Video games are one of the most prominent forms of entertainment in this day and age but not only are they a source of fun; they can also be a great way to learn. I’m not just talking about those weird education games that they used to make us play at school either. Whether they are indie games or triple A titles, it could be argued that there is a lot that can be learnt from games and one Biology teacher from the UK put this theory to the test with one very well-known title: Red Dead Redemption 2 from Rockstar Games.
A Reddit post from u/SaiRookwood- the aforementioned British Biology teacher- explains how they conducted a study/ survey in regards to the different animal species within Red Dead Redemption 2. In the post, SaiRookwood explains that the thought process behind this study was spurred by curiosity as to just how much of the background environments and features of Red Dead Redemption 2– painstakingly created by the game engineers, artists and developers (arguably, unfairly so with the whole “crunch” mentality of the video game industry but that is a discussion for another time)- were taken on board by players during their time with the game, even if it was unwittingly so:
“We wondered whether the immersion afforded by RDR2’s detailed environment led to gamers inadvertently learning to identify some of the species portrayed in the game’s simulated ecosystems.”
The results of the study were pretty interesting too:
“We asked gamers to identify 15 animals from real-world photos, all of which are featured in RDR2. We found that people who have played RDR2 identified, on average, 10/15 animals correctly, three more than gamers who had never played it. We also found that scores tended to be higher for people who had played more recently, for more hours, or if they had played Red Dead Online’s ‘Naturalist’ role.”
This is such an interesting way to research the effect of video games on the players and how we are learning as we play. SaiRockwood also notes that there is definitely thorough education and learning to be had from the game as suggested by their survey:
“Obviously we aren’t recommending that under-18 year olds play RDR2, but there is something to learn here for educators and conservationists who want to enhance the world’s natural history education; ‘gamification’ and immersion in a learning experience, by making people’s actions have meaning, can be more effective that simply getting people to learn a list of animals by rote. Also, education is not just for children; all of our study participants were 18+”.
I love the educational creativity that SaiRockwood has undertaken with this study, proving that video games can have a broad range of educational benefits. I would argue that there are many games that can do this, such as the Assassins Creed games with its historical settings and or the Civilisation game series which includes an encyclopaedia with historical facts on various civilisations. As someone who has played Red Dead Redemption 2, I do genuinely feel like I learnt a lot about various kinds of wildlife during my play through and I clearly wasn’t the only one!