I was contacted one day by Marco Visscher, a writer with the European magazine Ode who had read my video game article in Life Learning Magazine. He said he was interested in interviewing me for their “One Last Thing” column which appears, not surprisingly, on the last page of each issue.
I agreed and we arranged a time for him to call to conduct the interview. He also arranged for a local photographer to call me and set up a photo shoot at my home. It was a whirlwind few days while I did the interview, gave him some feedback on his notes, and arranged and completed the photo shoot. But it was a fun experience!
He was interested in using the school angle, versus just talking about learning through video games, but I figured at least it was a way to start spreading the concept.
English is not his first language, but he did reasonably well. And I wish they had chosen one of the pictures with the kids. Oh well.
What is the educational value of Vice Craft, Deus X and other video games?
“All skills that schools are trying to teach children, my son encounters in the video games he’s playing. Reading, math, doing research, social interaction. It’s a great way of learning because children are gaining their knowledge participating in activities they enjoy, which is hardly the case in a classroom. Gaming helps children learn how to learn.”
… And how to fight.
“My experience is that children are perfectly capable of understanding that the violence in games is fantasy. When children are free to choose the games they play, they choose the level of violence they’re comfortable with. My son doesn’t like games with a lot of violence, so he chooses to play other games. But if he did, I wouldn’t worry too much, because I’m involved in his gaming—playing the games he plays so we can discuss them.”
Isn’t gaming anti-social?
“Gaming is not just sitting in a corner, staring at your device. Children sit down with others to play. In some games you choose how characters interact with each other, so you’ll learn how people respond to certain behaviour. And then there’s online gaming, through which children can learn how to communicate with others—and that’s exactly the same interaction they would get if it had been a face-to-face encounter.”
What do kids learn from video games that they don’t learn in school?
“You know, schools tend to make things easier and split everything up in tiny particles, thinking children will learn faster. But I believe it has lost all meaning to them because it no longer relates to the real world. In video games you see a whole new big and complex world being created, and many children enjoy being challenged in this way. Therefore, game designers are making their games more and more complex every time—it’s just what children want.”
So, should video games become part of a school’s curriculum?
“I wouldn’t go that far. I believe children learn quickly, happily and almost effortlessly when they are enjoying what they’re doing—but not everyone enjoys playing video games. Instead of limiting the playing time your children spend on video games, you could engage them more and support their interest. Just because children learn skills through video games doesn’t make them less relevant.”
Ode magazine, April 2005