March 23 2009

Game Based Learning

Fun end to the week at the Game Based Learning conference in the City of London. Highlights include a cabinet minister who actually gets technology and seems to want to support the industry (Tom Watson), the ever inspiring Derek Robertson from LT Scotland and Atari Founder Nolan Bushnell's vision for the future of education. The latter caused quite a stir (shaking heads in the audience, grumblings on the twitter feed) as it appeared to envisage children in webcam-equipped cubicles and plugged into heart rate monitors to assess fitness levels. Refreshingly controversial! To say that some delegates had reservations would be somewhat of an understatement.

Derek Robertson and Ian Livingstone presented strong evidence that mainstream games (not 'edutainment' or 'chocolate-covered broccoli', as someone else called it) are having a fantastic impact on motivation and learning in schools where they are allowed/that are lucky enough to be able to afford them.

Gaming in general is changing, not just by making an appearance in classrooms. We are currently seeing a return of computer games into the mainstream. Nolan Bushnell and Ian Livingstone both made the point that 30 or so years ago computer games reached a mass audience.

atari_5200Then, gradually, games became more complicated and generally more violent, causing the market to shrink dramatically. Game developers and publishers didn't mind so much because the hard core gamers spent significant amounts of money and kept the industry going. Many casual gamers were alienated along the way, however. Now, of course, Nintendo is beginning to change all that with the Wii and DS platforms. You only need to look at their sales figures to realise that casual gamers hadn't disappeared, they just hadn't seen anything they liked for a few decades.

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