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Benefits of Gaming: What Research Shows by Jordon Shapiro

Games and learning advocates often come up against the video game stigma. Despite the fact that we’ve now seen decades of game play, and that a generation of gamers has grown up without a civilization collapsing, the bad reputation persists — and it’s mostly based around fear.

News stories abound: games make kids hyper, violent, stupid, anti-social. It’s not only that people are generally wary of the unfamiliar, we also live in a culture of heroism and progress that casts every innovation as a revolution. Rather than celebrating modification and iteration, we divide the world into what’s cutting-edge and what’s obsolete. We’re always afraid that the new school will completely displace an old school that we’re not quite ready to abandon.

But the introduction of video games in the classroom does not need to mean the end of books. Blended learning will not necessarily replace the lecture. Games, however, can supplement time-tested pedagogical practices with new technological solutions to long-term problems. We can have the best of both the new and the old. Other posts in this series have already discussed the way games can help educators answer the ongoing assessment question, the way games can help develop kid’s metacognitive skills and empathy, and the way they can help to break down the boundaries between academic subjects. Still, not everyone’s convinced.

Recently, researchers have begun to look at the positive impact of games both in a general way and for learning in particular. The data is still sparse, but there are already some important takeaways. Here, I’ll summarize some of the general research on the positive impact of gameplay. In a future post, I’ll look at the research specific to games in school, education, and learning.