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Monday, 14 April 2014

Video games and Learning. Beyond Educational games.

There is a big misconception about video games and their education value. Most of the world agrees that "educational" video games really teach people things. Most of this games are designed for kids. Why? Because there is people out there that still thinks that video games are something bad and a waste of time.

Here is a little secret: 
All games are educational! 

Truth is, that the only difference between educational games and normal games are the first are usually more boring. The attempt to add obvious educational content to the games fails most of the time just because it was not needed. It is a wrong approach.

There is something to learn from every game. In an engaging way.

Everyone knows that the first step to successful learning is interest. If something is not interesting or is not meaningful to you, you will spend a lot of time and energy for little benefit. Games are good way of keep the learner motivated and so, create a great environment to improve the knowledge and skills of the player. 

There are of course more steps in successful learning. Many of them are described in Gee's video. I totally recommend to watch it from the beginning to the end. At some point he mentions that one of the reasons of why the games are so good at teaching is because games need to, in order to sell. If you find a good game it will necessary be good at teaching.

At this point, maybe you agree with me that video games teach. But maybe you think that what they teach is only related to the game and is useless in the real world. I made a small division of games regarding the learning that they promote, you will see how all of them make a point:

1- Knowledge learning: the game teaches about the real world in a direct way (history, biology...). Example: Flight Simulator.

2- Cognitive learning: the game teaches how to interact with the environment (usually first person games, sandboxes...). Example: Minecraft, explorationand combination is a great way of learning.

3- Strategy learning: the game teaches how to solve small and fast problems in your own way (war games, puzzles like tetris...). Also could be named Real-Time strategy. Example: Pac-Man could fall as a pure type 3, since you have to take decisions on the go and whatever you do do not really affect next levels.

4- Planning learning: the game teaches to solve problems that are long or big and require the player to anticipate (simulation, construction...). Also could be named Turn-based strategy. A pure type 4 could be any text based game like Organ Trail. In this kind of learning you have unlimited time for every step you take and you decisions have impact in the future.

5- Coordination learning: the game improves the coordination of the player in a direct way, improving the multi-tasking abilities (platformers, racing...). Example: Super Mario.

6- Complete learning: in this category fall the games that belong to two or more categories of the above. For example Rome total war (knowledge, strategy, planning...)

Total War games are huge learning machines. Just another turn more... :D

In conclusion, video games tackle learning in a totally different way than the traditional. Some people think that it cannot be called learning if you are actually having fun. I say you need to have some fun in other to learn.

Reference to Coursera: Video Games and Learning.


  1. Very true, if we can learn while we have fun, it learned will be absorbed more easily. A good example is, you play while learning javascript. Or puzzles like, are a real challenge.
    I think that videogames are possible solutions for renew educate forms in all levels.
    Fantastic post!

    1. Thank you very much! :)
      I am sure that if we could take a peak in an school of the future, we would be surprised of the power of unsupervised learning through games!

  2. Can video games serve for educational purposes is a million dollar question... and I really don't trust "scientists" proving one way or the other... One thing I can say is that there are SOME games like The Papa's Freezeria game that have better influence on kids than action and shooter games

    1. Nice observation :D

      Video games teach, just like books. But nobody said that books (or video games) only teach good or useful things. Besides, both concepts are relative and subject to interpretation.
      My point in the blog is that people should not ignore the learning potential of video games (good or bad) and that the learning is not only knowledge, but also mental and physical skills.

      Greetings! :)

  3. Congratulations for a great post!

  4. Gaming is awesome, makes people get together more than sports do. Keep writing about this
    and keep writing about juegos.

  5. Thank you for the nice article here. Really nice and keep update to explore more gaming tips and ideas.

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