Video games: Future of education or harmful addiction? (part 2 of 3)

Video games, Marc Prensky argues, are a conduit for our children to learn in a way that just wasn’t available to previous generations. This comes in large part because the game developers understand what it means to engage the digital natives so that they want to play – and thus learn – more and more. Prensky gives 12 reasons that games engage us.

  1. Games are a form of fun. That gives us enjoyment and pleasure.
  2. Games are form of play. That gives us intense and passionate involvement.
  3. Games have rules. That gives us structure.
  4. Games have goals. That gives us motivation.
  5. Games are interactive. That gives us doing.
  6. Games have outcomes and feedback. That gives us learning.
  7. Games are adaptive. That gives us flow.
  8. Games have win states. That gives us ego gratification.
  9. Games have conflict/competition/challenge/opposition. That gives us adrenaline.
  10. Games have problem solving. That sparks our creativity.
  11. Games have interaction. That gives us social groups.
  12. Games have representation and story. That gives us emotion.

Olivia and Kurt Bruner, on the other hand, see “complex” video games as an addiction waiting to happen. In fact, they point to the complexity of the games and the game developers’ attempts to engage us as a deliberate strategy by video game developers to get players addicted. Here are some key points from a section in the book titled Driving Forces of Game Addiction.

  1. Beating the Game: The first driving force for game addition is the desire to finish, in part due to the satisfaction of completion or simple pride – wanting to beat the game.
  2. Competition: Allowing people to interact with each other puts the game in the hands of the players, rather than the game programmer…. Creating a game with flexible rules allows players to develop their own playing styles, moves, and tactics.
  3. Mastery: The desire to master a game is also potentially addictive…. Programmers are encouraged to give players enough “feedback” from the game so that they can learn to master it, drawing them back over and over again.
  4. Exploration: The addiction of exploration has been part of computer games since the beginning. In fact, some of the first games were entirely about exploration. The wildly popular game Myst, for example, used exploration as its basis, capitalizing on the strong urge to explore interesting places or uncover secret levels.
  5. The High Score: Players spend countless hours playing video games simply to beat a competitor’s high score – even if that “competitor” is one’s own last game!
  6. Story-Driven Role Play: Designing the game to the script of a story will compel players to finish, to see how the story ends…. The harder it is to finish the quest or story, the more likely the game will feed addiction. This is why more and more games are designed with a story foundation and with increased level complexity.
  7. Relationships: Many video and Internet games are designed to create an odd type of peer pressure in which players rely upon each other for support. Such games also leverage the draw of artificial relationships, allowing players to build “friendships” with people they would not otherwise meet or even like. Thanks to anonymity, people feel more open talking about personal issues online without fear of judgments they might face from real-life friends and family.

To Prensky, video games are a passion that can lead to positive learning and skills, such as this story about 10-year-old Tyler. For the Bruners, video games are an obsession that lead to destroyed lives, expressed in the several examples they describe several in their book and on their website.

In Part 3: Recommendations for parents

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