Are Online Video Games Educational?

I loved playing Super Mario Brothers on my old Nintendo when I was a teen.  I learned how to jump on mushroom people and shoot bouncing fireballs.  But I don’t believe I learned anything useful.

As a college professor, I meet lots of students who tell me about their “mind-numbing” experience with multi-player games such as World of Warcraft.  They have told me things such as, “I had to quite it cold turkey” and “I was so addicted to that game.”  Sounds like they need a twelve-step program.

I would have guessed that games such as World of Warcraft are a fun waste of time.  Entertaining and benign as long as you don’t spend too much time absorbed in the game.  And if you do get “addicted,” well… say goodbye to your grades and your social life!

But perhaps I’ve mijudged the social and educational value of these games.  LiveScience.com recently published an article in which focuses on a group of homeschoolers (both kids and parents) who have a World of Warcraft Guild known as “Horde of Unschoolers.”

So, what are the benefits of these online games?  Well, many of them do have chat features and forum bulletins.  The LiveScience article maintains that this encourages students who would otherwise detest writing instead embrace writing long diatribes.  And, according to the article, the content and style of the written communication are surprisingly advanced.  They also contend that science and math comes into play as well.

I’m very curious to learn more about this.  It sounds almost too good to be true.  Of course, for most families, learning is synonymous with fun.  Perhaps I shouldn’t be so surprised that video games can lead to learning adventures.

Here’s the complete article.