Computer Games Can Help You in School. No, Really!
Aug 19, 2008 E-Learning/CALL 2714 Views
Almost everyone says that computer games are bad for you. But some games you can have fun playing can also help you in school, and in life, if you let them.
There are all sorts of games, so let's stick to one type: online, text-based role playing games. If you haven't ever seen or tried one, they are actually pretty simple. These games are constructed verbally, as text intended to be read, rather than visually. You and a number of other people log onto the game and then simply type in descriptions of your actions...what you say, what you do. Most of the games have a virtual "presence," which means that your actions happen in rooms that have a physical description you can read and react to. The game software allows you to interact not only with the game server itself, but with any number of other players in any number of ways. They usually don't require any fancy skills, and are often completely free to users.
It's handy to talk about online text-based role playing games because their attributes lend themselves to helping players with their lives. Role playing is used by teachers and corporate trainers because it is a good way to learn. Text-based games allow your imagination to play freely. And playing online with a group of real people creates an infinite number of play possibilities.
So, apart from obvious things like keyboarding skills, how can you improve your school skills by playing a game? Let's see...
It's a dirty little secret that when schools ask businesses what they think students need, the business people say "Good group skills." No wonder: whether you call them committees or task forces or units or teams, the work of the world is done by groups.
Schools answer this by building group work into your classes. For instance, group projects and presentations are built into courses in business or communication. Sometimes there are entire classes called "Leadership" or "Group Dynamics." All of these are graded on how well the group works, and the better your group skills, the better the group does and the better you do.
What are good group skills you can learn from playing games?
* The ability to both lead and follow.
* The ability to contribute to planning, to analyze a problem and create a solution collaboratively.
* The ability to persuade others and to accept complex reasoning.
* The ability to take no for an answer!
Think that can't be so? Watch this: Imagine you are Captain Berin, a fierce warrior and a Guardian of the City. A gang of cutthroats, kidnappers and murderers is plaguing the City. The Guardians meet to figure out how to finish off that gang of thugs once and for all!
At the meeting you offer to infiltrate the gang, but the answer is no - you are too well known a warrior. Instead, the Guardians arrive together at a plan: The older, less able Guardians will interview the victims, examining their stories for clues. The more agile members will take the clues and track the gang to their lair. And once they are cornered, the fiercest Guardians, led by Captain Berin, will attack!
The plan works perfectly, and one day, just before dawn, you lead your men in on the attack! The bandits resist, two are killed, three are captured and their hostages are released. You parade the captured gang members through the City to the cheers of the crowds, bringing them to the Hall of Justice to meet their inevitable fates.
This is not entirely a fictitious example. It's based on a situation that happened in an online, text-based role playing game called Firan (www.legendary.org/firan) not too long ago. Firan is one of the largest of the online role playing games. Each week around 200 people from all over the world log in to play. This plot, which stretched over about three weeks, involved over thirty different players, as Guardians, victims, criminals and finally lawyers and judges.
And those things Captain Berin did? The leading, the following, the debating, the planning? You did them! You were playing his role, but you chose his actions and you wrote his words.
You can learn good group skills from playing games if you find a game that rewards you for playing with people. When you are looking for a game, ask about how people advance in the game: If one of the ways is to be nominated or voted on by other players, that's what you want.
Apart from Firan, which is a bit unusual because it is based in a completely original world with a historical feel to it, there are plenty of other worlds out there for you to play in, based on Harry Potter, Star Trek, the Lord of the Rings, Dragonball...any place that has fans has games built around it. Discworld, Pern, even Pokemon, all sorts of worlds await you. Go to a site where they are listed, such as Mud Connector (www.mudconnector.com), pick one out and give it a try! There no telling what you might learn.