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
    Relonar, 9 Sep 2008 @ 8:27am

    Re: Re: Nonsense

    ...right. Though by the tone of that message I think I may have just been trolled into responding...anyway, my 2 cents.

    Even the most 'mind robbing' games i've played can give some real life advantage. One of the most striking discoveries that I've made recently is how much some of the mmorpg's can model the all of the concepts to acquire a basic understanding of economic principles and allow for a very active market where even a child with no real life resources can actively participate and experiment.
    In many such games I've didn't even bother with the whole grinding and dungeon crawling aspect of the game after gaining enough in game capital to start trading.
    It teaches players about the advantages of allocating recourses (mainly time) to make the most profit; choosing to invest their time 'grinding' to gain access to new grounds for farming or mining, foregoing leveling to focus on gaining items that can be quickly obtained at their current level, or buying materials from others so one can focus on crafting the raw materials into something useful.
    With their active markets one can experiment and take risks that they may not be able to afford in real life at that time, yet they will gain valuable experience(at a basic level), from their failures and successes in game. And this is exactly what the scientific method is about, making a guess, collecting data, collaborating, and then sharing the finding with others. and games are very social environments so collaboration and sharing come naturally without even taking much effort.

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