It was more than 10 years ago when I first realized video games can have educational use. Being a fairly new teacher, I knew games could be used in learning, but was more geared toward quiz-type fact based games. My brother, David, who is a programmer (accounting software, not video games) showed me the potential of video games for learning. His son was struggling in high school despite being gifted. Both father and son share a love for multi-player computer games like World of Warcraft. David was convinced that video games required complex problem solving skills and reasoning. Turns out, the research backs up my brother’s insight. According to an article by Nancy Sardone, IQ scores are raising and many think this is due to the cognitive complexity of video games. David saw how hard his son worked to move on to the next level of the game and knew his son wasn’t being lazy in school; he was bored. In school, working hard and getting work done just means you have down time, not more challenges. David and I would have long conversations about creating video games that incorporated traditional school skills into the complex narratives of the game. Together we played around with the game, Never Winter Nights, which has a design feature for players to create their own worlds, characters, and quests. We integrated mathematical logic puzzles requiring players to solve the puzzles in order to understand the quests, such as determining which character was a liar or truth-teller in order to get the correct directions. Though nothing much came of the game we worked on, it opened my mind up to the possibilities for these video games in education. This is not to say that we should let kids play shoot-em-up games instead of science, but there may be ways to take the good qualities of games for our own purposes.
Still interested? Take a look at the research: