Don't stop anyone from playing a game, they're probably learning something from it

Games in the 1980s. Fun, outdoorsy, mostly physical pursuits — unless you were playing a game of chess or ludo even — that promoted the instinct of dialogue, and helped us communicate and build teams.

Learning in the 1980s. Set in a classroom, in the presence of a teacher, largely dependent on one-way monologue (‘Speak when you're spoken to', went the adage, and no one ever stepped out of line), with interaction that required little else but to physically be present in class.

Computers in the 1980s. Just arrived. Set to change the face of gaming and learning, forever.

As the world of gaming embraced the world of computers, we saw things that we have never seen, and that blew us away. 8-bit pixelated graphics moving around the screen that you could control and compete over, with the computer or even another player. This was an experience to die for in the early days. From there till now with every, noticeable advancement in computer hardware, games have been right up there pushing the boundaries, moving from fun to giving an experience equalling cinema and sometimes surpassing it.

Learning on the other hand, stuck to the classrooms, the content rarely at par with the times. Archaic content in textbooks and the deep-rooted cultural angle of student-teacher relationships ensured that learning continued being serious. In fact, computers became just another subject and programming languages likewise.

Post 2005, learning expanded its boundaries from schools and colleges to organisations. As always, it started out with classroom training, which was expensive and time consuming and had no effective way of measuring results. Organisations looked towards using online means to train their workforce and this resulted in a literal translation of classroom content to online content and multimedia did little to ensure interest levels.

The current scenario is different. In the last five years games have sneaked into the world of learning in the form of simulations and scenarios. Technical education has become interesting because of simulations where you can play around with a nuclear submarine without causing any trouble to anyone or yourself, sales and marketing people can figure out what exactly to do to increase profits, negotiators can engage in dialogue to check if they are saying the right thing without causing any real damage. Measurable exercises that let you know what you did right and what you did not, cost less and can reach a global audience.

Games have given learners an environment to learn, by committing mistakes, by losing, by winning, by engaging in dialogue, learn by doing something either as an individual or as a team. No other platform is this flexible. Games are no longer just a playful activity for kids, it's a learning platform.

What next? Will classroom education with blackboard and textbooks make way for interactive touch screens with engaging games? Will homework make way for a game instead? Ask yourself these questions, and don't stop anyone from playing a game, they are probably learning something.

(Courtesy: Blur)

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