All I Need to Know I Learned from Video Games

Posted: January 6, 2013 in Teaching
Tags: , , ,

There’s been a lot of talk in recent months about how and if video games have a place in today’s learning environment.

On one side of the issue, you have traditional (mainly older) educators, who didn’t grow up with gaming technology or who are unfamiliar with the technology it takes to implement such learning. These are the same teachers who often argue that video games hinder social interaction, incite violence, and harm cooperative environments.

On the other side of the issue are the unconventional educators, most of whom have never known a world without video games. These are the teachers who have embraced technology, discovered its value in society, and helped others implement it wherever possible

It’s not hard to guess which category Mrs. Teach falls into, right?

I love, love, LOVE video games and technology – all kinds. My house is packed with interactive gadgets – iPads, iPods, PS3, Wii, desktop (PC), laptop (Mac and PC), smartphones, and an Xbox – and each of these platforms has tons of game opportunities as well.

Throughout my 30-some-odd years on this planet, I’ve actually learned quite a bit from interactive games. TeachThought, which recently published an article about the history of video games, reminded me about some of those lessons/topics, including the following:

1. Doing a Crappy Job Has Consequences. I first learned this one from Paperboy. If you broke windows, missed deliveries, or didn’t do your job in a timely fashion, you lost customers. I know about a million teenagers who need to understand this lesson today.


Some customers are just angry assholes. This guy loved to roll tires at you when you drove by.

2. Bosses Are Usually Sucky. Most video games prepared us for the fact we would have to grow up and fight our “evil bosses.” In fact, just as in life, there were different types of bosses – mini boss, super boss, final boss, etc. We can’t catch a break.


I haven’t had a boss through fireballs at me yet, but there’s always a first time.

3. Healthcare is Important. The Oregon Trail taught me that dysentery was a very bad thing, and also that wandering around in the wilderness and fording rivers in the winter months was a recipe for illness. Since at age 8 I didn’t know what the heck dysentery was, I looked it up (at the library, in a big, old set of encyclopedias, because Google didn’t exist then).


Poor Butthead died of dystentery.

4. Geography Can Take You Places. Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego instilled in me an interest in world travel that still persists today (and cop/crime shows, but I don’t know if that’s related). Seriously, I was like, the ONLY 9-year-old who knew where Kathmandu was. I’m probably still in the minority with that one, come to think of it.


Two of the most difficult people to find, found each other.

English/Typing/Math. Reader Rabbit and Number Crunchers might’ve been silly, but I loved them and learned a lot.


I miss this game.

There is a Time and Place for Everything. When I was growing up in my mom’s house, “dying” wasn’t allowed. Not the natural, death-is-a-progression-of-life kind of dying. No, I am talking about the virtual kind. You know, when your character “dies” because you fell down a precipice or were slayed by the evil bad guy, and you inevitably yell out, “Dammit! I died!” Well, not in my house. Instead, my sister and I had to say we “ceased to exist.” Because apparently Southern manners are important in the world of death.


But, you did not “die.”

Strategy, Goal-Setting, and Problem Solving. Almost every game incorporates these skills. The Oregon Trail used to make you plan ahead for the entire trip. You had to purchase all your supplies right upfront! Tetris was completely strategy; well, and some luck, too, because those long-lined ones hardly ever came along.


Ah, the elusive long-line.

Teamwork, But Also Self Reliance. Most games require help. That might in the form of other gamers on your own team, or by you going online and asking others how to beat a particular level.


Yeah, you pretty much have to rely on yourself.

There is even an entire digital illustration series created about what lesson video games have taught us! Those like:


Don’t be afraid of the unknown.


Be careful; You can lose everything you have in an instant.

To answer the question: Do video games have a place in the learning environments of today? YES!! Check back later this week for some examples on how to do it. In the meantime, feel free to share YOUR favorite nostalgic video game memories.

  1. Hanna says:

    I remember the good old days of playing tetris :,).

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