How Do Video Games Help With Learning?
Playing video games is one of the most common hobbies for people of all ages. It’s estimated that in 2021 there were over 3.2 billion gamers around the world, which is nearly half of the population on the planet. Gaming offers a fun way to enjoy and challenge yourself and spend time bonding with friends. But video games are not always just a way to have fun. They are also useful learning tools.
There are many different ways to use video games for learning. Sometimes games are developed specifically as learning tools. Other times, the challenges involved with completing tasks, missions, and levels within the game help to build new skills that can translate into improved learning. In fact, 38% of teachers in the United States report that they use digital games for teaching on a weekly basis. But why are video games good for learning? Let’s take a closer look at the relationship between video games and learning.
Can Video Games Be a Useful Learning Tool?
Technology itself, in all forms, exists as a tool intended to make the things that humans do easier. Computers were invented to make processing data easier and faster. Cars were made to make traveling easier and faster. Have you noticed a theme yet? Technology is all about helping us enhance performance and efficiency in everything we do.
Out of early forms of technology evolved additional forms, including technology being used for recreation, like video games. However, similar to technology as a whole, video games also evolved to become more than just one thing. Now, they’ve become an accessible way for students and people of all ages to develop new skills, use talents and knowledge they already possess, and find better ways of understanding information.
This is the case with video games and learning, which is often easier and more enjoyable than traditional learning. Because of this, it’s been shown that people stay on task better when they learn through video games compared to normal learning, which ultimately leads to a more efficient learning process.
Here are some of the specific ways that video games can help with learning:
- Literacy – There’s a strong connection between video game learning and literacy, as certain games can help individuals with learning how to read, write, and communicate. There are specific games developed to help children learn how to read when they are young, which focus on reading text, writing, and pronouncing words. But most other video games can also contribute to literacy, since many involve reading text—and sometimes even speaking—in order to make decisions within the game.
- Language – Similarly, there are also many language-learning video games that are focused on helping people pick up a new language. These games make it easier and more convenient to approach a new language and help people to speak a new language faster than older methods of learning. This is mainly because games are more fun to us and don’t feel like learning. When we are having fun, our brains are better able to retain knowledge, like how to speak a foreign language.
- An Outlet – Similar to how recess and physical activity are associated with better school performance in students, playing video games also provides them with an outlet. Learning can be difficult, and if all we ever do is study, it can lead to decreased interest and effort. Video games offer an outlet for students when they need a break from studying. Instead of trying to force themselves to continue to study and learn, students can give their brains a breather by enjoying some time spent gaming.
However, that doesn’t mean their minds are off, as they are still thinking about what is happening in the game. This allows them to shift their focus from their studies to the game, but keep their minds engaged while also having fun. This often acts as a “refresher,” making it easier to approach the initial information later on.
- Critical Thinking – Playing video games also involves using critical thinking and can help improve cognitive functioning. This is because many games require players to use problem-solving skills and think through situations to accomplish a specific task. Players must often plan ahead and consider the consequences of a specific action, the steps that are required to complete a certain mission, and what they will ultimately need to do in order to win.
- Memory – There are many video games that require you to remember information, patterns, clues, and more as part of the gameplay. Because of the need to retain critical pieces of information, these games help players improve their memory skills, which can directly translate to improved learning capabilities. As mentioned earlier, games are also fun, and that makes it easier for our brains to learn.
- Complex Information – Video games can also make understanding and processing complex information easier. This is especially useful since it can be difficult for learners to grasp certain types of information, especially when there are many different things to remember. Preparing students for more advanced studies of mathematics and statistics is one example of video games helping with this. In certain games, players encounter and come to understand similar information—like probability distributions—even if they aren’t defined that way.
Another example is helping to memorize complex information—like the periodic table—more efficiently. Studies have shown that Pokémon can help simplify learning information like this based on the 17 different types of attacks in the game, which have thousands of different combinations. Players don’t memorize an entire table with that many entries, but instead remember the combinations by playing the game. This mirrors the ways that a limited number of individual elements are combined to create innumerable compound substances.
- Social Skills – Another one of the things you learn from video games is how to communicate and bond with others. Whether you play games with others online or in person, many games require cooperation, teamwork, and communication. This helps gamers to develop social skills, which is particularly important for certain groups, like people with disabilities (PWD). Playing video games provides PWD with greater opportunities to interact with others and form friendships, which helps to decrease feelings of social isolation.
At AbleGamers, our mission is to create opportunities that enable play in order to combat social isolation, foster inclusive communities, and improve the quality of life for people with disabilities. We know that video games can be the perfect gateway to community participation, lifelong friendships, and unforgettable shared experiences. That’s why it’s crucial to ensure these experiences are developed with accessibility as a priority and inclusion as the goal.
We are working every day to make sure people with disabilities have the same opportunities as everyone else for positive experiences through play. With our nearly two decades as pioneers in inclusive play, thousands of hours working with people with disabilities, and leading developers and engineers, we create opportunities for players to find inclusive places to play and connect with family and friends. Learn more about what we do here, or help continue our crucial work by making a monetary donation or purchasing something from our shop!