Of children in the US, 79% play computer or video games on a regular basis.
While most people think of video games as the pastime of the pre-adolescent, and not without reason, since children between the ages of seven and 17 play for an average of eight hours per week. However, industry research suggests that the commitment to video gaming may not end when students leave high school.
Industry research suggests that college students game even more than pre-adolescents. It seems the typical college student spends a bit less than two hours a day gaming, and the US military uses war gaming for everything from modeling high-level international command coordination, to introducing raw recruits to weapons.
Taking their lead from the Department of Defense, some university instructors have introduced game-based learning into their curricula.
These educational video games introduce a fantasy element in order to engage players in the story line, while making sure that their mastery of the course material is essential to students scoring and winning.
Some competitive exercises pit students against one another; others give them the opportunity to challenge themselves. Inter-university consortia while they can’t compete with the DOD for research and development budgets are able to develop higher level of resources from member universities, in order to improve educational outcomes.
One example is MUVEES, a cooperative venture of Harvard University, George Mason University, the Smithsonian, Boston public schools, Gunston middle school, along with an industry partner, Thoughtful Technologies.
With additional funding from the NSF, the project is finding engaging ways to teach science that draw on curiosity and play.
Of course, there are dramatic differences between the teaching styles scientists frequently use, and video games.
For example, science classes usually present materials verbally, taking concepts step-by-step. Video games, however, are about pictures, and the player decides the order of play.
For another example, a science teacher or science professor usually develops their class or lecture on their own.
Video games, however, draw on the talents and skills of graphic artists, animators, and programmers working as a group. Leading universities research and development boards and the DOD–aren’t the only institutions that have noticed complementarily between gaming and learning.
Public policy activists are also concerned that players learn from video games, and question whether what players are learning is useful.
For example, the American Psychological Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Medical Association together have concluded that research evidence demonstrates a cause and effect relationship between television violence, and the acts of those who watch it.
Based on this link, activists suggest that players are often required to take the point of view of the perpetrator of violence; that video games require active participation; that repetition increases learning, and that video games are based on a rewards system that increases learning even more.