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
    Val Harbunou, 9 Sep 2008 @ 10:42am

    Re: Problem solving is not the same thing as scientific "method"

    You're missing the point. Not all science is about Investigating a naturally occuring phenomenon. Being an Ex-WoW player who quits and comes back every few years or months, I just got out of highschool, and work as an electrical engineering intern at a Company that build Telescopes... In fact I'm there right now.

    Maybe saying it helps "Scientific Method" is a little over the top. Maybe he should have said that it helps someone think like an engineer. Where calculation of the most optimal Druid healing build, or the Most efficient Mage DPS Build is very similar to calculating the Current Loss over a certain amount of a certain gauge wire. Or even for Mechanical Engineering, a similar type of thought gets put into figuring out where on the power curve of a motor you are, and how can you reach the most efficient peak.

    Sure. Playing World of Warcraft, Guild Wars, Diablo, or Counter Strike doesn't help you discover any naturally occurring phenomenon, but you act as if Science is never involved in finding the most efficient ways to conserve fuel in a car, or find a way to reach the top speed.

    The math is similar. And don't start acting like you can spend the time you would playing videogames with friends instead, you forget that there are inevitable times that you are at home, and can you really think of anything better to do?

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