Education Goes Gaming, Part 2

What Do Games Teach?


The culture we are raised within affects our expected learning style. Critics have scolded the current generation for being impatient, and that their access to limitless information has bred instant minded learners who operate at quick speeds and lack ambition when they are unplugged. Itʼs impossible to disconnect their hypertext minds, but learning what games teach our students will help us follow important educational wires.

Gaming teaches students to never give up. It lets them choose character or characteristics, choose worlds, make choices based on strategy or whim, and make changes as needed. It lets them reset their world, try again, and learn from their mistakes.

Students take control of their own learning in the gaming world. They can challenge themselves, take a break, or feel the success of winning an easy game—all by choice. This powerful self-assessment tool is far more advanced than just learning what is presented in a traditional classroom. Students who play games might be more willing to dialogue critically about their own learning strategies and communicate with teachers about what works for them as learners and what frustrates them to the point of “turning off the game.”

Students of the gaming age use technology to customize information. This generation is immersed in media as an access tool: they selects screen names, switch out screen savers, customize and purchase tennis shoes online, even design Starbucks cards. Games can be leveled, expanded, or terminated based on the whim of the learner. This generation expects a similar response in all areas of their lives, including the classroom.


Gaming teaches students that there is a goal, but many ways to reach the goal, and an endless amount of time to achieve it. Students learn how to LEARN in games, letting trial and error guide their choices. In game-speak, a major loss is called an “epic fail,” but the moment lasts only as long as it takes to begin a new game. Losses arenʼt failure in the gaming culture; they are an opportunity to apply the new knowledge the next time they play. Games teach students that the process of learning is exciting, challenging, fun, but thatʼs thereʼs always an opportunity to improve.

Resources are significant in games. At times, they appear as a power up “star” or an extra “turn” or “life.” The more sophisticated games hide resources behind doors, inside boxes that must be broken, down dangerous tunnels, even within another player or character. Itʼs rare for gamers to be given a resource for free; they must work at it, fight for it, repeat sections of the game over and over to obtain a valuable resource. Many games require the skill of collaboration to jointly win a resource. Correctly applied, these skills transfer to any other learning situation.

Our gaming generation learns there are endless opportunities to have help, to become smarter, to work together. The motivation of games keeps them engaged, and they will work for the knowledge they need. What a powerful education tool! Tapping into the specific ways we can use these skills in education will be the topic of our last article in this series: Education Goes Gaming: Change the Way They Play.

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