If you see a gamer fall back in their chair and cry with despair, “OMG, I have died of dysentery. Not again!”, then you can be damn sure that the poor sod in front of you has just hitched his last wagon in Oregon Trail.
Oregon Trail is a pastime for many young students and is one of the only computer games played in American schools. Originally beginning as a board game through the imagination of one teacher, it is now “the most widely distributed educational game of all time.” Teachers see some value in learning the finer points of pioneering days through this game, and KitGuru is anticipating even greater use of educational games in schools.
Educational video games are already making headway, as certain game companies focus exclusively on educational games – The Learning Company, DreamBox Learning, etc. I certainly played my fair share of educational video games when I was growing up – Reader Rabbit, Oregon Trail, Math Blaster, Number Munchers, Gizmos and Gadgets, Treasure Mathstorm. Those are some good games! Not only are they entertaining, but kids actually do learn something from them – making exact change and learning about time in Treasure Mathstorm while catching elves and being pelted by an evil snowball, zapping trash and making correct mathematical equations in Math Blaster, learning basic engineering as you assemble cars and planes in Gizmos and Gadgets. Thinking about these games makes me want to play them again now – that’s how entertaining they were!
More news articles have surfaced over the last couple years, showing the value of educational video games. Among USA Today’s December 2011 list of “Top 10 video games for kids this year,” a couple educational games made the cut – the Nintendo DS games The Magic School Bus: Oceans (underwater animals with educational mini-games) and Team Umizoomi (an early math game). Those who praise educational gaming say, “Video games can stimulate learning of facts and skills such as strategic thinking, creativity, cooperation and innovative thinking.”
Video games for education aren’t only considered valuable for kids but also for college students. Some university courses have already integrated video games into their coursework – Boston College nursing students use a virtual crime scene to study forensics, University of Wisconsin at Madison music students use Melody Mixer to read and compose music, and some Mercyhurst College even play World of Warcraft in an intelligence studies course (sign me up for that one!).
A recent study showed that violent video games change the brain by desensitizing players to violence, but after a week of laying off the game, the study showed that brain changes returned to normal. While parents will always concern themselves over the violence of mainstream video games, there is at least some movement toward social acceptance of educational video games, even at the college level. Video games can bring dry subjects like history alive in a way that can’t be replicated. Historical movies and documentaries are already used regularly in the classroom, so why not develop truly immersive educational video games to really show students what life and culture was like during specific time periods?
You know that question – if you could invite five famous historical figures to dinner, who would they be and why? With future development of educational games, that seemingly elusive dinner could actually be replicated so you can experience for yourself what it would be like to talk to Abraham Lincoln or Napoleon Bonaparte. If educational video games become exceptionally advanced, perhaps medical students could even get more “hands on experience” at home to supplement their work in the classroom and hospital.
KitGuru says: Imagine – a future for video games that is so incredibly immersive and lifelike that you could really be a part of learning. A future where the strategies gleaned from current educational games will be laughable, as future students live out their education in a gaming environment – where far more than mere strategy would be acquired but rather, an entire educational experience. After all, we at KitGuru believe that living your education is more beneficial than solely learning it.