Paul Gee in his book What Video Games Have to Teach Us about Learning and Literacy, video games can aid in developing problem solving skills. In a speech at Vassar Collage on April 2, 2009, Gee used the game Portal as an example, saying that players must find unorthodox ways of getting their character from Point A to Point B. Those skills, he said, can be transferred to real life situations. Instead of moving a character in a video game, Portal players may one day use similar logic to move a building or find a new way to transport a large group of people.
|From the game Portal, by Valve|
Gee also said is that for learning to take place, one must be emotionally involved with the material. Video games fit the bill better than any other form of media available. Combining education and gaming would be an excellent way to provide an emotional component to what we must teach students. Gee used Sid Meier’s Civilization as an example: One might not feel much of a connection to an event like Custer’s Last Stand, but if one were to try to come up with ways to change the outcome of the event, he or she might feel much more “in tune” with it.
|One of Braid's many puzzles|
It will be a long, tough road to convince the masses that gaming has more value than just mindless entertainment. However, that day can and must come, lest our tech-hungry students become bogged down in the quagmire of educational malaise and our teachers fight an unwinnable battle.