WWII and Video Game Learning

It is an interesting contradiction that while history is often viewed as the most boring subject at school, historical-based video games fly off the shelves – often to the same kids that can’t stand their history classes. The topic has been hugely researched – not just in terms of teaching history, but in terms of teaching anything at all – and it seems fairly conclusive that video game environments offer a rich base for teaching and spring-boarding interest into further study. This particular study acknowledges that, and move on quickly. Instead of focusing on what an education-based historical game could do for the classroom, it focuses on what gamers who already play history-themed games learn from and feel about these games (keep in mind that these games are designed primarily for entertainment, and teaching takes a rather decided backseat).

But first, another example of collected rationalisations of why video games are great learning environments: “video games teach the way humans are psychologically structured to learn (Gee, 2003; Jackson, 2009; Shafer, 2007); this generation of students are attuned to learning multimodally (Kellner, 2004; Kress, 2003; Lotherington, 2005); video games create a fun and engaging learning environment that can hold a player’s attention voluntarily and for long periods of time (de Castell & de Jenson, 2004; Goldhaber, 1997; Lankshear & Knobel, 2002).” (p.71)

“video games encourage players to engage in active, critical thinking and to take risks in an environment where the player receives feedback immediately and constantly, exploration is rewarded, meaning is contextualized and information is delivered using different modalities (image, text, sounds, etc.).” (p.73)

Players who had more prior knowledge of WWII were more inclined to make better use of the new knowledge they gained from playing WWII based video games, were more interested in it and filtered it better, adding to their prior knowledge. Participants in the study agreed that information gleaned from games was ‘cooler’ and ‘more interesting’ than that learned at school, even though both situations may cover the same topic.

After covering the topic of the war in school, the participants were disappointed with what they had been learnt and how they had been taught; they’d expected a teaching style similar to what they were used to in games like CoD – “focused on military-related events, full of unusual or extraordinary accounts, and told from an in-depth or individualised point of view.” (p.78) The participants disliked the ‘macro-view’ given to them of the war, and wanted to see things more from the single soldier’s point of view – just like an FPS. This is, I feel, actually something that would help engage most of the classroom and not just those who play these sorts of games – people enjoy and connect much better to personalised stories because they mean more than dates and battle names, and they allow the reader/viewer to become emotionally connected to the topic rather than approaching it from the outside.

On a side note, the participants of the study seemed keen to share their knowledge gained from games in the classroom setting, however they unanimously agreed that they never shared that the source of the information is a game, as even if the info is correct it would be looked down on as an ‘incorrect source’.


REF: Fisher, S. (2011). Playing with World War II: A Small-Scale Study of Learning in Video Games. Loading…, 5(8). Retrieved fromhttp://journals.sfu.ca/loading/index.php/loading/article/view/96/107



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