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
    chris (profile), 9 Sep 2008 @ 8:20am

    Re: Nonsense

    in medicine they use medical terms, but it's still video gaming:

    the medical term for "force feedback" is haptic response. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haptic

    the same is true for either medicine or video games: better feedback makes for better decisions.

    the medical term for a game is a simulator and simulators have a number of training functions, not least of which is training for minimally invasive surgery with the aid of an endoscope.

    it's not called gaming, but it's the same thing: you have a controller and are taking action that affects what's on the screen. sometimes the screen is computer generated, sometimes the screen is an endoscope inside a live patient.

    the medical term for graphics is imaging, but the same rule holds true for games and medicine: better graphics make for better accuracy.

    a lot of the training that surgeons do is not on cadavers or live patients, but with simulators and trainers. the same is true of commercial and military pilots, bomb disposal units, and deep sea exploration.

    learning to fly a cessna or doing CPR on a dummy is not the same as flying a 747, or and f15, and is nothing like doing a liver resection. these are high stakes activities that require world class skills and one of the best tools for acquiring those skills are simulators which are essentially super sophisticated video games.

    but that's just what's available today. the fields of telemedicine, telesurgery, and unmanned aerial vehicles are only going to expand and require hand eye coordination that exceeds that of a professional athlete.

    how are you going to find out who has that talent, by killing patients and crashing aircraft? no, you are going to train and evaluate on simulators to find out who has what it takes to do the real thing.

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