Video games – the media of the future

Tuesday 3 May 2011

by Kyle Mawer

In 2009 The BBC posted an article proclaiming that (video) games will ‘eclipse’ other media.  Comparing the two industries of gaming and movies the article found that while the latter was in decline for the former it was very much ‘game on’.  Even when placed directly side to side the video game adaptation of a film still seems to come out tops.  Why?  Well, not only does the game offer greater engagement, involvement and participation but also better value for money.  Sure a commercially of the shelf game costs substantially more than a cinema ticket but the movie is over within a few hours while the video game plays for a whopping 50 hours.  No competition really, is it?  Also an irony is that video games now have trailers that are in themselves mini movies.  Don’t take my word for it though, check out the cinematic trailer for Star Wars: The old Republic to see the wow factor of one of the game’s cut scenes.

Modern day video games are simply becoming more complex and advanced.  They have story lines that are gripping, full of suspense, action and adventure which are supported by some stunning visuals, amazing sound effects and a stirring soundtrack to accompany the hero.  It’s no surprising that instances where the revenue generated by a game such as GTA (Grand Theft Auto) goes head to head with that of a blockbuster such as Spiderman 3 that it’s the video game that comes out on top.  In fact some sources place the value of the video game industries at about $105 billion world wide (escapist magazine).  It may not even be a case of video games being the media of the future but being THE media now.  Predictions for the future render an even greater picture.  Yves Guillmot the CEO of Ubisoft (an international computer and video game publisher) had this to say about the next generation of gaming consoles – “The next generation is going to be so powerful that playing a game is going to be the equivalent of playing a CGI movie today.”

Without a doubt with the rise in popularity of video games and the advancement in technology we are looking at a media that has huge potential.  This potential extends to educational applications.  There are now some very influential and respected people out there who realise this and believe we should embrace it.  In Early 2009 The Guardian reported on a Toine Manders, a Dutch MP, who consulted game experts and psychologists before stating in a report that “video games have a positive contribution to make to the education of minors.”  As little as two months ago President Obama declared that he was “calling for . . . educational software that is as compelling as the best video game” (  These sentiments are endorsed by Armando Baltra, a professor in Early child development at California State University who says that “What makes computer games fun can offer an interesting new light on what will motivate a student to learn.

So can video games really augment learning and become a media tool which educators can use?  The fact is teachers are using them.  From Middle schools in the states to the classrooms of scotland there are various forward thinking initiatives that have successfully used video games in the curriculum.  In language learning too studies such as Learn English or Die by Heiro Reinders and Sorada Wattana indicate that learner interaction and confidence is increased by the use of video games.  Do these all herald the beginning of a new age for video games within our classrooms?

There are those that argue that this expansion by video games into other areas other than entertainment is essentially the blueprint for the future. Authors such as Tom Chatfield and Jane Mcgonigal talk of a coming revolution in gaming.  They foresee a future where gaming will permeate society offering us inducements to work in fun, productive  and more self fulfilling ways which previously weren’t realised.  Both have written books where they cite specific instances along with examples of games which are being used in novel, interesting and new ways.  For them and many others this is just the beginning.  The future is coming and sooner than we think.

Just imagine what a little investment of time, effort and money could do in the name of edugaming.  There’s no lacking of these resources within the video game industries but are they likely to invest in this area when they have already found a winning formula for commercial success?  I think the answer is yes.

I don’t believe there will be an overnight revolution in the gaming industry and that video games will suddenly become educationally altruistic, but changes are happening.  The truth is there are already changes happening.   I think we are at a very interesting moment in the history of video games.  It’s a time when the potential for the medium of video games has been recognised, the topic debated, ideas produced and video games are being adapted.  There is a definite buzz out there and a feeling that we are on the brink of exploring an undiscovered country.


5 responses to Video games – the media of the future

  1. Carolyn says:

    I agree that engaging and motivating learners (of all ages) is a massive payoff, and there’s little doubt that edugaming can foster development of higher order cognitive skills and collaboration. I have also overcome my initial concern that setting such a high fun-factor precedent will trample all over the possibility of providing alternative forms of learning.

    What still sends a chill down my spine is that edugaming has seeped into the classroom via the corporate training method of gamification ( which itself mutated out of the marketing approach of the same name. Gabe Zichermann gave a GoogleTech Talk on October 26th 2010 called “Fun is the Future: Mastering Gamification” which you can find here:

    He states very entertainingly and explicitly the incredible power of games to get people to buy things and click on links and complete training courses and master new interfaces. It’s all in the design, he explains, in which you box people’s options in so they think they are free independent agents, but in fact you have designed the environment so that you have control over the decisions they take within it.

    That gives me pause for thought.

  2. Kyle,

    I’m very sympathetic to the notion of gaming in education and even in teacher training (where it’s yet to make any inroads, despite the fact that there is a younger generation of teachers who have grown up enjoying a ‘rewards based’ system of achievement) – lots of food for thought for future developers.

    I do dislike, though – and rather vehemently – the word ‘gamification’ and, whilst generally a big fan of Mcgonigal, can’t help thinking that there’s a lot of running before we can walk in the space where games meet life.

    I was struck by this article from the Guardian recently, about the SXSW event in the States:

    And this part, in particular:

    “The current public face of gamification is Jane McGonigal, author of the new book Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better And How They Can Change The World, but many of her prescriptions are cringe-inducing: they seem to involve redefining aid projects in Africa as “superhero missions”, or telling hospital patients to think of their recovery from illness as a “multiplayer game”. Hearing how McGonigal speeded her recovery from a serious head injury by inventing a “superhero-themed game” called SuperBetter, based on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, in which her family and friends were players helping her back to health, I’m apparently supposed to feel inspired. Instead I feel embarrassed and a little sad: if I’m ever in that situation, I hope I won’t need to invent a game to persuade my family to care.”

    It’s designed to provoke a laugh, obviously – but there’s something in it, I feel. Getting from GTA to using gaming to help you get better seems as much a jump as getting from GTA to a classroom game that learners will feel is good enough, engaging enough and motivating enough to actually play – and that’s without the obvious need for a sound pedagogy behind it.

    I wonder if we’ll be able to get there, in terms of that kind of balance? As I said, I love the idea of gaming, but I’m not convinced that we’re very near transporting the game play and enjoyment of current game titles into our world of education.

    I have to admit I’m not completely up-to-date with the games world these days, due to too many other things going on, so I’d be really interested to hear if there are any educational games out there that you’ve come across that you think manage to combine gameplay with pedagogy successfully? Or is too early, do you think?


  3. Kyle Mawer says:

    Some interesting points made there Gavin. I’d like to start with a quote by Merlin Donald who is a Professor of Cognitive Science at Case Western Reserve University. He asks “What is a “career” or a “vacation” except a role-playing game extended over an adult lifetime?” In this sense the notion of game and life becomes not just blurred but indistinguishable.

    I agree that the word ‘gamification’ is a little difficult. I can’t imagine myself or anybody ever saying “my Friday evening English language class needs gamificating a little.” I also think that Jane’s book is quite personal account of how games have affected her life. I think games are a passion for her so you can expect them to permeate all professional and personal areas of her life. The big point she makes is that playing games are generally for the better. There’s a big feel good factor in playing and not just winning. Some of the games, in my opinion, sound great but I couldn’t see myself playing them. Cemetery poker, for example.

    As for GTA (Grand Theft Auto)? Well this game has generated (and continues to do so) a lot of discussion. Something that never goes amiss in an English language classroom. However GTA is an extreme example and I would never use it in a classroom. It would be akin do using the film ‘The Texas Chain Saw Massacre’ to teach parts of the body. Both the examples here are inappropriate for the classroom.

    Game Play already exists in the classroom. Even if we hark back to Merlin Donald’s words and mention instead a role play extended over a 15 minute period. I understand your doubt lies in whether video game play can make the transition but it has and does in my classes and in the classes of other teachers too. Both myself and fellow blogger Graham Stanley run a blog ( and I am inviting you to look at the games in the ‘Game Plan’ section. I believe the pedagogy is sound. It has to be – not only to be accepted by my colleagues but also my boss as well as publishers such as DELTA Publishing who have enough confidence in the pedagogy to go to print.

    Anyway, I like to say that I’m adapting authentic material for the English Language classroom. The medium just happens to be free online games. I feel I have to say I don’t have a console so I don’t really play games like GTA. Is it too early? What’s wrong with coming first?

  4. Kyle,

    Thanks for getting back to me. I’m a keen follower of the blog you and Graham keep. You two make a lot more sense than Mr. Donald, in that respect. I don’t see how working or having a vacation is a role play, but that might just be me.

    I’m certainly not against the ‘feel good’ factor, but it’s not something I’d see an educational experience anchored on – as with the other conversations currently happening on various blogs, the pedagogy has to come before any of that. And I suppose that goes back to my original question

    My question really is more about the link between video games that people play in real life – and those which are appropriate in the classroom.

    By that I mean, can we take the gameplay, excitement, and all the rest of commercial games and make pedagogically sound games with the same level of immersion, excitement, graphic richness, etc? I haven’t see it done yet, and I’m doubtful if it’s possible. The complex reward systems that Gee refers to in his book and in his references to ‘passion communities’ don’t easily transfer to the more controlled environment of education – in fact often they are the reason people play games rather than concentrate on their school work!

    Well, this is getting too long – without saying GTA is a good game, I simply wonder if something as rich as GTA will ever make it into our classrooms, with decent content and a good pedagogical angle. And, if it did, would learners find it an attractive option?


  5. Kyle Mawer says:

    Ok. Personally I wouldn’t use a commercially successful game in the class room mainly because the school I work at hasn’t got a console nor have I to be able to bring it in to play. My colleague, however, has. He’s successfully played games such as Sing Star ( and Animal Crossing ( which both have a high language content.

    I myself did work in a state school briefly where they had a more mature and violent commercial game called Counterstrike ( The state school was using it in Computer studies classes to interest pupils in computers and no doubt (at least I hope) do something more with it. I myself had a crack at using it in a more pedagogical way but I wasn’t happy with the results but it was still an interesting process. When I can get round to writing a blog post on it I will.

    There are, however, a few other skirmishes by educational bodies into adapting commercial games fof educational purposes through modding. For those unfamiliar with the term wikipedia defines modding as “the act of modifying a piece of hardware or software or anything else for that matter, to perform a function not originally conceived or intended by the designer”. If you follow this link – – and read the Remix Culture section you’ll be able read about some specific examples.

    The online game developers magazine Gamasutra has also posted an article about the use of World of Warcraft ( to teach English. This is the most commercially successful massively multiplayer online role playing game (another mouthful so let’s say MMORPG pronounced ‘More peg’).

    I think the truth of the matter is that these are early days so far as porting the seemingly disparate worlds of games to education is concerned. People are only just beginning to turn their hand to it. For instance one of the game developers behind the extremely popular Age of Empires has now developed a bridge between the two worlds and you can read about that here –

    Also, research on the use of Ragnorak Online (the most commercially popular online game in Thailand) was conducted by Hayo Reinders and Sorada Wattana. The conclusions they reached seemed to be favourable in regards to the games use as a platform for teaching was concerned. You can read the study here

    Now, you said your comment was getting too long. This one definitely is. Just a final point though. I went to sleep last night thinking of whether I could use GTA with a mature audience. The somewhat maverick conclusion I came to was I possibly could. A couple playing at the front while the rest of the class was engaged in commentary or discussing issues that came up out of the game play. It would have to be a high level and, frankly, the game players would pretty much be too involved to be counted as ‘language learning’. It might be an interesting to deal reactively in class with the emerging language from the game. Less ‘dogme’ but more ‘do game’ I suppose.

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