Editor’s Note: Today we announced the full availability of Microsoft Kodu Game Lab for the PC and the launch of a nationwide Kodu Cup competition. We’re inviting students, aged nine to 17 to design, build and submit their own video games. The following is a guest blog post about the educational benefits of video games and video game design from Gabrielle Cayton-Hodges, Research Fellow, The Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop, which specializes in advancing children’s learning in the digital age. There’s a growing body of evidence that both playing video games and making video games have promise as educational tools. In fact, it may be one of the most effective ways to engage today’s youth as they learn the critical skills they will need to succeed. As the Federation of American Scientists concluded from its 2006 Summit on Educational Games: “The success of complex video games demonstrates that games can teach higher-order thinking skills such as strategic thinking, interpretative analysis, problem solving, plan formulation and execution, and adaptation to rapid change. These are the skills U.S. employers increasingly seek in workers and new workforce entrants. These are the skills more Americans must have to compete with lower cost knowledge workers in other nations.” In fact, game-based learning has emerged as one of the most promising areas of innovation in making Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) topics more engaging for kids today. The report Game Changer: Investing in Digital Play to Advance Children’s Learning and Health , demonstrates that video games can be used to learn not only content, but also STEM skills and systems thinking, which are essential for preparing youth for STEM careers.
After minimalism, conceptual and performance art, the idea of the artist as someone in a skilled and thinking occupation, engaged with a particular set of materials and visual ideas, has been thoroughly suppressed in favour of the idea of art as mainly an intellectual activity. The artist as thinker, manager, intellectual rather than maker, worker, craftsperson. In other words, the artist as bourgeois – but apparently a radical, critical bourgeois.
Sometimes I feel bad for these gamification enthusiasts. Priebatsch longs to change the term valedictorian to White Knight Paladin. And McGonigal, whose games are filled with top-secret missions in which you get to play the superhero, says “reality is broken” because people don’t get to feel “epic” often enough. This is a child’s view of how the world works. Do adults really need to pretend they’re superheroes on secret missions to have meaning in their lives?
Why do games work? Gamers spend 80% of their time failing, but they keep going because the win means so much to them. Applying games to corporate learning encourages resiliency, fun, positive emotions, new skills and new self-confidence.
Not Just Game Play: Game Design
At another panel, leading game designer/educators described how beyond game play, engaging people in game design spurs even deeper engagement and learning. These designers have created game environments where children start by playing a few introductory levels of a game, and are then challenged to design the next levels of the game. The students master new material and new skills because they’re a prerequisite to design.
In addition to the content mastery, the iterative process of designing games – think, design, play, test, repeat ad infinitum – puts analytical and problem solving skills into practice. Learners could practice these skills in teams to capture the benefits of multiple skillsets and perspectives.
The use of game mechanics for learning, marketing and consumer engagement is the hot topic at SXSW, and there are hundreds (if not thousands) of companies developing new applications for the marketing, education and nonprofit sectors.
In the professional training landscape, there are excellent designers who create custom learning games with fun results. But the future that interests OpenSesame is the development of off-the-shelf games that will serve the needs not only of large organizations that can afford custom development but also those of small businesses who want to connect their employees to engaging learning experiences. We can’t wait to see what’s coming.
reductive and shallow, and yet the word is spreading