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
    Tony S., 9 Sep 2008 @ 7:50am

    Real life

    I'm a college student, chemical engineer, and play video games. Ever since NES I have played. Games used to be mindless, many still are. But to generalize video games is like generalizing all written text. If you tried to put DC comics into the same category as full historical biographies on dead US presidents you would be called a moron. It's the same with video games.

    MMOs, especially, truly do have an impact on the people that play them. As a response to all those people who claim the "98%" of people just read what the theorycrafters discovered, well isn't that every science?! When you learn things in school, over 99% of it is just 'stuff' that someone else spent time to figure out. The point is, you can read and understand and USE that information.

    I play World of Warcraft several hours a week. I've been in the high end raiding guilds. I don't think it's a coincidence that in the best guild I was in, there were many people who went to top colleges and were national merit finalists out of high school.

    I can honestly say that playing WoW has helped me fine tune multiple skills outside of the video gaming world. Basic and complicated math ranging from arithmetic to algebra to statistics. Understanding psychology of people i would otherwise never interact with. And what I think is most important: leadership skills. Of course it's nothing I would ever tell an employer in an interview that I was an officer in a guild in a video game, but the truth is, I am proud of my leadership role there more than I am proud of being an assistant manager at a part-time 'crap' job.

    It's truly a shame that the general view on video games is negative, and the only people that understand how great they CAN BE are the people who play them. I've learned more about mitochondria playing Parasite Eve than in biology class, I've practiced problem solving playing Resident Evil than in any other real life situation (to date), and I can go on and on.


    Don't speak out negatively about something you know nothing about.

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