Why Learning and Playing Games go Hand in Hand

Games may have just overtaken textbooks as the method of choice for students to learn in school. One of the prime examples is MinecraftEdu – a version of Minecraft built for classrooms – which has been around since 2011, and forms a staple in class rooms in over 40 countries. I wrote a separate post delving a little deeper into Minecraft Edu which you can find here. With so many books, learning tools and revision sheets out there, why would you consider buying something which will make your kids spend even more time on their devices? I’m glad you asked because the reasons (and evidence for it) are abundant:

Games like MinecraftEdu and ChemCaper already have the biggest obstacle that blocks kids’ enthusiasm covered: they’re fun. It’s the lack of fun and entertainment which makes kids want to chuck their textbooks in the corner in favour of grabbing their phone or tablet.

That being established, we can move on to the next boon: Learning comes easier when it’s in the form of games. It’s the engagement with a playable character – like our Roub, for example – that players navigate through the various levels and stages. The emotional connection with an experience which you simply can’t form with a paragraph or image in a textbook, that’s what allows kids to link and recall information better.

For ChemCaper and other educational games, the learning is not limited to the content of the game, but engaging with games can bring with it other benefits like improved hand-eye coordination and vision, according to a study conducted by the University of Toronto in 2014.

Games allow for a much better perspective on how topics are interlinked. Case in point, the making of Petticles: within the ingredient orbs themselves, the electrons running around represent the outer-most electrons of real-life elements. Next, it’s the shape of the orb which lets kids know whether it’s a metal or non-metal; you have bands around the orbs which show how many filled electron shells there are, and finally, the colour of the bands is actually reflective of the physical property of the element. When the bonding takes place, players are able to see the interaction of the electrons. What kids are essentially seeing are already 5 concepts of Chemistry, all within one game mechanic.

Interestingly, there is no shortage of advocates who highlight the negative influences of video games, while at the same time somehow downplaying games’ potential of positive impact. Truth is, as humans, we can be influenced by pretty much anything. Content is the key to what the outcome can be, and there’s so much good to be gotten out of games that we’re currently missing.So how does this better perspective factor in to what’s happening outside of the game? You may (or may not?) be surprised that NASA engineers and even Tesla founder Elon Musk have expressed their interest in educational games.

(How Chemistry and the periodic table are depicted or implemented in ChemCaper)

So, can games inspire our next generation of leaders in positive ways through fun and wonder? Absolutely. Educational games have arrived in a big way and thankfully the genre is growing fast. It’s about time we took a second, in-depth look at just great games are for learning. If we can meet kids halfway and get them excited about learning, that’s half the ‘battle’ won.