Learning through gaming
By Piotr Haitengi
Senior Software Engineer at Capricorn Group.
Gaming is often frowned upon, with many people holding the view that it is addictive, non-productive, and adds no value to players. But what if gaming can improve one’s skills and knowledge? What if there is a fundamental value that gaming can produce?
Did you know that the brain is more engaged when playing a game than watching television? Studies have shown that your brain is only 30% engaged while watching television. However, while playing video games, this value increases to 90%. This would make sense since, watching television requires only the use of one’s eyes. In contrast, in video games, you must use a controller or keyboard to interact with the video game and make decisions that will impact what happens in the game. The fact that the player is fully focused and engaged presents a unique opportunity for an individual to learn something new. This opens a different world for education and learning through gaming.
The concept of gaming can be used to acquire a variety of new skills or knowledge. There are numerous examples of this worldwide, but for it to work, the end user should not feel like they are working or learning. This aspect is essential since the whole point of gaming is to have fun. If it feels like work, it will prohibit the individual from playing the game and hence hamper learning. Games, in general, should be fun and engaging and leave the end user wanting more. How should an educational game that ticks all these boxes be designed, then?
Let us have a closer look at the traditional Namibian game, Owela. If a child at the age of six plays this game, the first skill they will learn is how to count since this is part of the game mechanisms. It enables the player to learn to count without doing it the traditional way. Their only objective would be to win the game without the realization that they are acquiring a valuable life skill.
Regarding primary and secondary school education, we must consider how we can use gaming to improve school performance. This is no easy task since there is no off-the-shelf solution to our educational syllabus that can be used. Enhancing fundamentals could give any child a significant advantage in his schooling career. Education is based on four fundamentals:
• Free time.
Considering these fundamentals, interactive gaming solutions can be considered and developed, which will help students acquire information, based on their curriculums. Games then become the medium that provides exposure to concepts, gives easy access, and inspires the students to level up, all while they have fun and learn. Of course, if the game is designed to engage them, they would not mind spending free time on it too.
To implement an essential educational game, we first need to investigate what children today enjoy watching and playing so that we can understand the basic psychology of the current generation. Then there has to be clarity on what needs to be taught, whether a new language or mathematics etc. At this point, you would also need to know which reward system would get the kids to keep playing the game. Since the whole point of teaching them via gaming is not to make it feel like it is a chore, it should always be fun. Usually, a badge system where players can unlock new levels and earn more badges or rewards makes players return to the game because they want to complete all possible achievements and feel a sense of accomplishment.
With that said, we should not be oblivious to the negative effects of gaming. Too much of something is not suitable for anyone. As with everything else, moderation should be kept in mind because gaming can become addictive. Therefore, the gaming environment for children must be controlled. For example, spending 8 hours a day playing a game is unhealthy, especially for developing children. Although they learn skills such as hand-eye coordination. Often certain areas in their brains get overstimulated, causing attention deficit disorder (ADD). Therefore, there must be a good balance.
We need extensive research on creating a game to benefit our youth’s education. Education is essential for any nation, and we now have modern and effective ways to tap into it. The more educated our youth, the more promising the future will be.