Combatting Boredom with Engaging, Edifying Video Games: Reversing a Trend

As I’ve blogged about recently, video games are one of the highest time priorities of young people, especially boys. Not surprisingly, boys are the main population attracted to video games.  Interestingly, the rate at which boys are attending college is significantly less than it is for girls right now. Recent statistics show that 45% of high school boys are attending college while 63% of girls are going to college. Is there a relationship? What is going on with boys and how can we use a medium with which they connect to engage and inspire them?

Bored students, especially boys, may be excited to become part of a game by making moral decisions that affect their next move, the fate of other characters, and the outcome of the “parts” of the situation they experience. Opportunities like this promote higher order thinking skills, promote challenging thought and get students to think conceptually about things which can truly stretch their cognitive abilities.

In the Associated Press article “Video Games Tap Moral Issues,” Ryan Nakashima explores a new gaming game plan: create more intricate story lines and let the gamer make the decisions. Not only is this movement a mark in the evolution of gaming, it’s also a response to the dialogues that were stirred up after the Supreme Court decision to protect the production of violent games under the freedom of speech. As an alternative to violence, developers are asking players to exercise real-world skills, like reasoning and moral decision making, and giving games a new depth beyond pointing and shooting. Nakashima writes, developers are focusing more on the nonaction scenes, which allows the player new freedoms, like in the latest “Star Wars” game that will have “about 20 different endings and a billion ways to get there.”

Students who played “pro-social” games were more likely to help out in real-life situations, like helping a person who’s being harassed, than those who didn’t participate, according to Sigmund Tobias of the State University of New of York at Albany in the CBS News article,“Violent Video Games Hailed as Learning Tool.” Games allow people to learn — whether it’s through testing how well they operate under a zombie a attack or exercising their moral compass — because the learning is active. According to a recent MindShift article, Dr. James Paul Gee, a professor at Arizona State University, says a revolution in learning sciences points to new theories that humans learn from experience. This means any experience we have, even if it’s through controlling a character in a game, is stored in our brains and is part of our learning process.

Shouldn’t we have fun while learning? If students are spending a lot of their day in front of a screen, why not have them learn while they’re there? If we can harness the intrigue of gaming with higher order cognitive skills that students need and the brain craves, then we will be one step closer to really helping students to be college, career and life ready instead of just play ready.



“Video Games Tap Moral Issues”

“Violent Games Hailed as Learning Tool”

“Ten Surprising Truths about Video Games and Learning”


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