How video games can be learning experiences

Video games don't have the greatest reputation in the learning realm. They're viewed as contraptions of distraction that keep students up at night and stop them from completing their homework.


And yes, in some cases, it can be easy to spend too much time on video games, and this can lead to poor grades and harm a student’s life.


But there’s a plus side that many people don’t think about! With the right mindset and environment, they can become tools that help students learn more efficiently while keeping them engaged and entertained.


We’re not just talking learning games either! Your everyday regular first-person shooter or role-playing games can also be beneficial to a certain extent. So, don't worry: you won't have to completely switch over to Cool Math Games for the rest of high school to see the results.


Here are a few benefits you may not have realised you’d be getting during your gaming sessions!


Problem solving:

No matter which game you play, all will challenge you in some sort of way. From FPS to simulation to sports games, each will present a player with a set of limitations they must get around to succeed. Usually, each level gets progressively more challenging, forcing the player to think harder to find a solution.


The great thing is that the player is constantly using their problem-solving skills without even realising it. Due to the immersive gaming experience the present technology provides us, we completely forget that our brains are actually working through those solving skills to help us win.


Remember that it doesn't have to be an educational game to work these skills. Just because you're not solving equations and getting points on your Khan Academy account doesn't mean your brain's not working. Figuring out how to beat the first boss in Elden Ring, taking into account all the skills that you’ve learnt and challenges you’ve faced along the way, can be just as just stimulating.


Memory enhancement:

Every game you’ve ever played has required you to remember something for you to beat it. It could be something as simple as the controls or the rules, or maybe things slightly more complex like attack patterns and combos. Either way, your working memory was used to get to the next level or stage. 


From patterns and numbers to symbols and sequences, there are a variety of tactics used to challenge the player in most games. They must keep track of them to progress. Each time they fail, they will have learnt a new pattern to keep track of for next time. This could be in the form of a timed puzzle or even an attack pattern from a boss fight. 


We can think of one more situation where a well-practiced memory may come in handy. Exams, for instance? Regular practice won't hurt just because it's done on a computer.


Improved focus:

There's no denying it - video games are one of the most immersive experiences on the planet. That's probably why people can stare at a screen for hours while day changes to night. The more our technology advances, the deeper we go down the rabbit hole. 


Some of the things that make a game addictive are its reward programs and progression algorithms. People don't want to stop playing because they don't want to lose all their progress, and the more progress they make, the more the game rewards them. This is particularly evident in long-running games like Clash of Clans – they’ve figured out how to keep people engaged over a long period of time.


Now, the first thing to say is it’s important to be aware of these patterns in gaming to make sure we don’t get hooked ourselves! Limit your screen time and keep yourself disciplined. However, they also give us a good model we can apply to our own learning.


If we can a gaming-style rewards system for our learning, just imagine how much more focused we would be. Try it out! If you get the grade you aimed for or had a successful study period (with no distractions), go reward yourself.


Now, of course, you have to be accountable for the significance of the reward. Don't go around giving yourself one-hour gaming breaks just because you've done half an hour of serious study. Be honest with yourself – otherwise, it won't work.



Social skills:

Games are a great way to make new friends or practice teamwork. Usually, it's best with some adult supervision for younger students, especially since a lot of us can get lost in the heat of the game. But we can all participate in some healthy competition that gets us all talking!


However you approach it, gaming is a great way to find some common ground between two people. If you're in a new school or class, gaming could just help you find your best friend.


Now, all these positive points are applicable when you game in moderation. If you're going to go overboard and pull all-nighters on a school day with the excuse that it's improving coordination, then of course you’re not doing yourself any favours. So, game responsibly, and you’ll be able to take advantage of the benefits without falling prey to any of the traps of gaming.



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