Games are challenging but they’re also fun. That’s a formula worth emulating

games-studentsNinety seven percent of kids spend an average of ten hours a week playing video games. It’s hard work, but they keep coming back. They often fail at whatever they are trying to do, but they persist until they learn the strategies, concepts, and skills to achieve their goals. Then they set new ones and come back for more. Games lend themselves easily to collaboration, and kids often compete with each other. Playing games gives them immediate and long term feedback. And the games track what they do, where they fail, where they succeed, and what they learn.

Isn’t that the way we want education to work? So what is it about games that makes kids try harder and learn more?

1) Games are an optimal learning environment.

In their chapter Flow in Schools Revisited in the “Handbook of Positive Psychology in Schools,” Chernoff and Chikzentmihalyi (don’t ask me how to pronounce it or spell it from memory) point out that enjoyment and interest in school are good predictors of student success. They propose that an ideal learning environment, just like a game,

  • presents challenging and relevant activities that allow students to feel confident and in control
  • promotes both concentration and enjoyment
  • is intrinsically satisfying in the short term while building a foundation of skills and interests
  • involves both intellect and feeling
  • requires effort and yet feels like play

Next page: Why games make us want to persist

[image: Dikiiy /]