One of my favorite video games of all time is Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater. What a game. You had to not only navigate the barrage of obstacles thrown at your character (Snake), but you also had to make sure he was well-fed and his wounds were healed along the way. The graphics were amazing and the storyline was fantastic. It was quite the experience. If you have played the games from the Metal Gear series, you know that they are some of the finest gaming experiences ever crafted.
But this post isn't necessarily about Metal Gear Solid. It's about the movement to create digital games for learning purposes. Not just for education, but in all aspects of life. The movement is gaining steam. The U.S. Department of Education's Office of Educational Technology just had a Games for Learning summit in April. Titles that fall under the "Serious Games" category are helping people use games for self-improvement, personal development, and empathy. There is momentum to use games beyond entertainment purposes, and that momentum is growing.
But I want my Metal Gear Solid of digital learning games.
I want to learn while being blown away with spectacular storylines, amazing graphics, and mind-bending, cutting-edge gameplay.
Asking for too much, you say?
Is it possible to create the Final Fantasy 7 of learning games? Super Mario Bros.? Maybe something more recent ... how about the Last of Us of learning games? Don't laugh.
My point is that these games I've mentioned, along with countless other entertainment-based games, have imprinted themselves into our lives as phenomenal experiences facilitated through the video game medium. Because of many elements - from story, to graphics, to what they require from players, to how players situate these games into their actual social lives - they are memorable and meaningful. We share our experiences in these games alongside others. We tell stories of our greatest feats within these games. We remember things such as the iconic music (*insert Sonic the Hedgehog Green Hill Zone music here*) and heartbreaking plot twists. Entertainment-based video games have served as eye-opening, whimsical expositions into worlds we will never see in reality, and have established themselves as important parts of the mosaics of our lives.
Now let's try to do this with digital games for learning. And let's not be afraid of doing so.
I see a future where digital games that are created for learning purposes consistently achieve similar feats as entertainment-based games. Fantastic storylines. Deep gameplay. Moments we'll never forget. Graphics that rival games like the Batman: Arkham series. If this all sounds absolutely bonkers and out of the realm of possibility for various reasons (lack of funding being a major one), remember: We definitely won't get this if we never consider it possible.
I envision a future where games that focus on facilitating important learning goals also produce outstanding gaming experiences that we'll talk about in the same way - or dare I say, in the same breath - as entertainment-based games. If we can find a way to do this, if we can create that balance - however long it may take for us to get there - there is no telling what we can do for our game-playing youth, for those who want to grow, and for those who just want to learn one more thing.
Are we far off from this day? Do you believe this can ever happen?
It may be closer than you think.