Endorsements for this post
For me it’s a moral issue. The damage our society suffers due to our ineffective education system cannot be understated -- it’s the single greatest threat to our future.
The world’s facing challenges that clearly need more capability than we have now. Better education is the only path to this capability; it’s the path we must follow to reach the tomorrow we all want.
And now we make the bold claim that Educational Games are the best solution to solve this moral issue. (I fully acknowledge educational games have not yet had the mainstream success needed and I will address this pressing issue in an upcoming post.)
One-on-one tutoring is the gold standard in education. We must aim for this level and beyond. In the absence of 7 billion brilliant tutors to teach the rest of us we need something that can deliver the same quality and games are the only answer.
Adaptability to an individual and ability to inspire creativity and passion are essential qualities of a great tutor and integral component of all the best games.
Patience and Responsibility
Games are the greatest tool to promote patience and responsibility
People claim games promote short attention spans and a demand for instant gratification. This is absurd. The most popular games engage players for hours at a time and have players aiming rewards that can take years to obtain.
The only thing players have no patience for is bad feedback. Players crave instant updates as to their progress. This is a healthy attitude that should be encouraged if we are to have citizens who can make reasoned decisions about their next course of action instead of just following orders.
Slow feedback (anything worse than instant) and a lack of autonomy in today’s classroom lead to students becoming rapidly disinterested, as they should be. The failing is most definitely in the education, and not the student -- why should anyone take an action when they cannot see it’s benefit, cannot tell if it’s succeeded and the only thing keeping them on path is a threat of punishment.
The current education system fails to show students the path to their goals -- because it fails to consider the student’s individual goals to begin with. Games allow players to choose their own path and provide constant feedback on progress, ensuring the player is always aware of the value of their actions.
We have lost the right to whip students and now they make healthy rational decisions to not go down blind alleys. People cry out that this is a bad thing, when really they should be crying out for education that’s as good as games.
Understanding and Retention
Learning by doing is the best way to learn and learning through narrative is the best way to remember.
Humans are story telling creatures -- pan narrans, not homo sapiens, Terry Pratchett would have you believe. Narrative is a powerful tool for aiding memory and games are interactive stories. There is no better way to remember exactly what you need than a custom built story that you have lived through. Games are the greatest mnemonic devices we’ve ever created.
We all value understanding above knowledge. It’s a higher order capability that makes us better humans. Learning by doing is the definition of a game and this interactivity gives rise to understanding. A well built game dispenses with manuals and instructional text entirely, allowing you to increase capability entirely through action. A text, voice or even video based environment can never do this. Interactivity is essential to building understanding and games deliver this in spades.
Working with others is an essential capability of a well adjusted adult. The most popular games rely on tightly coordinated team work. The most time intensive games, World of Warcraft and Eve Online, would be impossible without time management, leadership and a willingness to perform your role in the team. Group work in present education is routinely mocked and derided for being contrived and inflexible.
Individual accomplishment is always the defining metric in education whereas the accomplishments of a team and one’s ability to work in one are what matter in working life and in the most demanding games.
When it comes to teamwork, games are a better match for working life than education has ever been.
Games are the best tool to reach a wide audience, especially from a disadvantaged background. They scale perfectly with insignificant marginal cost. They are objects of high desire, so disadvantaged students will still fight to get their hands on them even when they have a high price tag - unlike education which all students fight to avoid. If we are serious about delivering education to everyone then we better be serious about games.
A Moral Issue
Education is in crisis. To do nothing is unthinkable. To invest further in the status quo is a recipe for defeat. We need a major shift; a full on revolution. Progress in everything we value depends on progress in education.
Improving education is the most pressing moral issue we face. Educational Games are the strongest answer to this challenge.