Breaking the High Score

“ Computer and video games have reached a critical mass. today, nearly every device with a screen plays games, providing interactive entertainment experiences for a wide and diverse population. The creativity of our developers and publishers produces an ever-expanding variety of games to choose from in different formats and across all platforms. Their innovations drive consumer demand for our products, solidifying our industry’s position as one of the strongest and most cutting-edge sectors in the U.S. economy.”

 — Michael D. Gallagher, president and CEO,
Entertainment Software Association (Source)

It is no surprise that many modern educators try to incorporate video games into their lessons. Though, most of the times video games remain also in the classroom environment what they are: Entertainment. There are games, which are designed to educate such as Immune Attack, Quest Atlantis or BrainAge². While most of the children in the 21st century do not know this games, they will figure out the simple and outdated game designs of most of these games in seconds. The engaging factor of such games tend to zero because of their low to none entertaining value. The difference between the success of educational games and entertainment games is the financial aspect: “Consumer demand for our products, solidifying our industry’s position as one of the strongest and most cutting-edge sectors in the U.S. economy.” There is no demand for educational games by the public hence the best and most paid designers are not producing such games.

However, there are to many false facts and ignorance blurring the risks and gains of this issue. Game designers are not interested in teaching, but making a entertaining or even addictive game, which on the other hand makes money.Whereas, Educators have usually no clue about the mechanics of games, about the games which are most popular among teenagers or try to force educational value out of anything. In the following, I want to discuss a few of these myths and misconceptions of educational video games.

Most teachers and education professionals do not know the games they are talking about. The web exposes many misconceptions such as categorizing “Half-Life”, one of the most famous Ego-Shooter in the gaming history, as role-playing game: “There may be elements of fighting, but in many instances the player must decide whether fighting, or avoiding the fight, is the best choice” (Jayel Gibson). This simple mistake in categorizing leads to major and important issues such as using games in an unfitting occasion. Especially, World of Warcraft seems to be a favorite pick of educators in order to show how real-life skills can be developed such as leadership, bargaining and communication skills by playing a video game.

 World of Warcraft: Interface of an advanced player in Player vs. Player mode.

World of Warcraft and other well designed games might have a complex and in-depth game design, which require a lot of time and effort to understand. Nevertheless, they do not teach communication or leadership skills for real life occasions. Teenagers are so engaged by the game because it is instantly rewarding them in a large community. Playing the Player vs. Player mode (PvP) for several hours a day to reach the top ten is the motivating factor for many players since every other player on the server would recognize their nick name: An enormous boost in acknowledgement and ego. Players are spending hours to become better, though they are not developing any skills valuable to them in real life.

There is still a huge difference to communicate anonymously over the internet and talking to a person face to face. Eastin and Griffiths talk about the aggressive nature of online communication in a video game environment, which is colloquially called “flaming“. This is only one example to display the difference of social structure between video games and real life. There are many more, which has to be taken into consideration before video games can be used in the classroom. Even though, video games exist for more than 30 years now a proper use in education has still to be found. This blog entry had the purpose to let teachers reconsider the common hype of video games in education.

PS: Here a famous example of ingame communication of World of Warcraft:

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