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Are Video Games Educational?

video games and kids
William Miller

William Miller

Mr. Miller has been playing video games for almost 40 years! And as a teacher for 20 years, he believes that there is a place for them in education.

What, if any, are the applications for video games in educational settings when they are created with the sole purpose of entertainment and making ever-greater sales and turning an ever greater profit?

Are Video Games Educational?

I started playing video games in 1983 when I got my first Atari system, when it was just starting as an industry, fast forward to today and the video game industry is generating over 180 billion dollars annually (Wijman). Video games are a huge part of our day to day lives now, and thanks to advances in communications technology, they are everywhere and accessible for everyone. This is especially true for young people who are eager consumers of all things electronic. Students are playing video games on multiple platforms like the more traditional consoles such as PlayStation and Nintendo Switch, on their personal computers and have access anywhere any time on their mobile devices. It looks like video games are here to stay. The question is, are they educational? I would argue a resounding yes … but.
The use of entertainment media in education has been proven to have ‘stickability’ when properly researched and applied for the purposes of education, as can be seen with shows for young children in Sesame Street and Blue’s Clues (Gladwell). However, these shows are purposefully created to educate through engaging entertainment for children. So what, if any, are the applications for video games in educational settings when they are created with the sole purpose of entertainment and making ever-greater sales and turning an ever greater profit? Well, as it turns out the research done seems to indicate many applications, depending on the game and subject it’s being applied to.
Minecraft
Civilizations

One such example is the incredibly successful Microsoft game, Minecraft. Microsoft has developed an educational edition for this game in response to the positive applications it has for educational contexts. Nebel, Schneider and Rey (2016) found that Minecraft has been used to teach subjects as varied as literacy, sustainable planning, social skills and project management and that it “…has empowered players to break down perceived barriers between computers and the imagination” (Zaidan). I can personally attest to the use of Minecraft and how well it engaged my students. They had to recreate ancient monuments based on their research in the game and include interesting facts about their monuments for other students to visit and learn from. This was an engaging experience for the students and they really enjoyed the process of learning. As a social science teacher there are many opportunities for students to learn about individuals and societies, particularly in subjects such as history and geography. Most notably are games such as Sid Myer’s Civilizations and Assassin’s Creed with their in-depth immersion of history. Young people playing these games will learn about the past in an engaging and meaningful way, hopefully leading to more learning and interest beyond the games they are playing.

All of this said, video games are still created for the sake of entertainment and selling a product. So, while video games are excellent at developing a number of skills and improving general knowledge about certain things given the nature of certain games, there are many games that are simply entertainment for entertainment’s sake. Video games can definitely be used for educational purposes, but there are many and more that are not. As a teacher and a parent, it is a good idea to know which is which. If you want to learn about a few games that are, here is a link to Video Game Rant where you can find some educational games for your children.

Works Cited

Gladwell, Malcolm. The Tipping Point by Gladwell, Malcolm. (Back Bay Books, 2002) [Paperback]. Back Bay, 2022.

Wijman, Tom. “The Games Market and Beyond in 2021: The Year in Numbers.” Newzoo, 13 Jan. 2022, newzoo.com/insights/articles/the-games-market-in-2021-the-year-in-numbers-esports-cloud-gaming/#:%7E:text=The%20games%20market%20in%202021,%2B1.4%25%20over%20last%202020.

Zaidan, Sarah. “Video Games as Education.” The International Encyclopedia of Media Literacy 1–6. Web.

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