Video Games

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All the world’s a game,
And all the men and women active players:
They have their exits and their entrances;
And all people in their time play many parts…
(Dave Moursund—Adapted from Shakespeare)

Video Games

Video games are a large, growing, and important part of the [ Information Age. In the United States, the Information Age is generally considered to have begun in about 1956, when the number of workers holding white-collar jobs first exceeded the number of workers holding . blue-collar jobs. By 1956 the computer industry was started, but was minuscule compared to current times.

Quoting from the Wikipedia:

The history of video games goes as far back as the early 1950s, when academics began designing simple games and simulations as part of their computer science research. Video gaming would not reach mainstream popularity until the 1970s and 1980s, when arcade video games, gaming consoles and home computer games were introduced to the general public. Since then, video gaming has become a popular form of entertainment and a part of modern culture in most parts of the world.
As of 2016, there are eight generations of video game consoles, with the latest generation including Nintendo's Wii U and Nintendo 3DS, Microsoft's Xbox One and Sony's PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita. PC gaming has been holding a large market share in Asia and Europe for decades and continues to grow due to digital distribution. Since the release of smartphones, mobile gaming has been a driving factor for games to reach out to people not previously interested in gaming, as well as people unable to afford or support dedicated hardware.

As the quoted material indicates, there are a number of different video game consoles, and there are far more computers, table computers, and Smartphones on which people can play video games. Roughly 1.4 billion Smartphones were sold in 2015, and it is estimated that by 2017 over a third of the world's population will own a Smartphone.

A somewhat different way of looking at such statistics is presented in Gartner which estimates that total yearly sales of microcomputers, table computers, and Smartphones was about 2.4 billion in 2015 and will slowly grow to about 2.6 billion in 2017

The current world population is about 7.5 billion people. The currently available data and estimates suggests to me, that by the end of 2017 more than half of the world's population will own a devices that can play video games.

For years, people have studied and argued about television’s influence on children. In recent years, solo or group interaction with video games and social networking have overtaken solo or group television watching. Video games, social networking, and television have a significant impact on children and young adults and their education. Many people argue that the impact on education is more negative than positive.

Many people have suggested that in terms of education, "if you can't beat them, join them." They are suggesting that we should be developing educational video games and routinely using them in both our informal and formal educational systems.

Thus, it is not surprising that educationally-oriented video games continue to enter the market. Moreover, ideas from video games are often incorporated into computer-assisted learning materials.

However, by and large, such edutainment has proven to be a poor merger of entertainment and education. However, there are some notable exceptions. The future outlook for future uses of computer technology as an integral and valuable component of both informal and formal education is quite promising.


A new form of amateur and professional completion call eSports (electronic sports) is now solidly entrenched in our world. Quoting from the Wikipedia:

eSports (also known as electronic sports, esports, e-sports, competitive (video) gaming, professional (video) gaming, or pro-gaming) can be defined as a form of sports where the primary aspects of the sport are facilitated by electronic systems; the input of players and teams as well as the output of the eSports system are mediated by human-computer interfaces. Most commonly eSports take the form of organized multiplayer video game competitions, particularly between professional players. The most common video game genres associated with eSports are real-time strategy, fighting, first-person shooter (FPS), and multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA). Tournaments such as The International, the League of Legends World Championship, the World Championship Series, the Evolution Championship Series, and the Intel Extreme Masters, provide both live broadcasts of the competition, and prize money and salaries to competitors.
Although organized online and offline competitions have long been a part of video game culture, participation and spectatorship of such events have seen a large surge in popularity from the late 2000s and early 2010s. While competitions around 2000 were largely between amateurs, the proliferation of professional competitions and growing viewership now supports a significant number of professional players and teams, and many video game developers now build features into their games designed to facilitate such competition.

Free IAE Book About Games in Education

The following IAE book is available under a Creative Commons license.

Moursund, D.(2016). Learning Problem-solving Strategies by Using Games: A Guide for Educators and Parents. Eugene, OR: Information Age Education.
PDF File:
Microsoft Word File:

An Introduction to the Book

This section is quoted from the Preface to the book. It gives a flavor of the content of the book.

As suggested by the mangled Shakespeare quote given [at the beginning of this Web page] I sometimes look at various aspects of life as a game. I make a “move,” and people around me make countermoves. My move is designed to improve my “position” in the situation, and their moves are designed to improve their positions or to counter my move.
For an example of a move, suppose I am discussing how my favorite football team did in its game last week, and the conversation involves several people who have other favorite teams. I say something positive that my team did or something negative that some other team did. Perhaps I am trying to “one up” others in the conversation. How will they respond?
Question: Do I think in advance how they will respond? That is a key question in playing many different types of games in which one is “playing” against an opponent. In chess, for example, I can think about how my opponent is apt to respond to a move that I am thinking about making. It is also a key question about all of one’s communications with others.
As another example, I am a three-year-old child playing with a friend, also three. We are each individually playing with building blocks, building towers. I deliberately knock down my friend’s tower. Do I think in advance what my friend’s response will be? Probably not. My “plan ahead” mind has not yet developed to a level that it carefully considers the consequences of a proposed action.
How does a person get better at anticipating the consequences of a proposed action? For most of us, this is a long, slow process—and indeed, many never get very good at it. (Think about a person driving when drunk.)
The kinds of games discussed in this book create environments in which a player can anticipate the possible consequences of a move and can practice planning ahead. With proper guidance, instruction, and help from a parent or teacher, the player can not only get better at planning ahead in the game, but can also make a transfer of learning of this skill to using it in “real life” settings. The game, with the help of a human teacher, becomes a very powerful aid to helping the player to become a more self-responsible person. In brief summary, this type of learning from games is the purpose of this book.
I think of the study of problem solving as a unifying theme in education and in the study of each specific discipline. Good education exposes students to the problems and knowledge of a very wide range of disciplines. It focuses on helping students learn to learn and also learn to take responsibility for their own education.
The book’s focus is on learning problem-solving strategies through the use of games. The goal is to gain useful knowledge and skills in problem solving, and games are the vehicle.
Games tend to be intrinsically motivating and fun to play. In the book, I use games as a vehicle to explore joy and fun, two very important aspect of teaching and learning problem solving. For more information about joy and fun in education, see the IAE Newsletter series that began with its December, 2015, issue. The titles of the first two newsletters in this series are The Joy of Learning: An Introduction (Sylwester, December, 2015) and Joy in Learning and Playing Games (Moursund, December, 2015).
There is much about problem solving and much about uses of games in education not covered in the book. Later in this section are brief introductions to other topics that could have been included—but weren’t.
The word game means different things to different people. In this book, I explore a variety of board games, card games, dice games, word games, and puzzles that many children and adults play. Many of these games come in both non-electronic and electronic formats. This book places special emphasis on electronic games and the electronic versions of games originally developed in non-electronic formats.
This book does not explore all types of games. For example, I do not explore sports games, such as baseball, basketball, football, and soccer, or any of the sports in the summer and winter Olympic Games.
Since my early childhood, I have enjoyed playing a wide variety of games. Indeed, at times I have had a reasonable level of addiction to various games. In retrospect, I feel I learned a great deal from the board games, card games, puzzles, and other types of games I played as a child.
In recent years, a number of educators and educational researchers have come to realize that games can be an important component of both informal and formal education. This has become a legitimate area of study and research.
Oodles of games are now available in electronic format. While many are distributed commercially, many others are available for free play on the Web, and many can be downloaded at no cost. In this book, I am especially interested in games available at little or no cost, and that also have significant educational value.
Some electronic games are merely computerized versions of games that existed long before computers. Others only exist in a computer format. Computer networks have made possible games that allow many thousands of players worldwide to be participating simultaneously. For example, over its long lifetime The World of Warcraft had a peak number of subscribers of about 12 million in 2010, and in 2015 it still had about 5.6 million worldwide—people who pay to play the game online. The computerized animation and interaction in these games bring a previously unknown dimension to games.
A puzzle is a type of game. To better understand the purpose of this book, think about some popular puzzles such as crossword puzzles, jigsaw puzzles, and logic puzzles (often called brain teasers). In every case, the puzzle-solver’s goal is to solve a particular mentally challenging problem or accomplish a particular mentally challenging task.
This definition of a puzzle (a particular mentally challenging problem) means that there are puzzles in every discipline of study and in every human mental activity. Some of these problems have no solution, some have one solution, and some have more than one solution.
Consider, for example, the following two math problems:
1. Find two odd integers whose sum is an odd integer. That is a perfectly well-defined math problem/puzzle. It does not have a solution.
2. Find two integers between 4 and 9 inclusive that add to an even integer. This math problem/puzzle has several solutions.
The message is that not every puzzle or problem is solvable, and a puzzle or problem might have more than one solution. I like to add a twist to this. A puzzle may be solvable, but not within the framework of the knowledge and skills that I have. When I am doing a crossword puzzle, there are apt to be many clues and their corresponding puzzle entries that are completely outside of my knowledge and experience. I have no way of knowing whether the puzzle is solvable by others (the puzzle maker may have deliberately or accidentally made a mistake), but I can convince myself that I cannot solve it.
This is a Big and Profound Idea. Contrast this reality with the usual school curriculum designed to help students learn to solve a wide variety of problems and accomplish a wide variety of tasks. The curriculum tends to be designed so that students are able to gain the knowledge and skills needed to solve the problems and accomplish the tasks that are being presented to them. Thus they tend to believe that every problem is solvable, if only they can master the content they are being taught.
I am reminded of the quotation:
If at first you don’t succeed [in solving a particular problem], try, try again. Then quit. There's no use being a damn fool about it. (W.C. Fields)
Here is my version of this quotation:
If at first you don’t succeed in solving a particular problem, try, try again. Then if you still have not succeeded and the problem is important to you, seek help or put the problem away and save it for a time when you have gained more knowledge and skills relevant to this problem situation. (David Moursund, adapted from W.C. Fields)
Puzzles and other types of games can be used as vehicles to help students learn this very important idea.
Many people are hooked on certain types of puzzles. For example, some people cannot start the day without spending time on the crossword puzzle in their morning newspaper. In some sense, they have a type of addiction to crossword puzzles. The fun is in meeting the challenge of the puzzle—making some or a lot of progress in completing the puzzle.
Crossword puzzles draw upon one’s general knowledge, recall of words defined or suggested by short definitions or pieces of information, and spelling skill. Through study and practice, a person learns some useful strategies and can make considerable gains in crossword puzzle-solving expertise. Doing a crossword puzzle is like doing a certain type of brain exercise. In recent years, research has provided evidence that such brain exercises help stave of the dementia and Alzheimer’s disease that are so common in the elderly.
From an educational point of view, it is clear that solving crossword puzzles helps to maintain and improve one’s vocabulary, spelling skills, and knowledge of many miscellaneous tidbits of information. Solving crossword puzzles tends to contribute to one’s self esteem. For many people, their expertise in solving crossword puzzles plays a role in their social interaction with other people.
The remainder of this IAE-pedia document discusses various topics related to use of games in education.


This IAE-pedia entry was written by David Moursund.