Gaming as a tool for learning

Brian Fosdick
Brian Fosdick

If you played games growing up, it’s no great secret that many parents thought video games were trying to turn you into the next Charles Manson. The jury is also out on what is the “prime age” to be playing games. If you’re below 18 and playing Grand Theft Auto V, it’s likely your highly impressionable mind will drive you to steal nice cars and shoot at police officers, and if you’re above 18 and play that game you have no life.

That said, there have rarely been what some would consider “gateway” games that don’t severely polarize parents that are worried about what their children are learning from the games they play. A recent article in the Denver Post however provided a refreshing view on the fact that there are games that aren’t attempting to destroy American values and promote communism.


Going out on a bit of a limb here, I learned as much playing games as I learned from most of my math classes (no offense math teachers, I think math is interesting but just not my thing). The American education system is laughably outdated in how it attempts to teach children skills that they’re actually interested in learning. During my time in school, there wasn’t a single class on coding, online writing or really anything to do with computers at all. You learned how to pass the CSAP and that’s simply the way things were.

This method of teaching was of course the product of being part of the “No Child Left Behind” generation where teachers were told what we needed to learn, how we needed to learn it, and what results they were expected to get. The excessive focus on learning skills we weren’t interested in pushed many kids like myself to learning these skills the only way we could — through games and the Internet.

Every coding skill I learned and every relevant skill I picked up I learned from playing games. Whether it was doing simple things like modding games, or more complicated things like running servers, all of these skills can be learned from games like Minecraft that allow for user-created content.

It allows people to develop their own ideas, work on their own time to create them and learn skills that they can use for both work and play. In fact one of the most common complaints in modern schools is the fact that creativity is smothered in the name of memorizing facts and acquiring good scores. User-created content helps to encourage both. It requires both applicable real world skills and a creative mind.

Interestingly enough, some of the greatest things in modern video games revolve around this idea of user-created content. Games like Little Big Planet are all about experimenting with devices provided in-game to create your own levels. Whether it’s creating music, puzzles or anything else, it’s a window into experimenting with physics engines and level design.

Even on a social level, while video games can provide a negative experience, then can also be a path to meeting some unique and interesting people that share the same interests. Whether it’s setting up LAN events, experimenting with social media advertising, and finding sponsors for events, these are all relevant skills to countless professions.

On a conceptual level, it’s easy to see why parents are still distrustful of games. It wouldn’t be hard to find a bunch of angry children shooting each other and screaming expletives at the TV. This is still a part of the community, but it’s not the predominant part of the community anymore. As people who enjoy games get older, they also help moderate and protect younger people from this kind of behavior. The fact of the matter is, no one particularly enjoys being yelled at and called names, especially people who are just trying to have a good time.

Despite all of the bad media video games often get, they can allow younger generations a fun and accessible way into understanding the technology they use beyond just updating a status on Facebook. Video games and education can easily go hand-in-hand if we open the door for them as a part of education. Universities, including CSU, have started using video games for studies and have been much more inclusive with technology in their curriculum. With any luck, we’ll soon begin seeing the same trends a lot earlier.

Brian Fosdick is a senior JTC major with a minor in political science. He enjoys when you send all of his hate mail/love confessions to