The U.S. Department of Education and the National Science Foundation are investing millions of dollars into gaming experiments. Deep-pocketed philanthropies like the Gates and MacArthur foundations have committed to spending upward of $100 million to promote educational gaming. In 2011, publishing giant Pearson LLC joined forces with Gates to push for more education-related games, and President Obama, at the urging of several experts, invited a video-game scholar to be a senior policy analyst in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.
Slaying a few mindless kobolds is one thing, but D&D violence can assume much more imaginative and sinister forms. Take an example, from my own history of D&D campaigning: my character (Shamir, a 3200-year-old Chaotic Evil character) was, along with his party members, attempting to locate a map within a local inn. When the innkeeper refused to reveal the map’s whereabouts, Shamir began cutting off the innkeeper’s fingers, then hit the innkeeper’s wife, and then, when it was revealed that the map was actually hidden inside a different inn, he burned the inn down for good measure. (He later forced an orc to hold a crystal that induced uncontrollable psychic agony and vomiting.) Why did Shamir, or rather, I do it? Because it felt like the right thing to do at that moment.
The rich resources of these virtual worlds, coupled with the educational version of the game, allow teachers to immerse young people in a comfortable but exciting learning environment. Minecraft has the ability to bring just about any conceivable structure to the classroom, bedroom or sofa of every player.
Creating complex structuresOne of the types of structure I’m particularly passionate is that of proteins. These tiny molecular machines fascinate me. They control just about every biological process in your cells and knit your body together. From replicating your DNA and forming the bases of your skin, hair and connective tissue, to digesting food, fighting infections and transporting oxygen around your blood, proteins do it all.
The process is not wholly unlike archaeology. Sometimes engineers even stumble upon hidden messages within a game’s code. For instance, while restoring Dungeon Keeper, GOG employees found a note written by the game’s original creator and lost for nearly twenty years, which thanked his employees for their many sleepless nights building the game: “This game has been written with a passion I am proud to be a part of. I do not just hope you like it, I also hope you are aware of the huge amount of work we have all done.”
A team of undergraduates from Abertay University in Dundee has created Sanitarium, a game that invites people to play doctor.Using scarce resources they must treat as many TB patients as they can.
Behind the game lies a mathematical model developed at St Andrews University that uses data from human interactions to simulate a drug trial. The data collected by the game could help deliver new drug treatments to the developing world quicker and cheaper than ever before.
Hacknet is being developed for PC and is designed to be more realistic by using real UNIX commands. Also in contrast to its peers, Hacknet does not feature levels or classic game elements, to avoid “breaking the illusion.”
Surprise Attack Games, an indie developer based in Melbourne, says it wanted to move away from the “Hollywood-style” version of hacking we see in terrible movies, and the hacking mini-games we see in games like Deus Ex, which are more like a Rubik’s Cube than anything you’d do with a computer.
6. NursingWhile surgeons can benefit from games, game developers haven’t forgotten about nurses. Some hospitals have programs where staff can simulate responses to various emergencies or care situations. The goal is to increase the standard for patient safety and minimize human error.
7. Electronics and Appliance RepairPutting the right part in the right place takes a lot of experience and knowledge of hundreds of different models. Technicians can get an opportunity for repetitive practice by “dropping” parts into specific areas on a machine using a cursor.
That’s where Hackaball comes in. The creation of London-based “innovation accelerator” Made by Many, Hackaball is a durable, croquet-ball-sized sphere that kids can program via iPad to respond with light, sound, and vibration. Kids are invited to use the ball’s functionality to create their own games and use cases (imagine the cathartic wonders of an alarm clock that you can turn off by throwing it against a wall).
It’s difficult to predict which skills will be valuable in the future, and even more challenging to see the connection between our children’s interests and these skills. Nothing illustrates this better than Minecraft, a popular game that might be best described as virtual LEGOs. Calling it a game belies the transformation it has sparked: An entire generation is learning how to create 3D models using a computer. It makes me wonder what sort of jobs, entertainment or art will be possible now. Cathy Davidson, a scholar of learning technology, concluded that 65% of children entering grade school this year will end up working in careers that haven’t even been invented yet. I bet today’s kids will eventually explore outcomes and create businesses only made possible by the influence of Minecraft in their lives.
The most recent issue of the American Journal of Play (Fall, 2014) includes an article (link is external) by researchers Adam Eichenbaum, Daphne Bavelier, and C. Shawn Green summarizing recent research demonstrating long-lasting positive effects of video games on basic mental processes–such as perception, attention, memory, and decision-making. Most of the research involves effects of action video games—that is, games that require players to move rapidly, keep track of many items at once, hold a good deal of information in their mind at once, and make split-second decisions. Many of the abilities tapped by such games are precisely those that psychologists consider to be the basic building blocks of intelligence.