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Games Better Than Books? 310

Posted by michael
from the precision-motor-control dept.
cellullama writes "Some of the leading video-game researchers are saying that games are better for teaching than textbooks. Three University of Wisconsin professors just said schools and corporate trainers should learn something from Halo 2 and Half-life. My workplace is already doing this (but don't tell my boss.)"
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Games Better Than Books?

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  • ... now where's my shotgun?
  • Half Life (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Half Life 2 could teach newtonian physics really well. If they just let you pick up creatures and slam them against walls....
    • Re:Half Life (Score:2, Informative)

      by EmperorKagato (689705) *
      There is a modification package that allows you to play with the physics and features of Half-Life 2. It is very interesting what you can do in the physics world of Half-Life 2.
  • Possible, but... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by KDan (90353) on Friday January 21, 2005 @08:48AM (#11430933) Homepage
    Games may be better at teaching certain things than books, but they can never provide the kind of mind expansion that reading a lot of novels can. People already read little enough. Replacing books even at school will probably reinforce this trend even more - and prepare a whole generation where the majority of people will not have bothered to read a single book! What a sad state of affairs that would be...

    Daniel
    • Re:Possible, but... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Atrax (249401)
      I think that depends on the sort of novels you're talking about. There are novels, and there's pulp...

      did you ever read the Doom adaptation novels, for instance?
    • You've never played a Final Fantasy game, have you? I dare say they're more novel than game.
      • by KDan (90353) on Friday January 21, 2005 @09:27AM (#11431329) Homepage
        Reading a novel isn't just about seeing a story. The story aspect is important as well - and it'd be true that a mindblowing story will be mindblowing whichever way you present it. But a movie or a game have a fundamental limitation, due to their very nature: they show you everything.

        When you read a book, you exercise the muscle of your imagination. You create worlds in your head, you see things that you've never seen, your mind is at full work placing you in another universe. When you watch a movie or play a game (no matter how involved, complex, and interesting the story is), your imagination is at rest. Everything is provided ready-made.

        Some movies, and probably some games, manage to work your imagination in a way similar to a book, because of the incredible genius that went into making them, but even there, they are usually lesser than the equivalent book in that respect.

        I'm not advocating that books are "better" than movies (in fact I'm not advocating anything, merely presenting my point of view! :-) ), but that movies and games can never provide the same kind of value that books do - no matter how good they become. Unfortunately movies and games take a lot less effort and so are often the "easier path". This wouldn't be a problem if they were just something you do alongside reading books. But if you discard books in favour of movies and games - well, there you've made a big mistake.

        Daniel
        • If you continue you are likely to be eaten by a grue.
        • by cgenman (325138) on Friday January 21, 2005 @10:12AM (#11431803) Homepage
          Not to veer dangerously close to the topic, but there is also the flip side to this, namely that while books engage one's imagination, games engage one's strategic thinking. While a story about the kreb cycle [virginia.edu] would probably be dry and boring, a videogame could be absolutely engaging and unforgettable. A large chunk of economic theory could be taught memorably through interactive simulations, as could the sciences and many other disciplines as well.

          Don't discount gaming as not-books. They are not books. But they have their strengths as a medium too. And quite frankly, if young adult's exposure to reading is through High School Textbooks, no wonder they consider it dry, boring, and poorly done. I fail to see how circumventing some of that would hurt.

          P.S. Since 7, the Final Fantasy games have contained more text than most any books. I believe that is what the parent was referring to.

    • Hmm, well, I'd compare playing e.g. Grim Fandago through with reading an entertaining novel through. Not all games are Counterstrike. ;-)
      • Never played Grim Fandango right through - I found it a little slow to get into.

        Then again I also had to skip from the Party directly to Bree to get through Lord Of The Rings for the first time.

        maybe I should crack Grim open again?
    • Actually no, in recent years, at least in my country, book sales are at a record high [bbc.co.uk].

      It seems to be something of a myth that book reading is on a slide. Certainly book ownership has been going through the roof. Whether people are reading good books though is a different matter entirely.
    • by beakerMeep (716990) on Friday January 21, 2005 @09:31AM (#11431370)
      I always wondered why people have to talk about it like it's a contest and that there is one perfect medium for learning. I think you hit the nail on the head in that books are better for some things and games maybe now are being seen as better for others. Seems pretty straight forward to me that a well-rounded education uses multiple techniques.
      • I don't think there has to be a perfect medium for teaching, but while I've loved reading since I learned to, I only liked gaming when I was a teenager. By the time I went to University, I'd had enough gaming -- but my passion for reading never abated. I realize anecdote != data, but virtually all of the most thoughtful, intelligent people I've met are also avid readers. This applies across all fields, and includes everyone from scientists to lawyers to teachers (of all subjects).

        I'm reminded of a quote att

    • Well, it all depends on what game you play. I have read many a book, but I cannot find one that is as good as Final Fantasy VII. Half-Life 2 has a fairly good storyline as well. I think the moral of the story is that some games are better than some books. Final Fantasy VII is like a book, but interactive... how can you lose?
      • Try reading "One Hundred Years of Solitude" by Gabriel Garcia Marques. I think you'll find it will compare very favourably :-)

        Daniel
    • I disagree because novels don't provide mind expansion. If I pick up a book, I don't have this overcoming urge to fill my head with it's knowledge.

      I have tried to read in the past and was unsuccessful. In high school, teachers saw potential in me and put me in advanced math and english classes (which called for summer reading). I did fine in advanced math but it took half the summer to read one book and there were 3 to read.

      I don't see that as any type of shortcoming because I know I have imagination.
      • First of all I'd like to point out that I never equated lack of imagination with lack of intelligence. One can be extremely clever and completely devoid of all other human qualities. These are all different components of a human being which can vary mostly independently of each other.

        Second, You are agreeing with me with the very way you phrase your disagreement. Let me break down your argument for you:

        You're saying that because you can't visualise forests when reading LotR, there is nothing to be gaine
    • You want to really learn about a topic? Try writing a book about it! Nothing like putting what you know down on paper to make you think about it.

      Eric
      • Agreed!

        Not only that, but writing a book about something requires you to perform even more research than you would otherwise, to make sure you're not making things up.

        Not very accessible to someone who's never even READ a book though...

        Daniel
    • Games may be better at teaching certain things than books, but they can never provide the kind of mind expansion that reading a lot of novels can.

      For the mind expansion may I recommend special kinds of mushrooms. Then the only books you'll have to read are written by Aldous [amazon.co.uk] Huxley. [amazon.co.uk]

      Plus we need to have conversions of things like Pride and Prejudice to make it appeal to more women. Though my girlfriend is really into the Sims to I'm sure they could just come up with a Jane AUsten expansion pack.

    • Games may be better at teaching certain things than books...

      The first thing that popped into my mind when reading this story: "better at teaching what?"

      For example, Halo might be better at teaching combat skills than a book about combat skills. That is to say, when it comes to learning *how* to do something, it's often better to learn by doing than to learn by reading about it. Insofar as playing the games are activities themselves, you're learning by doing. Insofar as games are simulations, you're lea

    • Re:Possible, but... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by m50d (797211)
      they can never provide the kind of mind expansion that reading a lot of novels can.

      Why do people always say this? FWIW I do read a lot, but I can't see any reason why a book is somehow "better" than a movie or a game. Yet large numbers of people seem to take it as a given. There are good and bad books and games, and possibly more bad games than bad books, but why is it always assumed that a good game can never be as good as a good book?

  • by AtariAmarok (451306) on Friday January 21, 2005 @08:48AM (#11430936)
    "Some of the leading video-game researchers are saying that games are better for teaching than textbooks"

    Is there a corresponding team of book researchers saying that books are better for teaching than videogames? I'd tend to side with them.

    • now, I havent RTFA (of course), but your quote says TEXTbooks.

      Have you READ a textbook lately? IF you somehow manage to stay awake long enough to make any progress, chances are you'll be so confused that you wont know what the hell it said. Textbooks need teachers with them to learn. They need a translator.

      BOOKS, on the other hand, are wonderful. I read at least a book a week, frequently 2-3. It's a great experience. Maybe they need to get better writers for textbooks, I dont know, but I wouldnt dou
  • Overlooked (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Manip (656104) on Friday January 21, 2005 @08:49AM (#11430944)
    Interactive learning has always been known to be better than passive learning any teacher will tell you that (remember the board games they use to teach you ABC?)

    It's just that most people in a position to add this kind of technology are not qualified to or do not see the benefit of doing so.

    The education will catch up with the technology eventually and then we will see something new.
    • Games are only better if the student isn't motivated. If a game motivates a student, so much the better. But if the student already has motivation, a book would be better any day... a game just adds unneeded overhead.
    • Re:Overlooked (Score:3, Informative)

      by meburke (736645)
      Yup, I read this in a book about 1980, and some of the research came from IBM. Some subjects are better taught through simulation and games than book study. Flying simulators are a good example of the interaction between physics and manipulating the real world. The CDC Plato project had an incredible success teaching chemistry through it's simulated lab. The AEC in Augusta was using the Atari game, "Meltdown" to teach the fundamentals of nuclear plant operations. As mentioned in the article, the milita
    • Re:Overlooked (Score:2, Insightful)

      by shalla (642644)
      Interactive learning has always been known to be better than passive learning any teacher will tell you that

      True. That's why science labs are so important. The sad thing is that some schools replace actual hands-on science with computer programs to teach it, and kids simply don't learn as much. They can tell you what they're supposed to know, but they don't see it or fiddle with it or really understand it. (Note: School science textbooks are also terrible at teaching science.)

      I'd also argue that wh
  • duh (Score:3, Informative)

    by MORTAR_COMBAT! (589963) on Friday January 21, 2005 @08:50AM (#11430959)
    1. kids don't know they are learning.
    2. kids do things they find fun, and as much as we might try, they will learn from other kids that "reading isn't fun, playing games is fun" no matter how much fun reading really is or how suck the games really are.

    so to that end I encourage having your kids play some of these games if they want to play games:
    1. Typer Shark [popcap.com]
    2. Bookworm [popcap.com]

    And if you can find some old-school "Number Munchers" you're on your way to gaming-learning fun. I've placed these two games on desktops I've built for younger cousins and family friends, and the response has been quite good. They learn to type (Typer Shark, duh) and spell (Bookworm) in a creative and fun fashion.

    (Me? I... uh... waste my brain away playing World of Warcraft, personally, but "I'm allowed to decide for myself, being 27" just don't tell the wife... ;)
    • This is old-old-school but it's what I started with.
    • 2. kids do things they find fun,

      I think that's the big point to this "startling" revalation.

      Kids (and adults) are more likely to keep at something if they find it enjoyable. Even if they like reading, hand them something they hate, and they won't be inclined to read the whole thing, or they will shut down their brain and just turn the pages. (When I was 14 I read a lot of sci-fi, but Jayne Eyre was impossible drudgery -- Actually, I tried to re-read it recently, and it's still impossible for me to get i
    • (Me? I... uh... waste my brain away playing World of Warcraft, personally, but "I'm allowed to decide for myself, being 27" just don't tell the wife... ;)

      I didn't see the first quote upon first reading, and so I thought, 27"!? I think your wife would already know about that!...
  • by Dozix007 (690662) on Friday January 21, 2005 @08:51AM (#11430971)
    The whole thought of "video games being better" is a really interesting thought. But I think that people should consider the motivations behind reading and other things those crazy teachers make you do. Reading is a cognitive task designed to build certain areas of your cognitive ability that a video game simply can not do. Just like practicing a Calc problem you already know how to do may seem pointless, it still makes you better at Calc.
  • Real question (Score:5, Insightful)

    by RasendeRutje (829555) on Friday January 21, 2005 @08:52AM (#11430986)
    "games are better for teaching than textbooks"
    Yeah right, but the real question is: are they better at teaching useful things than textbooks?
    • Probably, yes. Don't tell me that most of the crap they teach in schools is anywhere remotely useful though. Like - name 10 differences of plain worms neurology from round worms. Or how to calculate integrals analytically. (Even though I liked math, and sciences in general, I strongly protest that _everyone_ should be taught that stuff. 12 years in general school??? That's ridiculous beyond being funny). They would've been far better teaching kids basic practical psychology, or medicine, or how to drink pro
  • by Xpilot (117961) on Friday January 21, 2005 @08:53AM (#11430990) Homepage
    "You can use Neverwinter Nights as an application development environment"

    Indeed, my half-elf character class is "Application Developer". He was known for his programming prowess in all of Neverwinter, until his job got oursourced to dwarves in Waterdeep. Then he went all ballistic with a bow and arrow and has been chaotic evil ever since. It's sad.

  • What kind of responsibility do the game makers have to keeping a historical game accurate? Will new games need to be developed as learning games, or will they only spark in interest, and people will still need to pick up a book to get more information?
    • What kind of responsibility do the game makers have to keeping a historical game accurate?

      The same responsibility that book creators do.

      But you raise a deeper point. What is the true purpose of learning history? Is it only to understand a set of facts about the past? Other than a flash-card game structure (rote learning wrapped in a game), history is ill-suited to gaming because history is fixed.

      But what if the true purpose of learning history is it to prepare the student for making political d
    • It depends what you want to know. Civil war and WW2 buffs can probably get up to speed on weapontry and tactics from modern games (even my old Amiga flight sims included excerpts from Jane's). If you want to know why any particular war was fought or who the people involved in it were...I don't see that coming in game format anytime soon.

      As any gamer will tell you, games are also a time sink. So...instead of poring through the New York Times, reading real news, feeding your brain, you're fucking around w
  • by Simon (S2) (600188) on Friday January 21, 2005 @08:53AM (#11431005) Homepage
    I think we con not compare Books and Games. They are just two different types of entertainment. You read a Book or play a Game in different situations, different places and with different moods.
  • Although books do transport one to another time and place, they are passive. A reader might imagine "what they would do" if they were in the character's pace, but they never get to try out that action. In a game, the player takes an active role: monitoring the situation, responding to the events of the game, and learning from their actions. The point is that if books have any built-in trial and error, it is a canned sequence that the reader has little involvement with.

    It's a separate question of "what
    • This is pure nonsense. Interpretation is active; you have to decide how to interprete each word in a sentence to form a coherent (or incoherent) whole. The reader does the transportation to this "other time and place", not the book. As a reader, you form meaning from words and sentences by trial and error, and what you learn from it is far more important than what any game can teach you: Language. (Yes, you can learn language from gaming as well, but that's usually in some combination with reading, and lang
  • If you can get the same amount (or more) of material into a video game as you can in a book, the game will obviously be much more effective. The ease of just being able to try something over and over again to see how changes in their behavior affect the outcome almost instantaneously is leaps and bounds ahead of any textbook I've seen.

    This, of course, assumes that the target audience isn't afraid of computers or other such techno-gadgets.
  • Games are great for teaching somebody how something works in a once-through, overview sort of manner. It's like reading every header in a textbook but with tripple the chance of remembering it.

    On the other hand, games suck for looking stuff up, which is where textbooks excell. Also, a good textbook is far better in terms of brevity. It's like comparing doing an experiment to reading about it. You want to do some experiments, yes, but I'd really rather not test relativity myself.

    I'll keep my textbooks and
  • The Diamond Age (Score:2, Interesting)

    by bookemdano63 (261600)
    I have been waiting for Young Lady's Illustrated Primer type game for years. Seems like games could be slightly skewed to teach better patience or thoughtfulness or agressiveness at different times.
  • Bullcrap. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Weaselmancer (533834) on Friday January 21, 2005 @09:02AM (#11431103)

    A few things might benefit, but replacing books with video games? On the advice of the video gaming industry??

    Ok then gaming industry, put your money where your mouth is. Write a really great game that teaches Calc I. Go ahead - I dare you.

    "Dude, I totally fragged you with that asymptote!"

    • By that logic, find a book that teaches calc just by you reading it. No pencil, no paper, no calculator, no graphing paper. Just the book.

      However, calc software (or math software) certainly exists that can teach mathematics along with you having a pencil, paper, calculator, etc.- just like the book.
      • Agreed. You need to study Calc and work through problems to get any real benefit whatsoever.

        Yes there is software that can help teach math. Maple is a good example. But - I wouldn't call it a game. Some things require concentrated effort, and video games aren't really known for that.

  • Total bullshit (Score:2, Insightful)

    by notany (528696)
    Games are better if you can't read well of course.

    But otherwise this is total bullshit!!!

    Look where many rich IT-millionaires put their kids. They go to those elite private schools where they use computers as little as possible. Even less than in your local city center ghetto. You have to write with a pen. Write a lot. Do things in your head in the old way. Hand held calculators are luxury.

    Good education is when you learn to think. Sitting behind computer you learn to copy paste information. Not good.

    • Computers are a tool that require formal training and strict adherence to accepted inputs/outputs.

      IMHO introducing children to computers too early and too much ~restricts~ their learning by enforcing artificial constraints upon their creativity and learning. A solid foundation in communication skills (language, writing), qualitative thinking (social sciences), and quantitative thinking (math, science) are all prerequisites for being able to use a computer effectively.

      Of course, I'll provide a caveat
    • Re:Total bullshit (Score:3, Informative)

      by dknight (202308)
      ummm.. I went to one of those highschools (The Hill School - Donald Trump's kid Eric was a grade behind me). I gotta tell you, you're way off. Dont get me wrong, you do a LOT of writing, but they also have one amazing IT Budget. Computers throughout the library, laptops required for all students, wireless access all over, high end digital video workstations, MCSE classes, programming classes, digital art classes. Almost all writing done out-of-class happens on the computer. Only in-class essays/etc are
  • In my technology and civilization class in College we had to memorize quite a bit about WWI warplanes.

    I was playing Sierra's Red Baron at the time, and you actually got to fly all those planes. It was much easier to learn those specs when you had to fly using them (and fly against them) in mock combat.

    I think a education/gaming revolution would be a true innovation that would create a huge advantage to any country that adopted it. I don't mean glorified quizzes and gameshows...I mean actual simulation o
  • by Angostura (703910) on Friday January 21, 2005 @09:07AM (#11431145)
    What do you want to do?

    >Look

    You see your manager sitting opposite you, she is holding a sheaf of papers

    >Examine papers

    You can't do that.

    >West

    You bump into a filing cabinet. You cannot go that way

    >I

    You are carrying:

    A PostgreSQL manual
    A chewed blue pen (full)
    A cup of black coffee
    An NTK T-Shirt (worn)
    A scarred Battle axe.

    >Use Axe .... etc
    • This may be a little off topic from the parent poster, but I used to play an online text based RPG (Gemstone 3, I think it's still around) during middle/high school. You'd be surprised at how much it helped increase my vocabulary and reading comprehension. In fact, it actually helped me score higher on the reading comprehension and analogy sections of some standardized tests.

      Too bad everything is graphics, graphics, graphics in today's games. They are by far less immersive, less imaginative, and less ed
  • Im sorry but over the last couple of month i realised professors tend to speak more and more bullshit. You don't have to be rocket scientist to know that games overall are more appealing to kids, instead on focusing on this maybe they should try and develop more recreative ways of teaching, which in many cases are allready applied in schools. It seems recently professors are more devoted to bringing controversial statements/findings to the public rather then trying to find something usefull for the develop
  • And yet, somehow, games don't influence behavior. Violent and antisocial games can't teach such behavior in real life. And girls don't get twisted self-images from playing with Barbie dolls. Of course games can influence behavior - that's one of the fundamental advantages of the human mind. We "play" to experiment, often entirely in our imagination. Those results can influence us for the rest of our lives. Of course, experiments confirmed with multiple physical experiments, like touch, sight, sound, locatio
  • Blast from the past! (Score:4, Informative)

    by Asprin (545477) <gsarnold AT yahoo DOT com> on Friday January 21, 2005 @09:21AM (#11431272) Homepage Journal

    Ahhh, the good old days! Those of you younger than 35 or so aren't going to remember how much fun it was learning about digital cicuit design on an Apple ][ with Rocky's Boots [warrenrobinett.com] written by Warren Robinett -- the guy that hid his name in the Atari game Adventure [warrenrobinett.com] and kicked off the whole easter egg craze.
  • This isn't a terribly huge surprise... After all, simulators have been around for a long time teaching people. Games these days are pretty much simulators.

    Simulations interact with more areas of the brain, and engages the participant more actively. The more engaged your attention and focus is, the more you'll learn. That's why a lot of people prefer to learn by doing. Doing virtually is probably the next best thing people have come up with.

    ~D
    • There is a big differnece from flight simulators teaching a pilot how to fly an airplane compared to learning about world history. the former requires the interaction, the other, not so much.
  • by Alomex (148003) on Friday January 21, 2005 @09:27AM (#11431332) Homepage
    I think the researchers should read "Amusing ourselves to death" by Neil Postman.

    In it he discusses the expectation that education should be entertaining. Here's a review from Amazon.com:

    Reviewer: Nicholas Carroll

    Although this book was written in 1984, the ideas in it are still relevant to today's world, even moreso now than back then. This is one book that I wish he would update with new chapters, because a lot of the critiques he made when he wrote this have taken on new meaning in the events of just this new century alone. For instance, his main critique is how entertainment has infiltrated our culture with a focus on trivia rather than substance. No where is this more apparent than a state recalling a governor a year after he had won reelection by a significant number, and that such a governor was run out of office in favor of an ACTOR, who many hope the U.S. Constitution will be amended so he can seek even higher office! This, despite the number of conservatives who tell Hollywood actors to shut up about politics in the run up to the Iraq war. Politics used to be showbusiness for ugly people, but now its nothing more than an extension of showbusiness. Even televangelists are critiqued in Postman's book because of the lack of sacred boundaries that television does not have as compared to a place of worship.

    When I read this book, I can see examples that have cropped up in the 1990s that have proven his thesis true. Cell phones is one example. Ever eavesdrop on another person's public cell phonecall? I'm shocked at the trivial minutaie that people discuss with whomever they are speaking to, as if what they are doing at that moment matters to another person. What we get in a society that always seeks amusement for fear of boredom is a constant barrage of images and distractions that don't really mean anything in the end. The way we teach our children in schools to study for the multiple guess tests instead of teaching them interconnected facts that build a story, a history, an appreciation for the interconnectedness of our planet. So, we end up with people who can pull facts out of their rears to succeed on gameshows like "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?", where one question and answer doesn't relate to the next one. No wonder why people can't see a connection between our war in Iraq and our consumption of oil.

    Postman is right...a society that seeks one entertaining thrill after another cannot survive and endure history's challenges for very long. When many people in the world haven't had their basic living needs met (food, water, shelter) while we are looking for the next entertaining thrill, what does that say about us? Why has amusement become such a huge, moneymaking value to our culture? When will we learn to balance entertainment with relevant issues that require serious study and attention? Why is our thirst for entertainment so unquenchable that now we're not satisfied with Hollywood's outpouring, but we expect entertainment from our politicians as well? These are questions that inevitably came up as I read this book. I really hope that Neil Postman will write a follow-up or update this book with minor changes (substituting references like "The A Team" and "Dallas" for "CSI" and "Desperate Housewives" for instance) and new chapters (like the phenomenon of Jesse Ventura and Schwartzenegger as governors; the use of cell phones for minutaie details; and the proliferation of reality television shows). But despite that, this is worth a serious read and discussion.

    http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0140094385/ 104-9479439-5627925 [amazon.com]
  • Please! Deep thinking is about abstract thought. There is nothing more abstract than funny little symbols on a page that you have to assemble into meaning.

    If teaching becomes a largely a visual process, you will lose a lot of that abstraction. Maybe that's great if you want a lot of trained monkeys to run a production line, but if you want to expand people's minds, give them a stack of philosphy, physics and math books.
  • This article seems to be more for older education, but my wife read in a parenting magazine not too long ago (I don't remember which one) that recommended not relying on games & TV to teach small kids.

    The thought was that books force kids to form new neurons at a much more rapid rate than games or television. Don't ask me how they measured neurons (I don't have enough to know). They also said that the moving visual & audio input can make it harder for kids to memorize new subjects because of the
  • ...to suck the taxpayers' money.

    A few educational games are a good thing -- but taking cues from Halo and Half-Life is not a good trend. The last thing we need is more software that makes it hard to replace the computers whenever you get to (like all the old proprietary games that won't run correctly on XP, and a few things aren't even happy with Classic on OS X). And speaking of hardware, when you start pressuring the schools to have decent hardware for fancy 3D gaming you're going to have to go to a 3-
  • Yes, That is why I have this eigenpoll for Financial IQ Games.

    http://all-technology.com/eigenpolls/fiqgames/ [all-technology.com]
  • MUDs (Score:3, Interesting)

    by spoonyfork (23307) <spoonyfork@NOSpAm.gmail.com> on Friday January 21, 2005 @10:13AM (#11431838) Journal
    I doubt I would have the job I have today if I hadn't worked on (and played) MUDs back in college. Those of us that managed to not flunk out went on to modestly successful computer science related careers. My parents and teachers used to chide me for spending so much time working on the game. This has taught me to never think I know better than what someone else is doing with their time or how they go about learning. Having more gold pieces than my would-be detractors corroborates this. :P
  • Yes, I tend to agree that (some) games are better than (some) books, but boy.... HalfLife! Halo! I don't intend to bash them but what can they teach one? Surely there are better examples. Heck, even a decent racing sim gives you much more food for thought and trains your concentration skills. Not to say that something like good adventure games are invaluable if English is not native for your kids.
  • by Morpeth (577066) on Friday January 21, 2005 @10:27AM (#11431996)
    I see some huge differences between most of today's games and reading a decent novel or non-fiction work.

    Depth. Seriously now, most game plots can be summarized in one paragraph, try doing that with Umberto Eco's "Foucault's Pendulum", or from what I've heard "The DaVinci Code" (which sounds to me like a new version of Eco's novel)

    Vocabulary. Rarely, if ever, have I seen a game with any words I don't know. I can't honestly say games haven't done a thing to increase my own vocab. Books on the other hand, at least the ones I read, will usually require me to grab my Shorter Oxford or go online to look a word up.

    Grammar/Spelling. Go look at your typical bulletin board (I don't count /. as such). People's grammar, punctuation & spelling has gone to hell. My own has certainly declined over the years since leaving college, but some of the spelling I've seen and sentences -- or should I say non-sentences -- are just horrible. I don't think it's just net shorthand, I think people's communications skills really are declining. I think reading less and gaming more could be partly responsible. And yes, I am a huge gamer (FPS, RTS, MMORPGS), but I can admit my mind and communication skills would probably be better served by more reading.

    Visualization/Imagination. When the images are spoon fed to you in a game, there's no room for your own mind to construct the image like it does from words on a page. To process words into an image takes a certain amount of brain power, that 'here you go - here's your picture' never will. On the flipside, being able to thoroughly describe something you see in written form can be difficult - I think people write less to, not just read less.

    The exception I might make to the above remarks would be module making. I've done some Neverwinter Nights modules - a good one requires the ability to understand basic coding, write good dialog, create a cohesive plot, and learn to tie in various elements (both story and programming objects). Even FPS design requires some thought & planning, map design, etc. I think from that angle, you can learn a lot, but in general I think the quality/depth of most games doesn't match a solid book.

    You might be able to say many games ENTERTAIN more than books, but that's not synonymous with EDUCATE.

  • ...I thought books had already been abandoned as teaching tools.
  • From TFA: "Gee said the ability to explore right away makes games more engaging than textbooks or lectures. In schools, you have to read 500 pages of biology and then you get to do biology, he said. Of course you only actually read 200. [A video] game allows you to perform before youre competent.

    Reading this with a dirty mind is rather funny.

    Anyway... There is a lot to be said for wisdom vs knowledge. Of course games aren't going to replace all books, I wish the article put more emphasis on that. I wo

  • by CAIMLAS (41445)
    Might this not be a shortcoming in the textbooks in use instead of a inherrent superiority in games?

    I've not met a college/high school textbook I liked well enough to keep.
  • These were two of the most compelling computer-based learning software examples I've ever seen. They date from the early 90's on Macs and only ran in black and white, later published by Broderbund... But they demonstrated all the concepts graphically and that's where I feel the strengths lie in computer-based learning. (Unfortunately, I can't seem to find any real links to it, it predates the Web by a few years...)

    Anyway, the main draw in a game seems to be the competitive aspect (between you and someone

Pound for pound, the amoeba is the most vicious animal on earth.

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