Video games have a place in education

Oct 15, 2021 | Arts

Ask parents about video games and school and many will say the two simply don’t mix, that the games are a distraction and a potentially addicting one at that.

But experts also say the world of gaming can provide many benefits and skills.

“Games can be used in the classroom for many purposes, to teach the art of storytelling, to teach elements of design, UI and interface design, to teach collaboration, having students work in teams working towards a goal,” said Vishaal Bedi, professor of User Experience Design in Humber College’s Game Programming program.

“A game provides the opportunity for engagement and also developing social skills when working in a team-based environment,” Bedi said. He’s written on how games like Nintendo’s Super Mario Maker help develop the process of brainstorming, creativity and collaboration by allowing students to design their own levels in games.

“There are many games today like Super Mario maker, Dreams, Game Garage Builder that teach people how to design, animate and code,” he said. “Even if you don’t end up doing those things related to games, those skills can be applied to other fields.

“Games teach social skills, specifically games that require coordination and collaboration like Snipperclips on Nintendo Switch,” Bedi said.

He has seen firsthand how gaming can transform a classroom and its students for the better.

“In our game program, the main focus is making games,” but Bedi said in Humber’s other programs such as user experience design, games help build competency in other significant areas including design and coding.

It’s done in a fun way without added pressure “so students get to see how the skills they are learning can be applied to different industries and domains,” Bedi said. “You can take the tools and processes you learn and apply them across industries based on your interest.”

Games can help form a community, he said. For people who might suffer from a certain disability or be going through a difficult time, a game can be a positive way to provide support, Bedi said.

But there is a downside.

Playing video games too much can lead to physical and psychological issues if not addressed, including increased risk of obesity, social isolation due to game addiction, depression and more.

With such risks, parents wonder if video games belong in school.

“They become consumed with the challenges of the games and spend considerably more time on them than they do their homework, reading and assignments which will have affect their overall performance and grades,” said Julie Campbell, a mother of two.

“The games for some can seem so real at times that the line between reality and fantasy become blurred,” she said.

Leonard Campbell, a father of two, said the main reason he believes video games are not conducive to education is “that with all the overload of information being displayed through the games or gaming chat rooms, video games have in many ways become the new teachers.

“Students are learning and experiencing life through the games and may start to feel that they don’t need formal education,” he said.

For Bedi, the issue comes down to how gaming is viewed and utilized.

“We’re strategically selecting specific games with an end goal in mind that helps teach a particular topic, whether it’s writing or narrative or storytelling or design,” he said.

The more transparent educators are about how video games are being used, Bedi said, the more skeptics might be to using that form of media in education.