Them’s fighting words! In the last US presidential debate tonight, Obama threw down the gauntlet against video games, saying parents need to turn their kids away from games and instead get them to focus on studying. Unfortunately, his statement perpetuates the misconception that games have no redeeming value. We’d like to go on record that well-written serious games, which educate as well as entertain, can teach children just as well as studying, especially when story is involved. Furthermore, even entertainment games can benefit young and old alike.
How can we be so sure games can educate children? We recently finished work on a serious game aimed at students and received the first testing report. The players not only enjoyed the gameplay, they quickly began to identify with the characters, to explore their relationships, and to understand the complex issues the character were supposed to represent. Based on this test, the developers were confident the game achieved their educational goals. And how did the students react to learning through a game? One student said “This is like the best day I’ve ever had in this class.” Now what’s so wrong with making learning fun?
Besides the serious games genre, games in general have the opportunity to provide “serious” fun. Games, such as Brain Spa, can help the elderly “exercise” their brains, keeping them sharp. Some games also provide a meditative effect, creating calm and a way to recharge, according to Nicole Lazzaro. Games may have even more unexplored benefits. Could games like THE WITCHER help players explore and identify their own sense of ethics in a safe environment?
Clearly games have more to offer than a few hours of mindless entertainment. I’m sure Obama didn’t realize these benefits when he spoke today, but we hope he will next time. Who knows, maybe the next presidential candidates will offer games on their sites to educate voters on their position. What do you think?