Thursday, 20 October 2011 19:16
Recent develops in medicine have brought up an age-old argument. Is gaming a waste of time. While most gamers – myself included – will argue against such a statement, something has happened which supports our summations. Recently a group of gamers have cracked an HIV protein which has baffled scientists for years. As depicted in this article, the scientists put the protein in game format, and allowed the gamers to solve the puzzle. Within a few days it was cracked. Tally the countless hours and compare that to a few days…easy win.
Marc Prensky is a writer, consultant, and well-known speaker in the field of education and learning. Through research he found that today’s average college grads have spent less than 5,000 hours of their lives reading but over 10,000 hours playing video games—time spent watching television is not included in the video game time. Students who play games and are working towards an online degree may log more hours gaming since they don’t have to physically go to class for hours.
For years parents and educators viewed gaming negatively. They believed that there was no benefit to spending hours playing games and that it caused students to suffer academically. The argument was that games were purely entertainment, and the violence in them was having a negative effect on the gamers.
Recent research is beginning to uncover data that challenges those thoughts. Gamers can build skills while playing that will translate to the classroom and possibly give them an edge over non-gaming students.Note taking
Video game players learn to take mental notes and pay attention to important details needed to progress in the story. A perfect example of this is LA Noire. This game has players in the role of a detective who investigates various crime scenes searching for clues. Players interrogate suspects and need to pick up on clues that they mention. From there the investigation continues as you search for the criminal. It is important to listen carefully to the facts that are pertinent to the case and not get thrown off by irrelevant information.
Observation skills are necessary in the classroom. Professors can lecture for hours and writing down every word is not necessary or even feasible. Students must be able to focus on the important details and remember them later during exams. Games such as LA Noire are excellent tools for building cognitive skills.
Video games assist with critical thinking skills and making decisions under pressure also. The classic game Tetris requires players to rotate different shaped blocks to fit into the appropriate empty space. Mistakes are made the rows of blocks begin to stack up giving the players less time to rotate the falling blocks and less room to maneuver to open spaces.
Gamers must quickly see the shape, look for openings, decide which spot is best, rotate the block to fit into the opening, and get the block there all in a matter of seconds. This type of quick thinking is useful for timed multiple choice exams. Instead of panicking and worry about time students that play games revert back to game mode and can think under pressure, eliminate options that have no relevance, and focus on choosing the correct answer from the remaining options.
Reading and writing
What Marc Prensky failed to take into account while compiling his statistics and research used to determine the time college grads spent reading was the amount of text that is being read while gaming. Video games have transformed into interactive cinematic experiences. During extended cut-scenes characters take part in dialogue that rivals what takes place in movies and books. Gamers have the option of turning on subtitles, and they can read along while listening and watching.
Role playing games involve tons of dialogue sometimes coming in text bubbles. In order to progress in the game players must be able to read and comprehend what is being said to respond accordingly.
Some games equip players with a compass and a map as well, and gamers have to be able to utilize these tools to understand where to go and how to get there. They are taught how to use map keys and symbols. In the process of reading and listening to dialogue between characters, gamers are building their vocabularies. This enhanced vocab can lead to improved writing in school papers. The biggest development in gaming skills is the problem solving. Whether that translates as working through Portals, fighting through game maps, or solving puzzles to advance, the skill is hardened and tested repeatedly. As far as this author knows, solving problems has never been a waste of time.