As videogames grow in popularity, their influence has become massive. This can be seen most clearly within education, where previous barriers have fallen in favor of using games to teach.
January 25, 2017 – The relationship between education and videogames is a long and serious one. Many of the first video games were created at universities, where they were used as proof of concepts and novelties for students studying computers and engineering. The students that created these games often went on to work for technology companies that helped to advance computers and software, however a few became teachers. One such student, Don Rawitsch, took the programming knowledge he gained in college and created a game for his students. This game, called The Oregon Trail, allows players to reenact a pioneer families journey to the West Coast, teaching history along the way. From its simple origins as an 8th grade teacher’s pet project, The Oregon Trail grew to become a national phenomenon, a change facilitated by its inclusion in a software bundle for schools created for their new Apple II computers.
The Oregon Trail set a precedent in the relationship between education and videogames, as it was both fun and informational, a stark departure from the large catalogue of edutainment games that let gameplay fall to the side in favor of increasing educational value. The game’s popularity also encouraged teachers to include games into their lesson plans, starting a trend of teachers utilizing video games in the classes.
Currently, video games are utilized by some teachers, however video games have fallen out of favor with many educators. One of the major reason this has occurred is that as video games grew, so did their presence in the lives of people, especially young people. As video games began to take a larger portions of free time from students, many teachers began to become disdainful of the once appreciated medium. As such, games became far less prevalent in lesson plans, a development that would have likely remained had scientists not researched the benefits of video games. Links between playing video games and developing better memory have been noticed and researched by numerous institutions. And as these developments became more frequent and further proven, teachers began to take notice. This prompted a reevaluation of video games’ role within education, which is an ongoing discussion within the educational community.
The modern discussion on video games and education has largely recognized the benefits of games within education, however doubts still exist that these benefits will translate to usable skills within the world. A study by Cambridge University found that repeated use of video games within lessons only improved performance between similar games, a change chalked up to practice by the researchers. Another major concern about using video games to teach is that the curriculum taught by games has too many gaps. However, having a teacher fill in these gaps has proved effectual, negating this concern. In the light of these flaws, it becomes apparent that video games are in no position to fully take over education. However, the proven benefits to memory, and teacher responses highlighting increased participation mean that video games are here to stay as a component of teaching the youth of tomorrow.