Video games as Good Teachers

It is obvious that games are immensely popular, what is less obvious is that they are also powerful teachers who have been “schooling” a generation for the past 30 years.

Learning is most effective when the learner has an achievable, well-defined goal. With a goal, you are “willing to be corrected for your mistakes and accept ‘try this, do that’ advice in order to achieve your success [50].” Games are filled with goals. Reach the final level, defeat this creature, find the treasure, save the princess, beat your previous time, defeat the computer opponent, defeat your human opponent. Games induce players to create their own worlds, to participate in social activities, to form effective teams, to reason and to save lives [51].

Gaming puts the player in control, gives clear, immediate feedback on progress, and offers progressively more challenging levels of achievement that a player reaches at his or her own pace. There are few other environments that offer that level of feedback or critique. Games require observation, rapid and continual choices, thoughtful strategic planning, good eye-hand coordination, and fast physical reflexes.

Contrast that gaming environment with a typical classroom environment that dominates the current educational landscape. In the classroom, the instructor is in control, gives sketchy, infrequent feedback, and expects the entire group of learners to progress at the same rate [52].

There is no contest, gaming wins.

Professor Daphne Bavelier, a researcher who conducted studies with funding from the National Institutes of Health and the James S. McDonnell-Pew Foundation in the area of video games made the following statement about her research. “Our findings are surprising because they show that the learning induced by video game playing occurs quite fast and generalizes outside the gaming experience [53].” She goes on to say that whatever it is that gamers learn transfers to other situations [54].

Professor Bavelier is not alone in her research or findings. There is a growing body of research concentrating on the ability of the brain to change in response to stimuli and behaviors that require intense stimulation such as video game playing. It seems that teenage brains are open to lasting physical changes. “In the late 1990s, neuroscientists discovered that the adolescent brain undergoes a wave of exuberant growth that produces more branches of and connections between neurons in the frontal cortex, in a process that peaks at about age 11 in girls and 12 in boys [55].” It is called brain plasticity.

As Professor Craig Anderson of Iowa State University states, “Overall, the research is solid. Video games are powerful teachers all kinds of things [56].”

Excerpt from Gadgets, Games and Gizmos for Learning
(with some modifications)

[51] This information consolidated from Bates, B. (2001). Game design: The art and business of creating games. Roseville, CA: Prima Publishing and Rollings, A. & Adams, E. (2003). Andrew Rollings and Ernest Adams on game design. Indianapolis, IN: New Riders Publishing and Salen, K. & Zimmerman, E. (2004). Rules of play: Game design fundamentals. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press. Dr. Celina Byers from Bloomsburg University’s Instructional Technology Program first provided me with this information.

[52] This information consolidated from Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1991). Flow: The psychology of optimal experience. New York: HarperCollins Publishers and Squire, K. (2003). Video games in education. International Journal of Intelligent Simulations and Gaming, 2(1), 49-62.

[53] Begley, S. (2003, May, 29). The kid flunked, but he sure pays attention. Wall Street Journal. (pg. B1). Retrieved October 10, 2005, from ProQuest database.

[54] Dye, M. W. G., & Bavelier, D. (2004). Playing video games enhances visual attention in children [Abstract]. Journal of Vision, 4(11), 40a,, doi:10.1167/4.11.40 and Roach, J. (2003, May, 28). Video games boos visual skills study finds. [Electronic Version] National Geographic News. Retrieved March 18, 2006 from

[55] Begley, S. (2003, May, 29). The kid flunked, but he sure pays attention. Wall Street Journal. (pg. B1). Retrieved October 10, 2005, from ProQuest database.

[56] Begley, S. (2003, May, 29). The kid flunked, but he sure pays attention. Wall Street Journal. (pg. B1). Retrieved October 10, 2005, from ProQuest database.

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  1. Achint Nigam November 22, 2012

    Sir, Thankyou for this interesting read, the videos were informative too.

    Achint Nigam

Karl Kapp
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