Learning the Gaming Way


Photo courtesy of creative commons license By: portal gdaCC BY-NC-SA 2.0 via flickr.com


There is a little bit of buzz circulating in the academic arena that video games may become a new means of teaching students in the classroom. For years teachers have been incorporating one type of game or another to entice all students to participate within the classroom. I remember years ago, my third-grade teacher; Mrs. Toomey used flash card games to teach multiplication tables and division. We weren’t allowed to use calculators in the classroom. I challenge elementary teachers to try this concept sometime; it was a fun way to learn math.


A video game is just a game and should only be played during free time, or should it?


Let’s face it, teens and preteens love video games; this can’t be denied. Sometimes parents will use video games as a form of reinforcement when grades drop or they begin to display bad behavior by taking away video game privileges.


The common consensus is that video games are a waste of time, but are they?


What can be learned from gaming?


  • Critical thinking


  • Problem solving
  • Analysis
  • Judgements
  • Decision making


  • Communication skills
  • Time Management
  • Hand and eye coordination
  • Patterns


All these skills sets are necessary for even grammar school children to learn, but if the game focuses on school curriculum then will the game still be fun to play?


Why does anyone want to play games, especially video games anyway?


It is all about the reward system and instant gratification. We all love to reap the rewards and the instant gratification is a common concept these days. Most seek faster internet, higher pay, faster car, work less and earn more, and instant communication. It’s one of the reasons why we play the lottery or take a trip to the casino to play slot machines.


Have you ever played Candy Crush and couldn’t put the game down until you ran out of lives?


The rewards of making it to the next level kept you going. The faster you leveled up, the more you wanted to play until it became an obsession, which leads to just short of addictive behavior.

Many believe that the video game reward system can be used to teach students in the classroom. Maybe not the entire curriculum, but at least part of it in the same fashion as the flash card game was used in the 70’s.

 – The following is an excerpt from a recent essay written for my Composition II class, “Addicted to Avatars or Rewards: There goes another Candy Crush Life”

Tom Chatfield builds on the reward system found in video games during his TED Talk Presentation, “7 Ways Games Reward the Brain,” the great attraction to video games that pulls people in like that of a magnet is the reward system used coupled with social interaction. Video Games use more than a mere storyline to keep people coming back, probability and data feed information of the game to the programmer to maintain tabs on the want and the liking to keep people engaged. This data can be broken down to provide the information needed to capture the audience’s attention. Experience bars are used to show progress within the game along with a reward system that does not punish failure. Chatfield provided a staggering statistic about Farmville having 70 million players. Imagine a shift in the reward process used in the gaming industry to the educational system; Tom Chatfield believes the potential could be outstanding. (Chatfield)


Instant gratification seems to be one of the addiction properties associated with online gaming such as World of Warcraft. But according to Paul Roberts in his article “Instant Gratification,” instant gratification is the driving force behind today’s consumer culture and our social, economic system. Roberts wrote in his article appearing in The American Scholar an adaption from his book, The Impulse Society: America in the Age of Instant Gratification, “we are becoming a society ruled by impulse, by the reflexive reach for quick rewards.” He continues to say that our society has developed efficiencies to cater to our every desire. Many times, if cost is not the issue, anyone can purchase a product and receive that product in a short amount of time. Consumer culture is teaching the “Impulse Society that difficulty has no place in our lives.” Negative feelings of discomfort, depression, rejection, or delays represent errors and inefficiencies and need for correction. Everyone wants a faster phone, faster internet, or a more powerful car which is driven by how the consumer market meets our needs. Many individuals are trying to separate themselves from the Impulse Society by shutting off their smartphones and not visiting social media sites to reclaim the lost family time they have been missing out on for many years. (Roberts)


Online gaming can cause problems in the family life. According to Jason Northrup and Sterling Shumway in their article, “Gamer Widow: A Phenomenological Study of Spouses of Online Video Game Addicts,” relationships rank at the top of the list as the area of sacrifice in their lives to maintain the average amount of 24.7 hours a week playing an online game. This sort of sacrifice not only associated with online gaming; social media as well will compel a person to pick up their smartphone so that the individual can continue to feel connected to friends and relatives. Such as when Turkle states in her essay, “Growing Up Tethered,” in From Inquiry to Academic Writing, “Adolescents not only need to separate from their parents, they also need to learn to separate from each other,” (Turkle 432).


The reward system of the internet has caused a society that needs constant support from friends and family. The spouse of the gamer has a beef if the daily home chores are not met. Take out the trash, buy the milk and going to work or school on time. Everyone needs to learn to have space within a relationship, as Sherry Turkle goes on to say, “strong personal boundaries are reliable signs of a successfully maturing self,” (432). Eventually, many people will turn off their electronics for a time to find their solitude and space due to one word, “Stress,” (Turkle 442).

Both games and social media have their beneficial and problem sides to their equation. By doing a little too much of either can cause problems in day to day life. The need to keep in constant contact through email and social media stops people from learning to make their decisions without the need to validate someone else’s opinion before taking action. Gaming, on the other hand, can teach someone to make those split second decisions. If they attack the monster in the game will they wipe out the entire team on the dungeon run?


The idea of using the gaming reward system within the education system causes an inquiry of whether this would enhance a child’s education? For some reason, the possibility is there, according to Tom Chatfield. Comparing the reward system found in video games to the rewards we look for in our daily lives gives good reason why it is almost impossible to stay away from that next attempt at Candy Crush.




Works Cited


Bessi`ere, Katherine, A. Fleming Seay and Sara Kiesler. “The Ideal Elf: Identity Exploration in World of Warcraft.” From Inquiry to Academic Writing 2nd Edition (2012): 495-504. Print.

Chatfield, Tom. “7 Ways Games Reward the Brain.” Ted Talk Videos. TED Conferences, LLC, July 2010. Web. 13 January 2017. <http://www.ted.com/talks/tom_chatfield_7_ways_games_reward_the_brain&gt;.

Griffiths, Mark. “Online Video Gaming: What Should Educational Psychologists Know?” Educational Psychology in Practice 26.1 (2010): 35-40. Print.

Johnson, Steve. “Why Games are good for you.” From Inquiry to Academic Writing 2nd Edition (2012): 481-494. Print.

Northrup, Jason C. and Sterling Shumway. “Gamer Widow. A Phenomenological Study of Spouses of Online Video Game Addicts.” The American Journal of Family Therapy 42.4 (2014): 269-281. Print.

Roberts, Paul. Instant Gratification. n.d. Phi Beta Kappa. Web. 13 January 2017. <https://theamericanscholar.org/instant-gratification/#&gt;.

Turkle, Sherry. “Growing Up Tethered.” From Inquiry to Academic Writing 3rd Edition (2015): 428-443. Print.



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