When you think of video games what comes to mind? For many, video games are often thought of as purely for entertainment purposes. However, more in depth analysis by researchers such as James Paul Gee into how video games teach players and how educators can adapt these techniques are changing the common perception of video games as only for entertainment. In his book What Video Games have to Teach us about Learning and Literacy, Gee describes how all successful games incorporate specific learning principles regardless of the genre. GMU has published a list of the 36 learning principles along with short descriptions of each of these principles.
By utilizing these learning principles, games can disseminate a large of amount of information in a relatively short period of time to the players. Players then filter out or absorb information based on cues given in the game along with some repetition in order to find the best solution to reaching the objectives of the game. Gee’s book provides much more information and examples of each of these learning principles using games not traditional thought off as “educational” such as shooter or adventure games.
Perhaps the most important point that Gee is stressing in the book is that learning is something that should be interactive and engaging rather than the dull, monotonous task of rote memorization. Video games are good models for this because they encompass many aspects of this. They provide a virtual environment where the player can learn and practice techniques without major consequences (tutorials or beginning levels) as well as repetition in certain instances to help reinforce concepts (losing and restarting a level) that are important to winning the game.
While the idea of using interaction to engage students is not new, the use of video games in teaching and learning is an emerging area that is accumulating a large amount of interest from educators precisely because it works. Instead of viewing video games as a disruptive activity that discourages learning, educators should look at video games as a way to provide the interactive learning experience that many traditional teaching methods cannot offer.