Many parents or carers love playing video games with their children. It can be a whole lot of fun sharing the excitement as well as encouraging some healthy family competition. In the early years the parent is usually the best player and doesn’t have to try too hard to win, sometimes even losing deliberately to make it more fun for the child.
Then comes that inevitable day of reckoning, when however hard the parent tries the child just keeps winning! The child has become quicker to respond and more co-ordinated than the parent and there is just no way of clawing back that advantage. The roles have been reversed; the child has is now the expert and the parent struggling to get to the next level – which they will never manage to achieve without putting in lots of practice!
Has the child suddenly become a video game genius? In at least one sense the answer has to be resounding ‘yes’! In reality what has usually happened is simply that the child has practiced more than the parent. Those hours of painstaking practice, often under pressure of time within a game, dealing with an increasingly complex and dynamic environment has honed the child’s game playing skills to the point where they have surpassed the parent.
So what are the lessons for game-based learning or edutainment? We already know that well-designed games can capture the attention of children and young people of all ages. But wouldn’t it be great if their time was spent learning something useful? So that all of that practice was directed at more than fine tuning hand-to-eye coordination and improving the speed of reflexes.
Wouldn’t it also be great if the time children spent playing games was more than just fun, so that they learned something significant at the same time?
Wouldn’t it be even better if we took the best techniques from video games to help children work their way through increasing levels of complexity in math or language or science?
The potential of game-based learning is enormous and if we get it right then there is no reason why children should not surpass the achievements of their parents. Is that not what education is all about anyway? Children beating their parents!