Can we learn something from videogames?
Can videogames be good teachers? To celebrate the 7th Paris Games Week event, taking place from October 27 to 31, we put this question to Yann Leroux, a psychoanalyst and member of the Observatory of Digital Worlds in Human Sciences (OMNSH)…as well as a hard-core gamer!
The debate surrounding videogames and education has long been restricted to violence or escaping from reality. What is the situation now?
People have always liked to blame certain things on videogames. But so far, no correlation has been established between video gaming and violent behavior. While videogames can make people aggressive in the moment, this is linked to the sense of competition more than the violence of the scenarios involved.
Videogames are also criticized for promoting addictive behavior. Do you believe this is true?
Addiction is, with violence, the other Loch Ness monster! “Excessive” gaming does exist, but primarily towards the end of adolescence: people are no longer playing for fun, but to avoid thinking about or experiencing something else. So there are reasons to be concerned, but in this case, video gaming is a symptom, an outlet, not a primary cause.
In France, the average age of gamers is 35. So the cliché of the antisocial hard-core gamer is a thing of the past...
To tackle the caricatures involved, should we not start off by moving away from the view that video gaming is aimed primarily at young people?
Indeed, the range of people using videogames has expanded considerably, particularly with the arrival of games on smartphones and tablets. In France, the average age of gamers is 35. So the cliché of the antisocial hard-core gamer is a thing of the past.
Today, people play video games for many different reasons, including:
those interested in the pure enjoyment of gaming, the thrill of the competition,
those who like to explore every single corner of gaming worlds, who are attracted by the imaginative side of gaming and like putting on elf costumes for instance…
those who play for the social experience associated with gaming more than the games themselves…
To come back to the issue of education, a more recent category of gamers is interested more specifically in developing their cognitive abilities through videogames.
Do videogames have proven learning and education qualities?
Yes, even though the promises made in this area have without a doubt been excessive. As old people are afraid of losing their cognitive abilities, videogame companies have seen an opportunity to respond to these fears. Brain training programs have been created. However, the arguments put forward by their publishers often exceed the actual reality. It has been demonstrated that these games do not have any impact on people's IQ.
However, what I do believe is that videogames help develop skills: affective and social, planning or coordination…Gamers have told me that they have learned English, Japanese or Korean so they could communicate better in a videogame!
You also see videogames as a way of familiarizing ourselves with the digital world in general. What do you mean by this?
To play well or better, gamers watch tutorials on YouTube, research solutions with online forums, post comments, interact with others…They can even “network”, looking to meet well-known bloggers or gamers, getting involved in events like Paris Games Week…
This agility and resourcefulness are good skills to develop and will be able to be used in other contexts, particularly professional.