Games as educational tools

Jonathan Blow had a talk this week on the subject, which was very interesting. And Hacker News had a thread recently as well, spawned from this blog post. Excellent points being made.

This is very important to me. I started my career working on educational games. Now it’s 2020, kids are at home and school will probably never, ever be the same.

It’s the perfect time.

I don’t want to go through all the obvious –games are all educational, it’s hard to make interesting education games- but I’d like to point out to one thing that games teach better than anything else: management, aka navigating systems.

Management is about so many things. Secondary goals, short-term, long-term actions, timing. All those things that we do to maintain, sustain and run systems. Management is something a bit impalpable that’s being taught in every single game you play (these days games want you to manage the same things for hundreds of hours, which is problematic because it’s so unnecessary). The first thing management teaches you is to observe what is going on. Isn’t it something you need, whatever you do in life? Yes. Games are the best management playgrounds ever.

Get burn, do badly it’s okay, do wonderful and it doesn’t really matter, it’s a game. But those moments taught you. Those moments will stay with you and later on you’ll intuitively know that if you don’t pay attention to a certain little thing, this might end up into a big problem. You’ve learned so much through navigating those systems and that will be useful in life. You just don’t know how, but it will (I know I’ve become better than average at navigating crowded space thanks to playing shoot ’em ups and Counter-Strike for years).

The big question would be: what kind of games do we want to create so that people can use more directly their newly acquired knowledge and management skills? I have one.

Take The Sims building houses part. Add actual numbers about insulation, material used, costs etc. This way, people can actually play to make a home –that can be build in the real world- as they want, costing as less as possible or having the best temperature inside without running AC. Or just trying things out.

I would love to see people obsess over insulation R-value, optimizing and understanding house shape and material, understanding that hemp is fabulous or how small homes are far more efficient and just fine. And then people could visit their creation in VR. Now that’s a really useful, down to earth, global thing!

It makes me think that games, tools and toys are all intertwined and useful to learn and teach yourself a million things. We game developers and designers need to cater to this need though.

This is the direction I hope and wish a branch of computer games culture will follow. We need it.

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