When I was a kid, gaming was all about sitting an inch from the telly with my little brother, guiding a pixellated plumber or blue hedgehog through a maze of adventures against a backdrop of repetitive tinny music. Yet primitive as it was by today’s standards, it was an escape from parents, tidying my room and doing homework.
But as games get over more sophisticated and their creators ever more adept at understanding what young people want – or more importantly what they don’t want – have they struck gold with the advent of educational gaming?
Critics might argue it’s the grown-ups hi-jacking kids’ fun, but in fact I think it’s the other way around: it’s about educationalists tapping into what really motivates young people. It’s a move from passive education (staring at a blackboard) to active education (problem-solving through games).
When Channel 4 moved its education programming from little-watched daytime slots to digital platforms it achieved higher levels of engagement and interaction with its audience.
is the most recent success story. The epic TV drama revealed the untold story of the Norman conquest through the eyes of the ordinary villagers, while a game spin-off allows people to take control of the English, Viking or Norman armies and plan their strategy.
The game has notched up six million plays since its launch in May, with average users spending more than 20 minutes playing – well above average for this kind of casual game. Plus, it recently overtook the BBC history site and Wikipedia as the top hit on a Google search for 1066.
Scotland has countless success stories of its own, and even has Consolarium, the educational gaming centre based in Dundee. 4iP is currently working with Dundee gaming company Digital Goldfish You Booze, You Lose
, an iPhone/iTouch game that educates users about the impact their alcohol intake has on their bodies and personal lives.
What do you think? Does education take the fun out of gaming? Are we pandering to a nation of young couch potatoes? Or is the educational world pushing the right buttons for today’s learners?