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Joystick: Lessons learned from a game

Published 10:47am Thursday, July 25, 2013

The first time I learned about ancient Chinese history was after I played “Dynasty Warriors 4.”

Surprising, huh? Buried within the game’s extra features was an encyclopedia of all the game’s characters, complete with historical information and a short synopsis of the “Warring States” period of China.

I was fascinated with this, especially since as a teenager I wasn’t used to learning things so openly in a video game. Yet what I didn’t realize then was many, if not all games, teach the gamer all sorts of useful little lessons.

Some of these games are specifically programmed for educational uses. Any 20-something will probably remember playing “Mario Teaches Typing,” a Nintendo-approved computer typing game used in elementary schools across the nation.

And let’s not forget “Oregon Trail,” the beloved computer game that taught us basic geography and communicable diseases — do you know anyone who didn’t die of dysentery or snakebite at some point?

Yet many puzzle games carry great lessons and useful information for gamers. Games like “Brain Age: Academy” and the “Professor Layton” series are chock-full of interesting trivia, intriguing tidbits and lots of intellectual challenges. Even “Shin Megami Tensei: Soul Hackers” had a trivia mini-game using real-life information and historical records.

That’s why more gamers and gaming companies are taking games to the classroom in interesting ways.

Educators don’t just think of games as simple distractions anymore. In fact, Woodson Kindergarten Center students use simple games on iPads as part of their curriculum to learn basic addition and spelling.

It all points to the gamification of society, something proponents like game developer Jane McGonigal have pointed out as more likely the more technologically advanced we get.

It’s no longer simple crosswords and puzzle games for the discerning adult anymore. Gamers are learning by immersion.

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