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. icon
    Isaac K (profile), 9 Sep 2008 @ 7:27am

    Re: Art imitates life

    not sure i agree with you here that the future of video games can only exist over a network - too much of the higher end immersive environment would essentially be ruined through the introduction of multiple players. We would first need a cultural shift away from the style of the LARGE number of titles played and stories extant at the moment - how many "sole survivors" can exist on a haunted spaceship?

    I predict that the most advanced fully immersive environments - virtual game laboratories - will remain localized - killed by "lag" and other networking impacts.

    Other platform games will probably grow as network enabled.

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