minecraftVideo games are a waste of time, right? They turn children into violent sociopaths, compulsively smashing their faces against brick blocks in a futile attempt to find hidden gold coins. In fact, all video games should probably just be banned.

And yet… 25% of Europeans say they play video games at least once a week. And among younger Europeans, gaming is almost ubiquitous – with 80% of males and 61% of females aged 16-24 playing games regularly. Gaming is a huge, global industry worth €54 billion per year, and Europe is the second-largest market for video games in the world after Asia.

Seeing as so many children and young people are anyway spending their time playing video games, could gaming be a valuable tool in their education? According to a consumer study by the Interactive Software Federation of Europe, a majority of parents across Europe (58%) thinks video games encourage their children to develop more skills.

As part of our Debating Europe Schools series, we’ve been taking questions from students from across Europe to policymakers and experts for them to answer. For today’s debate, we had questions sent in on video games in the classroom from students from the EFP Uccle and the Université St-Louis Brussels, both from Belgium.

Curious to know more about video games as educational tools? We’ve put together some facts and figures in the infographic below (click for a bigger version).

videogames_infographic-01

First up, we had a question from Gabriela, a young person from Sweden who works in a gaming café in Brussels. She would like to know what sort of skills video games might potentially help develop.

To get a response, we put this question to Tom Chatfield, a British author, commentator and designer whose work focuses on games and technology.

Next, we had a question from Maxime from EFP Uccle in Belgium. Maxime agreed that video games can teach certain skills, but thought they were inapropriate for the classroom. He thinks the separation between school work and leisure activities should be kept clear:

citizen_icon_180x180I don’t think video games should replace any of the traditional courses in schools, as they cannot replace the general culture and personal development that theoretical classes can give. However, video games do help children develop certain reflexes and skills like creativity, and therefore should really be supported as leisure.

To get a response, we took this question to Daphne Bavelier, a cognitive researcher at the University of Geneva, Switzerland. How would she respond?

Finally, we had a question sent in by Balthazar, a student at the Université St-Louis Brussels, asking about whether video games could help promote inter-generational learning. Are games just for children, or can parents and teachers play too? What would Daphne Bavelier say to Balthazar?

Can video games help children learn? Could gaming be a valuable tool in their education? Are games just for children, or can parents and teachers play too? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below, and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!

IMAGE CREDITS: Minecraft – Screenshot by Philip Roeland


65 comments Post a commentComment

What do YOU think?

  1. James McManama

    Civilization II taught me everything I know about history. The Babylonians conquered America with stealth bomber technology, right?

  2. Christos Mouzeviris

    Why not? Yes..!! Better that a spectacled old teacher who is bored out in his life, trying to make you memorise pages upon pages of theory..! People learn better what they enjoy!! Make it fun..

  3. Matej Zaggy Zagorc

    I mostly learned English from games as well as cartoons. And history as well. From the Roman era to the modern age.

  4. Rui Manuel Simões Oliveira

    Video games can be an important educative tool, if the Industry turn their purposes in a different path, that could transform video games, in a powerful pedagogic tool. Making for example: video games having as main goal, the chance to passing a Level to disbloque a foreign Language ; creating more interative games, that help children and young people to become better students and citizens.
    Of course, at the beginning, the Industry will not see their rates increasing but the secret is to continuous a constant bet in this way. The future of education, can be also in video games.

  5. Dino Šakanović

    Yes, but games must be evaluated first. Some up say that in Civilization II Babylon conquer America xD

    I suggest Paradox Development Studio games as best history and geography simulations- Crusader Kings II, Europa Universalis IV nad Hearts of Iron IV (upcoming).

  6. Costi Ciudin

    I still think books are the best tools to learn but don’t mind me, l am from the XIXth century or something

  7. Paul X

    Assuming you identify a game which can actually teach something useful, the point to consider is the balance between what they are likely to learn and the amount of time spent playing the game

    I imagine whatever educational value is obtained from a 4 hour gaming session could probably be taught in 5 minutes in a classroom

    I suggest keeping education where it is best placed and not pretend that games are anything other than a distraction from real learning

    • Levi

      me too :)

  8. Nikola Petkov

    The concept of the Playing man is not new, esp when it comes to philosophy. And now that you have improved concepts and even real platforms (i.e. CodeCombat, Mine Craft), you are asking this question? Seriously…

  9. nando

    Define GAMES – Most games teach nothing, other than quick thumb responses… very useful indeed in real life (sarcasm…)! They also preclude children (see definition below) from interacting with others. Most games do not leave time for children to develop social skills. Not good. Video games too often become “baby sitters” for children whose parents did not learn to play with their children. Video games should have a relative value and should take a back seat to other games (games without video but with other children).

    Define CHILDREN – What age groups? To talk about “children” is a gross generalization at best, and a dangerous one at worse. This “children” thing needs to be properly defined first. Without this definition any answer is prone to gross errors.

  10. Erich Scheffl

    As everywhere. You may use it positive, but also negative. Think about, that children are completely vulberable, and have no business, or legal capacity. Choldren must be protected against markets, which only want to make them dependent.

  11. John Zervas

    The short answer is “yes”

    But only if handled correctly and in a serious manner in a controlled environment. Finally there should be studies about the value of teaching via videogames which results should indicate whether its worth as a more permanent means of teaching.

  12. Inês Beato

    Educational games can be good, but as support for traditional classes. When I was young there were the “Living Books”, interactive storybooks in many languages, good to teach little children how to read.

  13. Prince du Sang

    It depends on the child, they are all different.

    For many young people, video games are an escape. Once developers research virtual reality. (This will be sooner than you think), Numerous people will choose to spend the majority of their time in a preferred reality, therefore completely alienating a significant portion of the population. Matter of fact, I believe this alienation is already happening, I think they have a specific name for it in Japan. Nonetheless, over time it will get worse.

  14. catherine benning

    Video games are destructive to the mind, either for kids or adults. But, children have less control over what they absorb and what they reject. Children who are shoveved ion front of video games and TV because parents are too distracted or find it tiresome to intereact with them are becoming frighteningly backwar.

    Often they are barely able to speak clearly or even at all. I have a friend who has a child of three and the parents have had him in front of these absurd time wasters since virtually birth, to keep him occupied. Now he can only grunt in response to any kind of conversation. He is obsessed with the screen to the point where they have to place an ipad in front of him whilst he is eating his breakfast on dinner at the table. And the only game he plays when given his toys is, with super heroes, The Hulk, Spider Man, Captain America, etc, smashing each other to pieces. The boys resopnses are similar to a child who is retarded. Which, believe it or not, he isn’t. And the parents are ‘educated.’ It is so very sad to watch this.

    http://www.theguardian.com/society/2012/oct/09/ban-under-threes-watching-television

    And any person who really wants to understand what is happening to our education system and where it is all coming from should watch this lecture on what the State is doing in schools to our children.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xCoOv_DwaAk

    The irresponsible action toward todays children is mind blowing. And one of the reasons for it is, the family work ethic, they have no time to nurture and teach, so use idiotic cartoons to do it for them. It’s crazy.

    Stop the planet I want to get off.

    • catherine benning

      I apologise for the terrible mistakes in spelling and context of the above post, I didn’t read it through, because I’m in a hurry. She says, with the same excuse the parents use to absolve them of any come back on why their children are ignorant of any form of interactive communication with either each other or the parent.

    • Paul X

      Catherine, despite your atrocious spelling and grammar I fully agree ;-)

      Unless parents bury their heads in the sand they must know that these are the games that children are actually playing and I would love somebody to explain just where the educational value is in any of them?

      http://www.forbes.com/sites/erikkain/2013/12/22/the-best-looking-video-games-of-2014/

      Most are either futuristic or fantasy and those that have any basis in reality are only about killing people or destroying things…… if this is education than as you say, it’s time to get off this planet

    • Prince du Sang

      Yes, I agree. Video Games isolate individuals from reality, and in many cases they can be just as addictive as drugs or alcohol, though, I confess, not as dangerous.

  15. 234567890098764321

    well yes 1ST it makes u creative 2nd it removes stress 3rd kids will almost do anything for 1-2 hours of gaming 4th it encorages them 5th it will let them to have an open mind

  16. Γιάννης Οικονομόπουλος

    Of course it is a valuable tool.The first example that comes to mind are the games of Paradox Interactive(Crusader Kings 2,Hearts of Iron Series,Europa Universalis Series).Although you can deviate from history it pinched my interest to find out about what really happened.

    • Levi

      I egree

  17. Nando Aidos

    What kind of games? What kind of learning? Learning ought to be fun but does not have to be a game! Why does the “win or lose” concept have to be part of learning? Are educators involved in this discussion? If not, they should be!

  18. Miguel Queiroz Martinho

    most strategy historic games gave me knowledge of battles of the past (Age of Empires II, Age of kings and conquers / empire earth / Europa Universalis) the advantage is to learn historic conflits trough immersion in a game play. if you “were there” you remember the facts better like what was the name of the general that lead man in the battle of xxx? what was the goal? what changed after this conquest?

  19. Guillem Martí Bou

    We should not make central planning with education. Let the schools compete between themselfs. Then, from this “almost free market of education” will arise the better ways to educate our children.

  20. Christos Mouzeviris

    If designed and used properly yes… Better than having to sit and listen for hours the warbling of a Middle aged, bored public sector teacher that counts the time to go home. Not that all teachers are like that of course, but a fresh outlook in our education system would work wonders!

  21. Matej Zaggy Zagorc

    Sure. I’ve learned a lot of history and nearly perfected my English at an early age. It’s a matter of how the games are made and how an individual receives them.

  22. Arlinnda Kastrati

    It would almost sound like a joke if debating Europe were to argue that video games are required to improve the linguistically durable fashion…

  23. nando

    Sounds like a “game maker’s” question. A leading question to obtain a desired answer.
    But they can be. But video games have strong drawbacks too. A child interacting with a video screen is better for the child than interacting with a human being? I doubt it very much!
    Besides, we have in our history geniuses who never played with a video game.

  24. Ana Mourato

    This is really an interesting theme. Recently I developed a study on this question that allowed me to have informal conversations with young children 6-12 aged and find that they recognize and identify exactly what they have to learn from them.
    Young children feel attracted mainly by complex games that teach them new skills and make them feel motivated and able to make decisions.
    Digital games are not merely entertainment, we may say that they provide the great opportunity to learn in an informal way contributing greatly to the acquisition of non-formal skills and cognitive skills, memory, establishment and interpretation of the hypotheses, anticipating situations and planning strategies.

  25. Massimo Ortale

    As a passionate video games player I can answer with absolute certainty that videogames are able to help children to learn. Abviously the not violent ones.

  26. Ishar Wyrm

    What sort of joke is this? Can? They do help learning more than some regular “indoctrination systems”

  27. André Chercka

    I would always be cautious about saying that a game itself helps children learn. I think the teacher’s role in how the game is applied in a learning process, is decisive in whether learning will take place after playing a game.

  28. Aleksandar Greguric

    I learned from Pacman that i should try and escape my ghosts and things that haunt me by gobbling as many coloured pills as i can and listening to repetitive electronic music.

  29. Nando Aidos

    Just like anything else, video games can be great teaching tools.
    However, this does not mean all video games are teaching tools.
    In fact most of them are garbage and a great many reduce children’s motor agility by requiring broad finger sweeping motions only.
    So the answer is “can” but they are not any better than other tools.

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