Turns Out Virtual Worlds Teach Players The Scientific Method

from the well,-how-about-that dept

With so many articles trashing video games all the time, Clive Thompson (who continues to consistently write the most interesting articles for whatever publication he's writing for at the time) has a report about a new study that notes that kids playing virtual world video games are basically learning the scientific method, without even realizing it. That is, in order to achieve certain goals and milestones, groups work together to put forth a hypothesis and data on how best to tackle a problem -- and then when it doesn't work, they regroup, and change the hypothesis based on the new data. In fact, the research found that when looking at forums discussing the games, rather than a bunch of juvenile trash-talking (though, there was some of that too), much of the conversation would mimic the process of scientific discovery and understanding:
Someone would pose a question -- like what sort of potions a high-class priest ought to carry around, or how to defeat a particular monster -- and another would post a reply, offering data and facts gathered from their own observations. Others would jump into the fray, disputing the theory, refining it, offering other facts. Eventually, once everyone was convinced the theory was supported by the data, the discussion would peter out.
The researcher then takes this a step further, suggesting that one way we could revive sagging science education in this country is to embrace this aspect of video games, and get students to recognize that what they're doing is the basic process of scientific discovery, so that they don't think of science as being boring and irrelevant to their lives.

Filed Under: coordination, gaming, hypotheses, science, scientific method, video games


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  1. identicon
    EasilyAmused, 9 Sep 2008 @ 6:52am

    Re: Nonsense

    I think the experience that is being referenced here has to do more with MMORPG's (specifically the highest end content players that are sorting out the 10/10ths details at the bleeding edge of content), than with twitch shooters. I seriously doubt that listening to frat boys and 12 yr olds make dick joke insults at each other while mindlessly fragging each other in Halo bears any resemblance to science apart from chimp testing.
    Even your average MMO player is just reading the theorycraft already established by the guys who care enough about squeezing that last little bit of performance out of their group to actually crunch the complicated numbers and isolate the most effective strategies.
    I don't know how much blind parroting of information that they haven't vetted happens in real science (given human nature, probably a ton), but the people actually having meaningful discourse about these things in game are very few and far between.

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