The Education Revolution? It’s in the Game!

A growing industry

Happy Birthday!!! The video game is 50 years-old, and according to DFC Intelligence , in 2015 the industry is estimated to be valued at around $70.1 billion. The industry already surpasses Hollywood and its audience keeps increasing . Almost everyone tends to play, or has been affected by, video games; and is popular in both genders (males: 58%, female: 42%) and ages . The last Call of Duty by Activision Blizzard, a real blockbuster game, grossed $1 billion faster than Avatar! Released November 8, 2011, it achieved it in only 16 days whereas Avatar reached the symbolic number in…17 days .

The gaming industry often marginalised, and even chastised in the past for its obscure added values and insights, is now seen as flourishing, innovative and inspiring. Youth culture has prescribed to, and perpetuated, this “Geek” culture. All media want a piece of it, with TV shows such as The Big Bang Theory, or movies with Video Games’ hero that gets spin-off on the big screen (Prince of Persia in 2010). Initially built to entertain, video games reach have extended to keep our body in shape, train our memory and make us learn in its more serious manifestation.

As Allen S Weiss, president and CEO of NCH HeathCare puts it: “Being immersed in a video game, and having your brain stimulated, can encourage creative solutions and adaptations. These beneficial ideas and thoughts can then be applied to real life situations. The results can be surprisingly positive for individuals, communities, and society as a whole.”

It sounds pretty much like Jane McGonigal stated on TED: Gaming can make a better world.

The Video Game’s Source Code

Games are increasingly popular and can trigger tremendous opportunities and applications in many fields such as recruitment, human development, advertisement, education… The source code of video games’ fame can be analysed as such :

Visible progression: Players can very easily assess their progress throughout their game via just in time learning  like experience bars, direct notifications. They receive feedbacks, tips on what they still have to accomplish to reach the next level and where to head on and how to accomplish tasks.

Short and long-term objectives are clearly stated: generally speaking, players know what is expected of them, a historical database is often also available as a reminder.

Rewards for all kinds of accomplishment: ending a level without killing any foes, get rid of a boss, solving an enigma in a short amount of time, finding some treasure in tricky areas; games tend to reward all kind of success.

Feedbacks: whether you fail or succeed, the experience gathered allow the player to collect data immediately on the necessary skills to acquire to go further in the adventure. The game can also propose a new level of difficulty if it feels the player ready for more arduous tasks or to smooth things up.

The unexpected: the element of surprise is what keeps players moving forward to see what will show up next.

Confidence: rewards make players keen on being bolder, preventing despondency.

So the golden recipe lies in its content embedded in an immersion atmosphere but not only. The game plays like Nintendo’s Wii-mote or more recently, Microsoft’s Kinect, brings their own respective set of innovation. For example, the Microsoft camera is disrupting the robotic market where such kind of devices seen as a camera capturing 3D images in real time, more than a controller-free interface, were previously available for $280,000 .

Focus on education

To sum-up, video game studios create immersing worlds that potentially shape people to be more daring by building various sets of skills and setting level of difficulties and rewards accordingly. It helps to expand the human potential thanks to new interfaces triggering new challenging experiences that are not defined by only one “good” parameter. There is no right way to “finish a boss”, find its way to the next stage or to solve an enigma, developing the gaming experience through optional tactics and freedom of choice. Each approach is valued, and is triggered by the complex and differing aspects of how the player’s mind works, and hence ending up by the completion of the set problem. Video games have an energy of “fairness”, they make everyone feel special and emotionally involved. Video games could potentially revitalise people that faces failure in their life. How many times do we have to read in newspapers students that drift apart from the educational system? Let’s end this!

In the education field, it exists what we call e-learning. However, many flaws can be found. They are not so much based on interaction, but primarily rely on memorisation (learning by doing?) and somehow lack a great story line . Social engagement is not fostered, sometimes you have to close the application to access forums or look for more information, so you are more likely to give up. The challenges are intellectually limited because it often focuses on the basis which strongly undermines the rewarding system potential. Moreover, the software more often than not, only uses computers.

However, games have the power to shift the education paradigm by making more students excited about, for example, “hard sciences”. These topics have to be made more relevant to students and enshrined in their everyday world. Teachers cannot just painfully tell them to learn new words and definitions that would put anyone to sleep. Students must feel part of something bigger and that their individual initiatives can benefit the community as a whole.

Of course, e-learning companies cannot compete with successful game studios with endless budgets. But if there is one thing to remember here, is that the atmosphere must be immersive. There exist plenty of great teachers that are great story tellers and are able to immerse their students solely with their knowledge (see picture). So just help them to make them come to life online then. Some companies already have incredible researches to build their world as it was in the past like the ‘Assassin’s Creed’ franchise from Ubisoft that places its stories during Italian Renaissance (Florence, Venice); or during the crusades in the middle-east (Damascus, Acre). Their 3D modeling of these cities is a great piece of architecture dedicated to world history. However, real initiatives are still scarce . I embrace the day when actors of this creative industry looking for new lines of growth and will have a deeper look into the digital learning’s potential in the field of education in order to  develop new business models.

Photos by Dreilinger & BreakofDay

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