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Since the release of Pong in the early 1970s, video games have remained a popular source of entertainment. As time as has gone on and video game technology has improved, so too has our understanding of the educational gains that can come from playing Minecraft or SimCity.
Are the days of being told your eyes will go square if you play your PlayStation, Xbox or Nintendo for too long in the past? Quite possibly, explains Professor Stefan Greuter from Deakin’s Faculty of Arts and Education.
‘Video games can improve cognitive skills like problem solving, decision making and spatial reasoning,’ he says. ‘Games that require quick reactions and decision making can improve our ability to process information and make decisions under pressure.’
Some of our favourite video games are among the most educational, explains Prof Greuter.
Minecraft: This game is often used in schools to aid learning in maths, science and history. It can also develop problem solving and spatial reasoning skills.
Assassin’s Creed: This series of games takes place in historical settings and can teach players about history, culture and geography.
SimCity: By allowing players to design and manage their own cities, this game teaches skills like urban planning, financial management and environmental management.
Brain Age: This game is a collection of brain-training mini games designed to improve cognitive skills like memory, attention and problem solving.
Prof Greuter says the skills you learn from these games can often be applied to real-world situations. Some of the most valuable skills you can learn from video games include:
Problem solving: Many video games require players to think critically and solve puzzles or overcome obstacles to progress.
Spatial reasoning: Video games often demand players navigate complex spatial environments, which can be useful in fields like engineering and architecture.
Hand-eye coordination: Games that require quick reflexes and precise movements can help improve hand-eye coordination, which can be useful in activities like sports and driving.
Communication and teamwork: Multiplayer games often need players to communicate and work together to achieve a common goal. This can help to develop communication and teamwork skills, which are valuable in many real-world settings.
So powerful are the potential educational benefits of video games that a former NBA executive recently encouraged coaches to play NBA 2K23 to better understand end-game situations in real life.
Prof Greuter is currently working on a project that will assist with decision making for AFL players through the use of VR.
‘I am the associate supervisor of a PhD project by Farrah Farizi supervised by Thuong Hoang and Shaun Bangay in the School of IT that looks at VR help AFL players to train their decision-making skills.’
He believes this practice may become widespread across a range of industries.
‘The use of video games as a tool for learning has already been adopted in fields like healthcare, military training and education,’ he says.
‘As technology continues to advance and more industries look for ways to improve efficiency and effectiveness, it is likely that we will see an increase in the use of video games as a tool for learning.’
He says it’s also likely that virtual reality (VR) – a simulated 3D environment – will be used as part of employee training programs. ‘VR can provide immersive, realistic simulations of work environments and scenarios, allowing employees to practise skills and procedures in a safe, controlled environment.’
As such, Deakin’s Motion Lab and hydraulics company HYDAC have worked together to develop a virtual reality training environment for maintenance staff around Australia.
‘We are working to train operators on their machines using sophisticated and highly mobile virtual reality software,’ Prof Greuter says, explaining that this form of training is likely to become increasingly popular.
‘It’s likely we will see more industries adopt similar ideas as technology continues to advance. The use of VR and gamification are just two examples of how video games can be used for industry-specific learning in new and innovative ways.’
As the video game industry continues to scale up, Prof Greuter says career opportunities in the field itself are also expanding.
‘Globally, the video game industry is rapidly growing and it’s a lucrative industry that offers a wide range of career opportunities, including in game development, game design, game programming and e-sports,’ he explains.
Plus, he says, game development skills like using game engines and digital content creation software can be valuable in related fields.
‘Game engines are software frameworks that provide the tools and functionality necessary for game development, including graphics rendering, physics simulation and scripting,’ Prof Greuter says. ‘They are designed to handle complex graphics and interactions, and therefore can be used in other areas that require similar functionality.’
He says game engines can be used in architectural visualisation to create 3D models of buildings and environments. ‘They can also be used in film production in conjunction with LED screens, which we are using for our new visual effects and virtual production subjects,’ Prof Greuter says.
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