What can education learn from video games?

Video games magical concept
When playing a game, the risk of dying or failing is always present. When you fail it’s the games way of telling you that you’re playing the game the wrong way and that is what creates a challenge for the player. If the player dies he or she have not found the right approach to solving the game’s obstacles and challenges. What gaming, however, have honed over decades is to find the balance between failure and success. There is a fine line that video games are treading that allows the player to feel just enough challenged by the game so it doesn’t feel too easy and not too hard. The last thing the game wants the player to feel is like a failure because it would cause the player to stop playing.

The game wants to create a feeling that you are just the right amount of challenged by the games obstacles so you as a player don’t get the urge to put down the controller. Games tend not to dwell too long on any ”game over” screens without trying to quickly get the player into the game again. The game doesn’t want you to focus on the failure but instead focus your mind on trying again. In modern video games when you die the game often lets the player start on a spot not too far from where you failed, so you do not feel discouraged and instead feel spurred to try again in order to get to the next so-called ”checkpoint”, level or saving point.

How can we in the school world find a balance where students dare to fail without feeling like failures?
As teachers in Sweden we are intended to implement the methods of socio-cultural learning and to find the proximal development zone (Vygotskij) and we are to create challenges for the student that makes them engaged in their education that is based on their circumstances and experiences. So there is something to be learned by letting students feel secure in failing and let them create a positive experience out of it instead of lingering on the feeling of failure. Because this is something they are experiencing in their spare time through video games. It will make the student feel like the’ve succeeded because they’re making use and learning through their ”failures”. It’s like theories in science research. You create a theory that you think is correct, then test it through experiments. If the theory is wrong you’ve still created knowledge through an experience and learned something new, even if the theory was false. And a falsified theory can create new theories and strategies. Similarly, we can teach students that they can create perceptions, theories and ideas that they can test without being afraid that they could be wrong or will fail, because that is part of the education and experience. It is also important that we as teachers pick up, boost and help students if they fail in manner that they feel like they are not so far from the goal (just like in the video games). By focusing on adopting the task in a different way and strategy we can strengthen the student instead of focusing on the failure in itself which will take away the students will to try again and succeed.

From a historical perspective, video games have also gone through phases in their earlier years where they have been very difficult and tough and only the players that were sufficiently dedicated finished the game. But as time passed, gaming has become more adaptable to the player and has found a better balance through ways like different difficulty levels so that the experience is enjoyable for both experienced and new players instead of excluding players. A trait that the educational system can embrace so that schools are balanced to challenge every student at their own ”level”.


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