The idea of the educational game is not a new one. However, as empirical research continues to show the strength of the connection between playing and learning, society becomes more willing to take educational games seriously. In fact, Xbox 360, an innovative gaming platform owned by the Microsoft Corporation, recently released a slew of games designed specifically to provide both entertainment and educational value to children and adults alike.
Playing games allows children to develop their strategic problem-solving skills, creativity, and understanding of cause and consequence. When children solve complex problems in a game, they are engaged emotionally and cognitively at the same time, which helps them retain the skills they learn on a more personal level. Xbox 360′s new games tap into these ideas and use them to create high-quality interactive experiences for children that are also intellectually enriching.
Kinect Sesame Street TV
This game allows children to interact with their favorite characters from the renowned television show through the use of a full-body motion sensor. On the original Sesame Street television show, the characters frequently invited children watching at home to say their numbers and letters, dance, or sing. With Kinect Sesame Street TV, the Sesame Street characters will “see” a child’s responses and provide constructive feedback to reinforce knowledge.
Body and Brain Connection
Xbox 360′s educational games are not just for children. Body and Brain Connection is a game that incorporates the research of well-known “Train Your Brain” guru Dr. Kawashima by combining body movements with brain exercises. The game works by asking the player mental questions that must be answered using a physical action. For example, Body and Brain Connection may ask the player to demonstrate which of two equations has a greater value by forming the “greater than” sign with his arms.
Kinect Nat Geo TV
Another educational game recently released by Xbox 360 is Kinect Nat Geo TV, which enhances a player’s educational experience by allowing him to use more of his senses while he learns. Kinect Nat Geo TV combines the Kinect motion sensor system with Nat Geo WILD TV shows to teach children about the natural habitats of wild animals and the relationships that exist among them. For example, the child may play the role of a grizzly bear in the wild, or she may play the game as a naturalist observing the behavior of a cutworm moth.
A Multitude of Educational Games
Kinect Nat Geo TV, Body and Brain Connection, and Kinect Sesame Street TV are just a few of the educational games available from Xbox 360. Even games that do not seem to be designed specifically for educational purposes, such as Halo Wars and Fable III, can provide users with valuable educational benefits. When players participate in these strategy-based games, they engage in problem-solving, build their analytical skills, and learn to work with others toward a common goal.
Xbox 360 is not the only platform to deliberately incorporate education into its games. Other platforms, including Wii and PlayStation, have created interactive educational games for children and adults as well. Educational games are also available on handheld gaming devices, such as the Nintendo DS.
The Future of Gaming
The development of educational games for mainstream gaming platforms demonstrates that gaming as a whole is no longer just for entertainment. In fact, these games are only a single piece of the gaming-and-learning puzzle. In the future, it is likely that educational gaming will be used to promote learning in classrooms, as well as in homes. Recent studies released by the Education Development Center indicate that educational games can significantly impact early literacy skills in young children. In light of these results, more schools will incorporate educational games into their curriculum.
Perhaps surprisingly, educational gaming also has a place in the business industry. If educational games can enhance education for children, it stands to reason that they can improve understanding for adults as well. In fact, a recent study conducted by the Gartner research firm suggests that more than 70 percent of the world’s top 2,000 publicly-traded companies will implement at least one educational gaming application by the year 2014. Companies will use these applications to teach employees about company policy or even to train them for specific job functions.
A Changing Industry
Long thought to be a frivolous pastime, gaming is quickly assuming a prominent position in our technologically-dependent world as a valuable tool for teaching, learning, and training. As the gaming industry continues to adapt to these new functions, we will see even more games on the market similar to those recently released for Xbox 360. We will also see a significant increase in the usage of educational games for both classroom education and on-the-job training.