I was raised by books, superhero cartoons, and video games. The Legend of Zelda taught me about problem solving. Final Fantasy 6 taught me about strategy. Red Alert taught me about the importance of resources. Ultima Online taught me about macroeconomics. And Mario taught me that the rewards we seek are rarely right around in the corner in the first place we look.
Most of these insights came from the mechanics and obstacles built into the games themselves. The very act of presenting someone with an obstacle invites an opportunity for learning. Here is where you want to go. This is the problem in your path. And here are the characters, tools, and rules that you can use to move forward. Now figure it out.
The learning potential for video games goes deeper than what can be gained from playing them. Building video games can be an educational experience in itself. In fact, I am going to bet that in the next 10 years we will see game development incorporated into school curriculums at all levels. The opportunity is simply too big to ignore.
Here are some basic ways that video games could enhance education:
- Teach children to create things. The act of creation is a surprisingly complex process. To move from no idea, to a vision, to realizing that vision is rife with opportunities to explore topics ranging from planning to testing to polishing. When a kid picks up Minecraft, they almost immediately misestimate the actual form and function of their idea, forcing them to tear down and rebuild walls and doors. Soon, they’re carrying around notebooks of graph paper to plan out their builds.
- Making a game requires a special kind of thinking. Making a functional game requires laying out rules and deciding what actions produce what reactions. It requires you to think from a user’s perspective rather than your own and to communicate the idea of how the game is played to someone else. In a low-tech way, classrooms can do this with board game design, but some really cool platforms like Ready make video game development surprisingly accessible (listen to this podcast with the founder of Ready for more insight).
- Games build community. For me, playing games online soon led to playing with custom map tools and more elaborate user-made mods. Essentially, many games allow users to create content for their favorite games. For young students, this lowers the barrier of entry for creation as a wealth of assets are there to experiment with. You can build new levels, new quests, and new puzzles without having to be a master programmer or artist. Kids could use existing games like Skyrim to build mods and share them with each other. That experience of building and experiencing something with other people can be quite powerful.
- Game development runs parallel to nearly everything else. Math, art, music, writing, business, marketing—They are all apart of video games. If you integrate video game development into education, you can create a multi-faceted learning experience that demonstrates the real world application of nearly every class a school offers. Imagine a set up where students collaborate across classes on the same product and actually releases it into the world. The experience would be a Holy Grail of interactive engagement, and it’s possible through video games.
This idea of video games connecting people has driven our humble company from the beginning. Whether people connect through co-op play, through their love for a brand, or through their passion for a cause, we see that connection as the real power of video games. The medium is uniquely positioned to bring people together, and there as an enormous amount of untapped potential here that has yet to be explored.
So let’s build something awesome together.