Applying games in general (not only videogames) to education is not a new idea. Playing is an inherent trait of human beings which is closely tied to the learning process. The basic claim for supporting the introduction of games into learning processes is that games, unlike more traditional educational situations, are fun to play. Playful activities in a classroom (like role-playing events of history in class) can be a very appealing and effective way of learning, although it is not cost-effective and it is very unlikely that a system involving such a high ratio of instructors/learners may ever be implemented. However, technologies bring up new possibilities for gaming environments with computer and video games.
Videogames allow the immersion of the student in richly recreated environments with a relatively low cost per student. Also, videogames support many educational approaches such as collaborating and/or competing within the game or, alternatively, simulating artificial peers in order to achieve similar results to collective playing in a cost-effective way. In any case, the experiences from in-game activities can then be shared with real peers and monitored by instructors to compensate for the lack of direct human intervention. Additionally, videogames as a medium offer a lot of possibilities beyond the limits of traditional content. Almost by definition, games are interactive and immersive, enabling constructivist and embodied approaches to learning. Besides, they are an optimal environment to deliver content in an adaptive fashion. In short:
- Videogames are fun
- Videogames are immersive
- Videogames stimulate cooperation/competition
- Videogames promote the creation of communities of practice
- Videogames can support adaptive learning
- Videogames provide innovative assessment mechanisms
The academic acceptance of Game-based learning is growing very fast. In fact, in the last few years the academic discussion about whether they are a valid educational medium is no longer being disputed. The current discussion points focus on aspects such as cost-effectiveness and whether they can really be integrated in a school-based learning process. If we want to increase the penetration of games in our educational process, we need to address those issues.