I’ve spoken of how the medium of video games is often underused in regards to storytelling, however there is another oppurtunity where it so often fails in its endeavors. The realm of education. Extra Credits did a great piece on this, which I will link at the bottom, in which they talk about Tangential learning as opposed to the more traditional shove it down your throat education. But my question is, could video games be the future of science experiments in classrooms?
For anyone who has ever taken a low budget science course in school, you likely felt it was like shaving with a cheese grader. And for those who experienced a science course with lots of labs and experiments, it may have been the best time you’ve ever had standing up. Science is not about studying textbooks (ok, its included), its about getting your hands dirty and figuring out how things work.
Sadly, the materials can be expensive or downright dangerous. That doesn’t even taken into account whatever regulations and logistics the schools have to go through. So what if we bypassed all this, with video games?
Imagine a sort of adventure game. You’re escaping from a mad scientist’s laboratory. You must solve puzzles of increasing difficulty using the chemicals on hand to get out of his labyrinthian nightmare. Within the game you could have object (such as.. a book), that provide information for the student. These books don’t even have to be handwritten (though that would be better). They can just be links to Wikipedia, or another website.
Or how about an example that already exists. If you haven’t played Portal or Portal 2 yet, stop reading and go play them. I don’t care if you like games or not, they’re amazing….
Ok, have you played them? Good.
In Portal, you must use physics to solve puzzles. That’s pretty much the game in a nutshell. Its format could easily be transformed into a physics class. In its current form, the game already teaches momentum, gravity, inertia, velocity, how to use wormholes and critical thinking. And the first portal didn’t even have much in the way of graphical assets, every level was pretty much composed of the same prefabs. This would make it easy to adapt.
These sort of games wouldn’t replace textbooks. And students would still need to learn the mathematics side of things. But the games could provide a fun way of getting the student engaged. And once you’ve done that, the rest of your job is pretty easy (relatively).
As for the cost of producing these games. Well, the best way to get around this would be modular level design and digital copies. This may also cut down on the volume of textbooks, not to mention the load some children have to tote about on a daily basis.
Schools with limited access to computers couldn’t do this as well either, though in all honesty.. perhaps its time we pushed for full computer funding in schools. But I’ll leave my ranting on how little we invest into our future for another day.
So what do you think? Could video games have a real role in our science system? Do you think they could have an impact on higher learning as well? Tell me what you think.
Extra Credits on Tangential Learning – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rlQrTHrwyxQ