Can games teach?

I am writing this in response to the question; what can people learn from playing games? People of all ages play games, but is gaming purely for entertainment and fun, or does it have educational assets as well? Everything that follows is based on my opinions and experiences.

First and foremost it must be said that the educational sides and assets of games varies vastly between different kinds of games. For instance, I believe that puzzle games and such will have a stronger intellectual effect than mindless shooting games such as “Call of Duty” and other similar games. But even what I choose to call mindless shooting games can teach you things. Using “Call of Duty” as an example once more, playing that game can actually help people develop better eye-hand coordination. So my point here is that while puzzle games might help you become better at noticing small things and draw connections and so on, a first-person shooter can help you with how your body interacts with your mind.
Another thing games can teach is language. If you are Norwegian and you are playing a game which uses a lot of English language in-game, then the player will most likely pick up on phrases and words.

The question I was asked questioned if games were purely for fun and entertainment, or if it had an educational side as well. I have already written about things people learn from playing games, but most of that teaching goes unnoticed by the player. Most gamers play games for fun. They play the games because playing games is fun, so I would say that the question asked is flawed. It is formulated in a way that insinuates that it is got to be either fun or educational. Personally I have learned things from games myself, for instance “Civilization” has taught me how history and technology evolved. I think that games are played mostly for fun and entertainment, but they still teach the players at least a little bit. So the question asks whether games are educational or just entertainment, but I disagree with both of those and instead I say that players learn from games no matter what their reason is for playing. Whether people play for fun, or if they intend to try and learn something, the player will always pick up on things in-game. One could call it subconscious learning. So in the end my conclusion is that the question is wrong, because people learn no matter why they play the games they play.



2 thoughts on “Can games teach?

  1. @Marthe123 – You do a great job of articulating here some examples of things one might learn from different types of games. I LOVE your conclusion: “So in the end my conclusion is that the question is wrong… ”

    So my question for you is this: What is the right question, then? If “Can games teach?” is the wrong question, what questions should we be asking when it comes to games and learning? Or maybe just having to do with games on their own?

  2. Raph Koster wrote a whole book stating that games are fun, because learning is fun. You should check it out:
    @amichetti – Personally I think that the question should be more along the lines of “What experience do we get out of gaming and what can we learn from that experience?”.

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