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
    Matt, 9 Sep 2008 @ 7:30am

    Re: Nonsense

    wow, flame much?

    Critical thinking skills are what are developed from people who play video games. Even button mashing games require quick thinking and increase response time.

    Don't get me wrong, I don't think people should be cooped up in the house all day. However, it is ignorant to believe that something which is intellectually stimulating would be mindless. If it was, nobody would play it.

    Heck, it is for this reason that people who watch simpsons/futurama/family guy actually end up smarter than the average person. Why? Many people here subtle jokes or new phrases and things that reference stuff you have never heard of before and then look it up. As a result, you learn new things. Such as a futurama joke about Torgo's Executive Powder. - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Futurama:_Bender%27s_Big_Score#Torgo.27s_Executive_Powder
    Where people could learn about classic movies such as Manos, the hands of fate or parody, delousing, and mystery science theatre 3000.

    See, all geek information relates to other geek information in some subtle fashion. It is from this that monty python, and mystery science theatre and the likes get their cult. Due to the fact that the jokes are intellectual.

    So no, don't assume. Games like WOW and the otherwise may be seen as "one big grind", but when they use creative words that people don't understand (and thus look up in a dictionary), someone is learning something by result.

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