Question Games and Education

MaddMann

A nerd that found his place
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Jan 17, 2020
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With everything going on and the massive move to more online learning for all industries, why have developers not taken up the challenge of top notch educational games? We have the tools, we have the demand, what needs to happen to make it a reality? Both kids and adults will easily spend 5+ hours a day playing video games. While I don't want or expect educational games to be just "solve the math question to advance your meaningless quest" but to create real world situations to practice what you have learned. Kerbal IMO is a perfect example of how an educational game can provide vast amounts of fun at the same time.

Simulated environments that encourage students of all ages to try out what they have learned in a real time situation without the worries of real time failure could be a godsend to future generations. Even if they ignore the educational benefits and just mess around with it, they will unwittingly learn things they never would have before. There are games where you have to create things that can fly. Games you have to build bridges with realistic physics. We have games that simulate entire political structures, economies, even diplomacy. We can easily show the effects of racism in games. The opportunities are ENDLESS.

Rant aside there, what do you think? Not just WHY we don't have them, but why we aren't using the ones already there? Have you ever played a game that has changed your world view? Have you learned something pretty advanced just by playing games before? What is the most amazing thing you have learned playing games? What are the downsides of learning via video games?
 
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Zloth

Community Contributor
There's lots you can learn in games right now. Puzzle games are the obvious ones. Something like Talos Principle is going to train your brain plenty - though I'm not so sure its story is going to go over well with some folks (and might actually really scare a kid in today's situation). The last two Assassin's Creed games have learning modes that let you go anywhere, learn about what you find, and even take quizzes on them if you want. Kerbal is awesome for teaching orbital mechanics, as you mentioned. XCOM is brutally effective at teaching you the difference between 95% and 100%.

Anything touching society, though, isn't likely to work very well. There's far too much randomness involved! Play with your tax and interest rates all you like - if COVID shows up, your economy is going to take a beating. Having some of that randomness is great for making a game unpredictable but I think there would be so much randomness that players would complain that the game is mostly playing itself. Plus there's the problem of programming it realistically when we don't actually know the details of how it all fits together in reality. Plenty of games have economies and society effects built in but they are all heavily influenced by the creators' opinions as well as how fun they are in the game.

Actually, that gamification thing is something of a hinderance simply because the player never really knows for sure what's based on reality, what's been tweaked to keep it fun, and what's just outright made up. Assassin's Creed: Odyssey shows lots of colorful statues around Greece. Unless the game outright tells you, though, you're not going to know the coloring is historical but the extra clothing to keep them from making the game rated M is not.
 
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I think the demand for educational games is relatively low compared to other types of games.

My school and parents did use a few educational games when I was growing up (so over 15 years ago). For example, we had a truck with computers come by our elementary school so we could all play Sim City 2000.

I think the biggest obstacle is a lack of connection between the educational system and game developers. It can be hard to find good educational games and make a proper lesson plan that incorporates them. Plus that there seems to still be a negative attitude towards games from a lot of (especially older) people.

However, I think it shouldn't just be the responsibility of schools, there's also a big role for parents to get good educational games for their kids. My parents did and I loved those games.

I suppose the biggest impact of things I learned via video games is English (which is not my native language). But it's hard to say exactly how much video games have taught me and how much I might've learned by doing something else.
 
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Frindis

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Games can in themselves be quite educational, even if they do not all try to simulate the real world. When I studied at the university there were plenty of students that wrote about games, everything from gender studies, machinima culture to thesis about leadership, and structure within different types of guilds. Hell, I even had a sergeant in my old guild testing out different ways to communicate and organize raids by using military strategies. In Dayz, I joined a guild that purely communicated by using military callsigns for all movement/fighting and for different buildings.

For the player themselves, there is much you can learn by playing a game and skills that is quite important to have in the "real world". The problem is that there is often not much talk about videogames as being educational and that I think is unfortunate, as it often gets overshadowed by political agendas - like the often endless discussion about finding a correlation between violence and video games.

Here is just a small portion:
  • Leadership and organization
  • Situational awareness
  • Reaction time
  • Eye & hand coordination
  • Studying of different game mechanics.
  • Artistical skills
  • Digital knowledge
  • Visual and verbal memory
  • Structuralization
  • Patience and accuracy
  • Programming
  • Writing/reading
  • Problem-solving
  • Physics
  • Psychology
  • Ethics/Moral
 
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  • Ethics/Moral
"If I play as a good character, my conscience is happy but the game becomes much harder. If I play as an evil character, I get additional rewards and some cool looking horns. Sure, I have to grapple with my conscience, but on the other hand, the loading screen was right when it said: 'Throwing villagers around is great fun!'"
 
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MaddMann

A nerd that found his place
Community Contributor
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Throwing villagers around is great fun!
Was that a Black and White referance? I loved those games.

TLDR at the end

@Zloth As far as simulations go, it doesn't necessarily need to be 100% realistic. It needs to convey an idea or subject in a way that can help somebody understand the concept. A great way I can elaborate on this is how I learned accounting in high school. I am not a terribly clever person in the fact I do not learn very well from reading a book on something. I need to DO it to learn it. My teacher for Accounting I, Accounting II, and AP Accounting found a way for a person like me to not only learn it, but to get an A in each of the classes and actually enjoy learning something as boring as accounting (my mother REALLY wanted me to be an accountant in a nice safe office). He had us play monopoly. As we started learning new concepts such as accounts payable, market interest, liability, and different forms of tax, the game became more complicated. We all had entire books full of numbers from singular turns. Did you want to buy a house for your property? Well now you need to research loan rates, tax benefits, bank options, and long term benefit analysis. This all sounds really boring, but not when you are doing this with friends. It was not uncommon for us to spend an entire week studying the outcome of a single turn.

Lets take a required class that I had in school as an example that I think needed MASSIVE amounts of rework. The class was called government, and we used books written during the Reagan era. To say I was confused when what we were reading was entirely wrong in a lot of areas was an understatement. The only reason I personally passed the class was because the answers to the tests were about memorizing dates and names, not about policies and practices. Now there are games like Democracy that allow you to take controls in a simulated fictional enviroment. Is it entirely accurate? No. It does however give you a rather in depth look at Crime, Unemployment, National Debt, Terrorism, Climate Change, and several other things.

Then lets look at a game like Factorio. You can turn off monsters in general to remove the combat side of things if you like. The game itself is about factories. This game will very well teach you the value of having a plan for the future. If you build your factory with poor plans for later expansion, you might not fail, but you are going to have to do A LOT of work to make it more efficient later on. Factorio you have to worry about power management, raw materiel delivery, supply and demand, and capacity for deliverables. Have your students play for one "class" asking questions, or even have them pair into groups of 4 to build together. Watch them all struggle when they fail to work together, or see how successful they are with team communication. At the end of this, have them all send their save file to another team, or to the next person in class. This person must do something like "double the capacity of product X" and then have them write what they think could be done to have it operate more efficiently in an in depth method (actual output numbers before and after they implement the project, project costs, estimated completion time, etc). BAM! they just learned some very important things about project management.

TLDR;

Sorry that kind of got away with as I started typing it out. TLDR there are sooo many things that can be learned in games that already exist, we just have to get a bit creative. I am also willing to bet that if any schools or educational systems reach out to the developers or to their publishers, I am pretty sure they would be willing to negotiate prices to make this happen
 

Zloth

Community Contributor
@MaddMann - yeah, it's definitely possible to learn from games, but how is the learner supposed to know what's safe to learn and what isn't? Some won't be hard (just because you have a lot of experience doesn't mean you can get stabbed by a sword 20 times and live) but others, not so much. Like just how gruesome a war is in real life.
 

MaddMann

A nerd that found his place
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@MaddMann - yeah, it's definitely possible to learn from games, but how is the learner supposed to know what's safe to learn and what isn't? Some won't be hard (just because you have a lot of experience doesn't mean you can get stabbed by a sword 20 times and live) but others, not so much. Like just how gruesome a war is in real life.
Im not sure why we would would want to do that. I mean you can try and show some of the aftermath of some wars using games like My Life as a Regufee, but I am mostly talking about basic skills like math, economics, physics, chemistry, government, history, etc. As far as knowing whats safe to learn, you have people try it first. There is already a game rating system, E for everybody through AO (which I hope would not considered, lol)
 

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