In the middle of the Corona virus pandemic, people’s activities are being restricted to prevent the wider spread of the virus and schools are the first institution that were closed by the government. Students are now learning at home, using gadget and computer to study, and now they have more free time. What do they do on their free time?  Do they have more screen time then before? Is this worried you?


Well, good news coming from the Cambridge Assessment English, when Marianne Pickles, Assessment Development Team Lead for Cambridge Assessment English, explores the potential benefits of video games for English language learners and challenges some of the common misconceptions that exist about video games.


What’s a video game?

Video game is any kind of game that is played electronically for entertainment. The device used could be a computer, a console, a mobile, or a tablet. The game genre might be action, adventure, role-playing game (RPG), strategy, puzzle or anything else.  



Benefits of video games for learning

Many education researchers believe video games can help learners, both in a language learning context and more generally. There are a number of reasons for this, among others are as below:


  1.     Engagement

Around thirty per cent of the world’s population frequently play them. Why? Because video games are fun. In education, we know that experiences which are engaging, which capture our attention and our interest, are more memorable and effective than those which are not.

  1.     Flow

Have you ever been so engrossed in an activity that you lost track of time? This is the psychological state called ‘flow’, which occurs when we become so immersed in what we’re doing. Video games are good at producing flow in players and flow has been associated with better learning outcomes.

  1.     Emotional investment 

Video games often feature a story and compelling characters. Sometimes the player can change the appearance of the main character to personalize their experience or make decisions about how the main character acts. The emotional investment that these features create help to make the game experience more memorable. We know from the classroom that personalized activities, which are more relevant to the learner, are more memorable and more effective.

  1.     Freedom to fail

Teachers who follow the communicative approach to learning understand that errors are learning opportunities and are a natural part of the process of learning. Video games are designed to allow players to learn how to complete different actions through trial and error. They provide a safe space in which to learn and practice, which is something all learners would benefit from.

  1.     Meaningful, contextualized language practice

A lot of language practice approaches focus on grammatical forms, or on individual sentences and vocabulary which are not always contextualized well. In fact, some popular, high-profile apps have been criticized for they are fun to use, but lack of focus on meaning and context.  At Cambridge Assessment English, we believe in the value of the communicative approach to language learning. At the heart of this approach is the need to focus on meaning and context. In a video game, every task the player completes is contextualized within the story, and there is a clear purpose for the language to be used. This makes video games an extremely rich resource for language learners.

  1.     “21st century skills”

There are several so-called “21st century skills” which video games are considered to help develop. These can include problem solving, collaboration, curiosity, and perseverance. All of these skills are useful for learning.



The reality behind some common misconceptions

Even though video games are now massively popular and a mainstream type of entertainment, some common misconceptions exist about them which can sometimes mean that people view them in a negative way. Here’s a quick guide to the reality about video games.

  1.     Video games are for all ages

It is a misconception that video games are for children. In fact, the average video gamer age is 34 and that people over the age of 18 make up seventy per cent of the video game playing population.

  1.     People play video games… not just males!

There persists the misconception that video games are mostly played by teenage boys. This is simply not true, no matter how pervasive this stereotype may be. Indeed, data published by the Entertainment Software Association in 2018 showed that there are almost twice as many adult women gamers as male gamers under the age of 18.

  1.     Video games build transferable life skills

It is a common refrain that video games are ‘a waste of time’ and that we don’t learn anything from them. The reality is that video games can help us to develop the skills of collaboration, communication, problem solving, and strategic thinking as well as perseverance and curiosity, all of which can be extremely valuable life skills.

  1.     Communities grow around video games

Another common belief is that video games are isolating and anti-social. While it is certainly possible to play video games, read books, or watch TV in an isolated or anti-social way, it is also true that rich communities of interest exist around video games. Some games are multiplayer and require in-game teamwork, but even single player games can involve social elements, with online discussion groups as well as live events.

  1.     Sadly, multiplayer video games can enable bullying

A note of caution is needed when it comes to multiplayer games, especially in relation to young players. We know that the anonymity afforded by the internet can sometimes bring out the worst in people and provide opportunities for cyber-bullying. This means we should use our best judgement in relation to these games.

  1.     Not all video games are expensive

While there are certainly expensive video games, there are also those which are free or very cheap. No matter your budget, there will be something available you can use.



The conclusion? Get gaming!

Now, you can introduce gaming to your young learners and use it as one of the tools in learning, which could work for both teachers and parents. Just remember, always accompany your children for guidance, maybe limited their screen time, and make sure they play the right game according to their age.


Read more about game-based learning from blog author, Marianne Pickles, in the overview of her session on 'Gamification' versus 'game-based learning' at the Cambridge Assessment Summit of Education where she discussed the differences between these two terms, along with the advantages of each to support learning.  



Source: Cambridge Assessment English