Intro

I like games of all kinds and I have children who LOVE video games. I have explored video games as learning experiences for a long time. I was inspired by Reality is broken – Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World by Jane McGonigal.

Video games are a large part of the world in which we live. A 2011 study commissioned by the Entertainment Software Association of Canada found that 59% of Canadians are gamers, and 90% of 6-12 year olds play video games.

Video games provide many topics for discussions about learning, such as attention span, screen time, education vs. entertainment, self-regulation and computer time, and how virtual learning relates to real-world learning.

There is also a stigma attached to screen activities that is not attached to sports, dance, recreational reading, or other non-curricular activities. This stigma impedes us from learning what video game designers know about learning. Game designers know how to draw people into learning, and how to pace the learning to keep people involved. Many pedigogical concepts are understood and used by game designers, such as ZPD, formative assessment, and using intrinsic and extrinsic motivation.

It is significant to me because I believe that video game design is one source of information about the learning process, and I would be a better teacher if I could learn from video game designers.

It is significant to the educational community for the same reason.

I am a parent who has had a long time to struggle with the presence of video games in the life of my family. I have slowly come to see how the concepts used to create video games, and some of the games themselves, can be used to facilitate learning. I am also very familiar with the pitfalls and problems in video games.

We have turned reality from an immersive, engaging experience to a world that, for many people, has more drudgery than joy in both school and work. We try to be engaging but we are working within a paradigm that allows only short, fractured periods of enjoyable immersion in which learning is a natural and intergral part of the experience. Free play and structured games are immersive learning experiences that we struggle to compete against.

Rather than competing, we can learn from the way games are structured to offer learning that is relevant, useful, and thoroughly enjoyable.

Games, and particularly video games, have been stigmatized as escapism, time-wasting, and distracting. While some games are problematic, and the place they hold in some people’s lives interferes with real-life achievements, we have much to learn from games and game design.