Research – Rubes

 Video Games As A Model For Education

The traditional educational model in schools does little to promote and encourage success for the youth in the real world. Schools today use lectures and brief exercises to teach students. The information being taught in these lessons could be math, science, history, etc. No matter what it is, students won’t want to learn it if they don’t feel engaged, and spewing information at them does little to stimulate the brain. One entertainment industry that could be looked towards for ideas on an updated educational model is video games. The way video games teach their players collaborative skills to improve group productivity and provide them with engagement and motivation is a good basis for a modern education model.

Schools that use a traditional education model will often use tests and exams to measure a students skill in a subject. While these exams can be a good way for testing students skills, they can lead to students solely focusing on getting a good grade and promote a fixation on memorizing information. This can lead to them not retaining said information or knowing how to apply in real-life situations. In the article “Skill Based Assessment” from the British Medical Journal (BMJ), the author states:

Written tests can assess knowledge acquisition and reasoning ability, but they cannot so easily measure skills… For a reliable measure of clinical skills, performance has to be sampled across a range of patient problems.

While not all students are going into a medical field, this can apply to other subjects outside of the medical world. For instance, while professional musicians need to learn, and are tested on a range of music theory based topics, they also need to spend long periods of time working with other musicians. A performer who never performs won’t magically be able to go on a stage and play perfectly. A doctor who’s never worked with patients won’t be able to correctly help with a patients issues. Students need the skills they are learning to be tested in real world situations.

Students being placed in situations where they need to collaborate in order to solve a task allows for a better understanding of a complex task, and more engagement overall. In the article “Individual and group-based learning from complex cognitive tasks: Effects on retention and transfer efficiency” from Science Direct, Femke Kirschner states:

When learners had to work with the information elements, relate them to each other, and by doing so find the solution to a problem, groups again outperformed individuals but they also outperformed the nominal group.

Tasks where group members must collaborate with each other to solve a problem often leads to better performance and a better understanding of a complex task. It also allows each member of the group to take on less of a cognitive load then they would have to if they were working by themselves.

Extraneous cognitive load is the load resulting from poorly designed instruction that does not contribute to learning.

Video games will often put players into group-based problem solving situations to test individual and cooperative player skill. These situations require players to work together, with each player performing a specific role in the group. One player cannot complete the primary objective of the situation on their own, and all players are required to participate in order for consistent and precise results.

Games like Destiny 2 get players directly involved in their systems and force them to learn quickly in both solo or group situations. The “real world situations” that the 2017 first-person-shooter game put its players in are called “raids.” Raids are a 6 player cooperative activity, where players must work together in order to complete a varying amount of encounters. These encounters can include different complex mechanics and problems that players must solve to move forward. Players will have to transfer important information to each other in a timely, and precise, manner. If they are not coordinated, or fast enough, they will fail and have to restart. Making players need each other for information, rather then having everyone do their own tasks individually, builds cooperative skills and a better understanding of the information being used. Traditional education, on the other hand, will often see students splitting up tasks in order to have each group member do as little work as possible, which does little to build communication and cooperative skills.

Having students in groups actually need to work together, rather then splitting up work with no communication, pushes students to build skills needed for cooperation in the real world. It provides students with the ability to problem solve while working with other people. In the article “Groups perform better than the best individuals on Letters-to-Numbers problems” from Science Direct, Patrick R. Laughlin states:

Traditional theoretical explanations of this superiority of groups over the average individual have emphasized processes by which groups recognize and reject errors and processes by which groups recognize and accept correct responses proposed by one or more members.

As a college student in the music field, I have seen first hand what a more interactive and engaging education model can provide to a student. While I have spent a large amount of time learning music theory, most of what I have learned about the world of music has come from my experiences working with other musicians. Talking to different instrumentalists is the best way to actually learn about an instrument. If I want to learn about clarinet, for example, I will reach out to a clarinet player and ask them to look at the music I have been writing. Having the opportunity to collaborate with all different types of musicians has been the most beneficial part of my college experience. It has pushed me out of my comfort zone, and forced me to use my knowledge about the subject of music, rather then just memorize it.

I believe that traditional education can only be improved by incorporating ideas from video games. While introducing and testing students on subjects like math, science, music, history, etc. is important, allowing students to learn from experience and execution can often bring their work to the next level. It can also help push students to be more engaged and actually want to learn. Engaging students in the classroom will help them be more engaged in the workplace and in many of their future endeavors.

Video games do a better job of engaging students in complex system analysis then traditional education does. They provide their players with an interactive medium that allows them to feel immersed in a world. Players of these games will often spend hours at a time practicing and trying to understand and improve at a game. Video games accomplish this by providing players with interesting and engaging problems, with incentives and rewards for their time and effort. Video games can not only be used to simulate real world situations, but also push players towards understanding a complex system. In the article, “Are Video Games Good For Learning?,” by James Paul Gee states

Human understanding is not primarily a matter of storing general concepts in the head or applying abstract rules to experience. Rather, humans think and understand best when they can imagine (simulate) an experience in such a way that the simulation prepares them for actions they need and want to take in order to accomplish their goals.

Video games allow for their players to see the effect of their actions. Every decision they make, from what weapons their character will use to where they will go and what they will do, they can see themselves in the bigger picture. This cause and effect that players will see can be useful in education. Allowing students to “play” in a simulation of a real world system, like an ant colony or ancient Rome, could allow for students to want to engage more with the concept.

Though video games and scientific simulations are not the same thing, can video games, under the right circumstances, encourage and actually enact a similar ‘attitude’ or ‘stance’ to the one taken by scientists studying complex systems… We can go on to ask whether video games could create such empathy for the sorts of complex systems relevant to academic and other domains outside of entertainment (e.g., urban planning, space exploration, or global peace).

Video games offer a what is essentially a playground for players to explore and interact with. The game Overwatch has different character and hero lineups that players have picked apart to find the most optimal grouping. Overwatch allows you to pick up to five different heroes from three different classifications. Two support characters, two damage characters, and one tank character are allowed on any team at one time. The game thirty five unique characters to choose from, with each one offering a team a different benefit. These characters are studied often to find the best lineup for a certain period in time (otherwise known as a ‘Meta’ lineup). Once the meta lineup is found, that lineup of heroes is often used until the company behind the game, Blizzard, makes changes to the characters. Then the process starts again.

This process can be directly compared to the scientific process. Players in the community will use the information given to them by Blizzards changes to the game and previous meta hero lineups to make a hypothesis about what a new meta for the game might be. They will then test out their hypothesis in actual matches, changing things where they feel they need to. These meta lineups will often be used in the highest level of play, like Overwatch League. The meta lineups can also be studied to identify counterplay (like playing a lineup that targets the meta’s biggest weaknesses). A complex system like this is constantly being iterated on, pushing players to keep trying new things in order to outsmart their opponents.

Video games provide incentives and rewards to players that traditional schooling does not. The reason why players would spend so much time discovering what the meta might be for any game is in order to perform at the highest level. Performing well in a game like Destiny 2, or Call Of Duty might get you an achievement or an interesting new piece of equipment to try out. Players are motivated by in-game reward structures to perform at a high level and understand the complex systems presented to them. In the article “The need to achieve: Players’ perceptions and uses of extrinsic meta-game reward systems for video game consoles” from Science Direct, Carlos Cruz states:

Completionists derive great satisfaction from earning all of the badges available in a game but can become frustrated if they are unable to earn all of the available badges. Interpretations of these badges as skill indicators varies according to an individual’s level of investment with the system. Badge systems can enhance motivation for interested players, and increase enjoyment, engagement, and time spent playing the game.

Many games employ a system of badges, or achievements, both inside and outside of their games that players can engage with at their own leisure. These badges often require players to play a game in a way they wouldn’t normally, like trying to beat an action game without fighting anyone. These badges can make players think about how to interact with the game in new, often uncomfortable ways. They provide a feeling of mastery for a player and push them to want to understand the game and its systems more.

Students won’t want to interact with the systems being presented to them if they lack the motivations and incentives to. While fear of failing can be a great motivator for students to get things done, it does not push them to actually learn about the systems they are working with. Making students feel as if they are actually understanding and mastering a complex system, such as math, science, etc. can be a positive motivation for students, and make them want to continue learning rather than pushing them away.

A complex system can be defined as a system that takes time to learn and master and can be challenging for a newcomer to be introduced to. Students often struggle to engage with these complex systems due to the way that they are being presented to them and a lack of motivation or incentives. Video games can open up new possibilities to students and researchers alike, allowing all sorts of different people to engage with ideas and the fields of study that they never thought they would be engaging with. These systems could have varying levels of complexity, but immersing someone who is new to them into them with the field of video games can help them feel more involved in what is going on.

Science classes that involve experimentation don’t actually let students experiment and problem solve. When high school students in a science class are working on a laboratory exercise, there is not actual trial and error involved. Students often work off of very specific instructions to get a very specific result, with not actual “experimentation” involved. These activities are actually closer to just being exercises rather then experiments. High school music students also are not given opportunities to put their knowledge to the test. Performances are limited to mainly large ensemble performance, which really doesn’t do a whole lot to test an individual students skill. This really doesn’t help to prepare a student for college, which requires solo performances and cooperative skills.

Video games can provide a playground for actual experimentation, with both problem solving and trial and error. They can open up so many opportunities for students and teachers alike to engage with complex systems. Biology students can use simulations to both see and engage with different ecosystems and wildlife they may never get a chance to see in the real world. History students can traverse different time periods and live as people from those time periods to explore and gain a better understanding of the world at the time. Chemistry students could combine different types of elements to see how they would react with one another, without and risk. The opportunities for actual engagement with students are endless. In the article “Use of Animation in Teaching Cell Biology” from ASCB, Bradley J. Stith states:

Animation can have advantages over video microscopy, including simplification; unlimited resolution and magnification; ability to highlight certain symbols within a complex background; control of motion, shape, or color changes; and the stepwise fading in and out of symbols.

An animation of a cell could allow students to move around it and look at different parts of it, seeing how the individual systems in the cell interact with each other. It could also allow a student to zoom out and see how that cell interacts with other cells. Allowing students to have a way of interacting with an actual system, rather then just lecturing them about it, allows them to visualize the system and form their own questions about it.

The value of animation may be evaluated by what appears in the animation and the technical aspects of the animation. In terms of what appears in the animation, in my opinion, less useful animations often oversimplify a concept or skip too many steps in a pathway. These less useful animations can be misleading in that they show a protein as one chain instead of multiple subunits or do not show growth factor receptor dimerization upon ligand binding.

Music education at a high school level can be improved to better prepare students for a college music program. Music theory is a complex system that does need to be learned in classes, but learning music theory is only half the battle. Actually having the ability to apply the skills being learned is extremely important in the field of music. Most current high school music programs have a focus on group ensembles, which can provide students with some degree of actual experience, but don’t do nearly enough to prepare them for solo experiences or working with other musicians to attain a certain sound. In the article from Science Direct “The effect of cooperative learning on the ability of prospect of music teachers to apply Orff-Schulwerk Activities,” Sermin Bilen states:

Active learning models play an important role in the realization of the learning process effectively in music education like in all fields. Active learning is defined as “an education process where the learner bears the responsibility of the process of learning, is
presented with opportunities to take decisions and carry out self-organization concerning various aspects of the process of learning, and is driven via complex educational tasks to make use of his/her mental skills during learning”

Music students need the ability to plan and coordinate their own musical performances, while taking influence from there teachers and peers. Students should have the opportunity to explore music creatively, playing different solo pieces and writing their own music, and schools should be supporting their students in these endeavors. Music students should also be given the chance to perform these pieces at school held recitals. This can help push music students to be more motivated and feel like they have a better grasp on the complex system that is music.

Students learning about architecture can use simulations to plan an architectural build. As a group, students could plan their builds and have to use trial and error to determine whether or not it could be used in a real world scenario. This could provide students with the opportunity to actually see how what they are learning will effect the world around them, pushing them to want to improve their craft and hone their skills.

Whether it’s science, music, history, math, etc. video games provide unique educational opportunities that can be used to improve upon our traditional education systems. The ability for educators to keep students engaged and wanting to learn is very important for the overall success of students. The model for group based learning that video games provide can allow for students to learn cooperative skills that are useful in the real world, and want to keep learning and improving.


The British Medical Journal, Skill Based Assessment, 26 March 2003.

Kirschner, Femke, Science Direct, Individual and group-based learning from complex cognitive tasks: Effects on retention and transfer efficiency, March 2009.

Laughlin, Patrick R, Science Direct, Groups perform better than the best individuals on Letters-to-Numbers problems, July 2002.

Gee, James Paul, Idunn, Are Video Games Good For Learning. 2 October 2006.

Cruz, Carlos, Science Direct, The need to achieve: Players’ perceptions and uses of extrinsic meta-game reward systems for video game consoles, June 2017.

Stith, Bradley J, ASCB, Use of Animation in Teaching Cell Biology, 13 October 2017.

Bilen, Sermin, Science Direct, The effect of cooperative learning on the ability of prospect of music teachers to apply Orff-Schulwerk activities, 20 January 2010.

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3 Responses to Research – Rubes

  1. rubes1256 says:

    I posted this now in its current state, just so I have a post at least up for this. I still fully plan on reworking sections of it.

  2. davidbdale says:

    Too bad you reached for the violence angle for your rebuttal argument, Rubes. You have a nice paper going here. I want to grade it well, but you haven’t been back to make promised revisions. What’s needed, even for readers who are VERY WILLING to imagine a school in which hands-on active engagement is the preferred pedagogical method, is an ILLUSTRATION (at least one!) of a course that would benefit (preferably DOES benefit) from just such an approach.

    If you can provide one, I’d be happy to swap it in and swap out your Rebuttal argument altogether. Common knowledge already resists any radical pedagogical approach. We don’t need you to argue AGAINST that except by example. You’ve shown how gamers can be motivated to learn the skills by working the game. Now show us how students can be motivated to learn the skills by working the curriculum.

  3. rubes1256 says:

    Hey, this is probably done now. If you have time and have anything that sticks out to you I would love to hear it. The next thing I am doing is updating my reflective statement and bibliography.

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