Educating with video games is possible

It was 2018 when the WHO (World Health Organization) announced, not without controversy among the scientific community itself – not to mention the video game industry and the world gamer in general, that would include video game disorder (gaming disorder) as a new pathology or mental illness within its ICD-11 manual (International Classification of Diseases).

Four years later, when the regulations came into force on January 1, 2022, the great disagreement between all parties was still latent. I spoke about this in my ‘premiere’ as a disruptor and innovator.

We know, from what the health professionals themselves tell us, that in order to be able to talk about disorder, pathology or, better said, addictive behavior in relation to the use of video games (what is understood by a behavioral addiction that is already scientifically accepted… or perhaps not therefore…), a series of characteristics or circumstances have to be given in the subject: a pattern of behavior severe enough for at least 12 months enough to cause a significant deterioration in personal, family, social, educational, work or other areas.

Another thing is certain mechanisms that may exist in some video games – yes, it is true that they appear more and more frequently and in those most demanded by adolescents and young people – such as the loot boxes or video games with NFTs and cryptos.

In this case, the scientific community is clear and emphatic: it is a totally random process that ends up having an abusive influence, even though the costs are greater than the benefits, such as a characteristic of the game of chance. And this is something that is already being regulated, just as has been done with gambling and sports betting in the newly released Royal Decree on Commercial Communications for gaming activities.

But today I’m not here to talk about addiction, or diseases or pathologies, others already do it for me. Today I want to tell you about the most fascinating part of video games and that, unfortunately, is not told in the media… the educational.

There are many pedagogical initiatives that use them to learn one or more topics and that we can implement both at home and in schools. In fact, this formula began to be used as early as 1970.

But, as we have already advanced before, although the use of gamification projects to acquire knowledge in an implicit and natural way, there will always be a community of ‘detractors’ who, in a ‘generalist’ way, qualify the video game sector and the gaming as addictive, which generates violence, social isolation and sexism.

Inside of the educational video game industry we can find from examples of geography and history to learn about other cultures and identify world zones, such as PlaceSpotting, Sid Meier’s Civilization VI locations; physics video games to learn problem solving, like Human Fall Flat; or multidisciplinary science, computer science and mathematicslike those of GCompris, Immune Attack, Knowledge Tower and Flippy’s Tesla: let’s invent the future.

But, without a doubt, the project that has contributed the most to the pedagogical formula that unites both children, teachers and educational centers, has been Minecraft Education. So much so that even Joel Levin, co-founder of TeacherGaming LLC and creator, never imagined the success achieved.

This program encourages the development of skills such as creativity, critical thinking and teamworksince you always work with your classmates in multiplayer mode and, most importantly, in a totally secure environment.

But in addition to the daily activities that can be carried out within the school curriculum, there are many more options to develop active methodologies and game-based learning. An example are school gameswhich is a national educational league of all schools in Spain which features the game Minecraft: Education Edition.

This year, which has taken place in its IV Edition, organized by Microsoft Spain and L3tCraft Education, they have participated more than 90 educational centers and 2,100 studentshaving as a challenge the World Heritage Sites.

I was lucky enough to be in the final last Wednesday, June 15, and it was really exciting to see the illusion of the children’s teams waiting for the results after the effort and work of the whole year… How fantastic! By the way, it should be noted that one of the teams is made up of 100% girls… and that without the need for laws!

And, as always, my reflection is that, for all these things we have seen, common sense should lead us not to keep children away from screens, but precisely the opposite: to motivate them and encourage a creative and innovative use of these. Because, as the MinecraftEdu program itself explains, “it prepares students for the work of the future by helping them develop skills such as collaboration, creative problem solving, communication, and systemic thinking.”

Because it is not future, it is present. Let’s educate in digital.

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