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 @ 7:42am

    Re: My Experience is Different

    In my experience, there is a select few (a small percentage of the player population) who engage in these discussions. The vast majority just read what the elite "thinkers" discussed and that's it.

    And what is this called in science? Research. Even in the cases where methodology might not be implemented, research principles and judgment ARE.
    And then implementation, a person assesses whether the research was an accurate solution to the problem at hand.

    Also, while the methods may be, in practice, similar, they are trying to figure out how to beat the boss monster in the game developed and created by a game developer. Actual scientific discovery is done by trying to figure out the blueprint of the very creations of God.

    I'm a religious man myself, but this allegation is purely ridiculous. "Actual scientific discovery?" So I guess we should ignore everything man made, like cryptogrophy, technology, etc. etc. etc.
    That's a very poorly made blanket statement. The idea is NOT that the participants are performing science, but that they are acquiring the TOOLS that make them better SCIENTISTS, something which you yourself admit.

    I don't think anyone is expecting a child playing Halo to cure cancer in the process, but the critical thinking is surely beneficial later in life.

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