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Education Games

Researchers Make a Case For Learning Through Video Game Creation 68

ub3r n3u7r4l1st sends along this snippet from Science Daily: "Computer games have a broad appeal that transcends gender, culture, age and socio-economic status. Now, computer scientists in the US think that creating computer games, rather than just playing them, could boost students' critical and creative thinking skills as well as broaden their participation in computing. ... 'Worldwide, there is increasing recognition of a digital divide, a troubling gap between groups that use information and communication technologies widely and those that do not,' the team explains. 'The digital divide refers not only to unequal access to computing resources between groups of people but also to inequalities in their ability to use information technology fully.' There are many causes and proposed solutions to bridging this divide, but applying them at the educational and computer literacy level in an entertaining and productive way might be one of the more successful. The team adds that teaching people how to use off-the-shelf tools to quickly build a computer game might allow anyone to learn new thinking and computing skills."
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Researchers Make a Case For Learning Through Video Game Creation

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  • Gamers grown up (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 25, 2010 @04:35AM (#30887366)
    Sounds like the first batch of kids who grew up playing lots of Nintendo 30 years ago became researchers, and realized they're not as screwed up as everyone thought they would be.
  • by bronney ( 638318 ) on Monday January 25, 2010 @04:52AM (#30887456) Homepage

    I super hates stories like this that generalize "computer skills" with computer science. Most of the programmers I know aren't gamers, and most gamers aren't programmers. Most of the programmers have great skills solving a computer science problem, but might run into problems with diagnosing a hardware/software conflict to make their legacy Soundblaster Audigy work with Battlefield 2 (as an example).

    For a car analogy *ahem* this is just like, a godlike car mechanic might not be a "good" driver, whatever good means, and a good driver might not be able to fix cars. Both driving and fixing are skills. Teaching kids to make games doesn't magically make him/her a better computer user. It doesn't teach them to Win-L when they walk away from the terminal.

  • Re:Gamers grown up (Score:5, Insightful)

    by caffeinemessiah ( 918089 ) on Monday January 25, 2010 @04:53AM (#30887466) Journal
    They mention using "off-the-shelf" tools...that's a tricky one. It's a fine balance between making the process challenging vs. instructive. If you use off-the-shelf engines to slap in your own graphics and levels, it's debatable how educational the experience will be. On the other hand, if you get mired in developing an engine or coding AI logic, etc., then it's debatable how much "video games" have to do with it, versus plain ol' CS education.
  • modding support (Score:4, Insightful)

    by GarretSidzaka ( 1417217 ) on Monday January 25, 2010 @05:27AM (#30887596)

    There is a way already here: it is called game modding. Modding is almost as good as creating a new game, and doesn't cost the millions for dev or engine licensing.

    Downside is you don't get paid.

  • Re:Gamers grown up (Score:4, Insightful)

    by MikeFM ( 12491 ) on Monday January 25, 2010 @06:17AM (#30887832) Homepage Journal
    I can see some benefit to using off-the-shelf components to make it easier but I hope they concentrate on programming and not just dropping components together and setting some options. Python w/ Pygame I think would be a great start. Back in the day we learned LOGO and BASIC but now it seems most of the kids don't get this kind of exposure to computer programming. I'm sure I'm biased but I think programming skills should be added to the three R's as it's incredibly useful to develop the needed thinking skills and pretty useful to have some idea how to write custom programs later in life. Almost everyone I know asks for little custom apps they have thought of but don't know how to make for themselves. I think a simple app constructor is the killer app waiting for Android/iPhone. When people can quickly and easily make and share their own apps it will bring a whole new aspect to these universal devices. It's a matter of making it possible to graphically work with common programming features (like Scratch programming) and powerful pre-built components.
  • It helped my math (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 25, 2010 @06:37AM (#30887942)

    I dunno about creativity, but dabbling in game programming made me understand and appreciate math better. I've always hated math for it's own sake and avoided learning at all costs, but when I started messing around in pygame I had trig make sense for the first time thanks to the vectors of a moving sprite and I taught myself linear equations all over again too.

  • Re:Gamers grown up (Score:2, Insightful)

    by sourcerror ( 1718066 ) on Monday January 25, 2010 @08:50AM (#30888626)
    Well, we have visual programming languages, but they aren't really easiser for the users to use them. (Not easiser than a regular scripting language) [wikipedia.org]

    I tried one which generated J2EE apps, but actually, but it just slowed me down, and making the diagrams look neat took much more effort than to make the code neat. (You know, a lot of wires crossing each other etc.) Actually, writing an autoindent module for textual code is much easier than for a graph based language.
    Actually what makes diagrams in general (e.g. in documentation) useful is that they only show only the aspect of the code that you're trying to explain. Deciding what is important what's unimportant in a given situation needs human level intelligence.
  • Good Luck (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mayko ( 1630637 ) on Monday January 25, 2010 @09:01AM (#30888686)
    Good luck. I think this is a good idea... but then again I would call myself a critical thinker.

    What they haven't taken into account is that most kids who play computer/console games are not critical thinkers in the sense they want them to be. I know plenty of people who, when we were young, thought the idea of making a game would be a dream job... then after a 10 week C++ class in high school they realized. "Hey, this is shit really hard.... and boring."

    The fact is that most people play games because they are an easy escape from life, or a good way to socially interact. Your typical madden, or call of duty player doesn't give a shit about critical thinking, or programming.
  • by elecmahm ( 1194167 ) on Monday January 25, 2010 @09:47AM (#30889058)

    The critical thinking and intimate understanding isn't exclusive to VIDEO game development -- it's a fundamental aspect of game design. One must understand the inner workings of whatever it is you're trying to model, at an abstract level, in order to make a game out of it.

    Tabletop gaming also doesn't require a computer (although they can facilitate it), so schools with less computer access can still participate. The best part, too, is that there is likely to be one or two games each year that are actually fun to play; Those games can be used by future classes for teaching. In a classroom environment, where kids are forced away from video games anyways, allowing tabletop games in should be a welcome alternative to enduring lectures.

    There's a whole movement called "Serious Games" -- MSU even has a graduate degree in it. Check it out.

"The eleventh commandment was `Thou Shalt Compute' or `Thou Shalt Not Compute' -- I forget which." -- Epigrams in Programming, ACM SIGPLAN Sept. 1982