Video Game Alliance Forms to Promote Educational Uses

The formation of the Higher Education Video Game Alliance (HEVGA), which includes faculty members from Indiana University, was announced last week at the Aspen Ideas Festival. The intention of the group is to show how video games can help educate students and prepare them to join the workforce.

The HEVGA hopes to show just how much potential video games have: increased tech literacy, creating high-tech job opportunities, and in instructional purposes.

When students play video games, they are making choices. According to some experts, the choices made in those games often lead to a more enriching educational experience than students may get sitting in a classroom. According to Indiana University researcher Sean Duncan, the games are "meaningful, complex and tough decision-making spaces."

A study from the American Psychological Association discovered that video games actually stimulate problem-solving skills and creativity. First-person shooters promote spatial navigation, and losing fosters resilience in children, writes Stephanie Wang for The Indystar.

And they are not talking about using only educational "made-for-learning" games, but popular video games such as Skyrim, Minecraft and possibly even Grand Theft Auto could be used for learning experiences.

"These open-world environments allow the learner to choose what they want to do," Duncan said. "These are things that we don't do at all in schools. We very rarely allow a learner to say, ‘OK, you want to go off and do this? You figure out what you need to do and we'll give you the resources to do it.'

For example, Duncan says of the popular Minecraft:

"What you do is you combine things, explore, create, build. But the game doesn't tell you how to do that. The social community around the game tells you how to do that."

With interactive educational games relating to science, technology, engineering and math becoming a priority, Duncan said the alliance would help others to see games as more than merely entertainment.

"Games pervade our lives in ways they never have before in human history," he said. "Higher education needs to develop a better understanding of games' cultural impact, the science of how we play and the economic implications of these media."

Such an understanding has barely been uncovered at the university level.

"With the connections that the HEVGA affords, we hope to continue to grow game design, game studies, games and learning, and other associated programs across the higher education landscape," he said. "Certainly, this alone could be to the benefit of IU, but it's more than that: We need a better national conversation about these complex media, one that does not simplify them nor reduces them simplistically. And what better place to push forward that particular conversation than our institutions of higher learning?"

IU plans to introduce a game design major for the fall of 2015.

Other members of the alliance include MIT, New York University and Stanford University.

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