Video games offer unique educational opportunities
Published: Tuesday, April 24, 2012
Updated: Monday, April 23, 2012 22:04
Playing a game and learning is not about being able to forge a river in Oregon Trail or tell time on an analogue clock like in Treasure MathStorm. Learning through games is much broader, according to Lindsay Grace, professor of interactive media studies at Miami University and longtime gamer.
Grace said in his research he is making games that subvert traditional game narratives, such as games that challenge the player to stop and enjoy the scenery, like Grace’s game titled Wait.
Grace has other games that challenge normative perceptions of games such as “unshooters,” which challenge players to heal victims of popular massacres and historical events, like Grace’s game Healer.
“All games are educational, it’s just a question of what you’re learning,” Grace said.
Junior James Earl Cox III agreed with Grace’s ideas.
“Games can put you in situations that other mediums cannot accomplish; they can make you feel things, like for instance, guilt,” Cox said.
Sean Duncan, Miami game studies professor, questioned why people are drawn to games like Skyrim, Pokemon or Call of Duty and what we can learn from games and our current educational systems.
“Games provide very powerful and engaging alternatives to the kinds of experiences kids have in schools,” Duncan said.
Unlike schools, games allow students to follow their interests, according to Duncan.
This is not because the games are flashy or violent, but, because they can provide or develop an identity, one broader than ‘Pokémon Trainer’ ‘or ‘Magical Elf.’ Games can provide a space for the gamer to become a writer, designer or, “someone who persists and solves the problems life throws at them,” Duncan said.
Grace teaches classes at Miami that use games to convey more than just entertainment and encourage students to learn.
Though the classes have been open to all majors, Grace said he has not had many students outside of game studies or interactive media studies taking his courses aside from business majors who have found games as a way to “motivate sales.”
This is done through a process called “gamification,” which is the use of game techniques and game thinking to enhance non-game activities and situations.
On Miami’s campus students can also study the intersection between games and learning in interactive media studies (IMS) or educational psychology (EDP) 225: Games & Learning, a core course for Miami’s IMS program.
Two other courses Miami offers on games open to all majors are IMS211: The Analysis of Play and IMS/English 238: Narrative & Digital Technology.