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Gaming Theory: Daniel O'Keefe Talks Learning Through Games

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Gaming Theory: Daniel O'Keefe Talks Learning Through Games

Gaming doesn't have to be the antithesis of learning. Learn how the non-profit Institute of Play is championing educational reform to include gaming concepts.

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There’s the age old question of why we game. Sometimes it’s to escape into an alternate reality, other times to socialize with friends in multiplayer settings, online or around a table. However, there’s a misconception that gaming is mere play. In fact, gamification has increasingly presented educational benefits in in video games, online communities, and the classroom. Ok, so “Call of Duty” probably won’t be added to standard curriculum any time soon, but pioneers like Daniel O’Keefe, North Carolina Regional Director of the Institute of Play, are championing the benefits of gaming.

O’Keefe set out to explore the fundamental notion of “what do we learn when we play, and how can this transform education?” In a July 16, 2015 talk at RTP 180 in Morrisville, NC, O’Keefe shared the Institute of Play's fascinating research. It’s not limited to video games, extending to games as simple as hide and go seek, board games, and essentially any common forms of play.

Daniel explained his belief that games are wonderful design spaces. “When you change a game, whether it’s analog or digital, you get immediate feedback about the consequence of your change when you play it.” The results of these changes, therefore, provide opportunities for learning. O’Keefe used a comical example of dying during “Super Mario” to illustrate his thesis. Fall to your death in-game and when you replay that level you’ll try something different. In theory, you won’t make the same mistake twice.

Yet, the Institute of Play isn’t a means to place video games into the classroom. Rather, it’s an initiative to bring the principles of game play and apply them to education. These principles are:

Learning feels like play
Everyone is a participant
Everything is interconnected
Learning happens by doing
Failure is reframed by iteration
Feedback is immediate and ongoing

                 -- O'Keefe, D. (Director) (2015, July 16). . RTP 180: Gaming. Lecture conducted from Morrisville, NC.

The intersection between good gaming and teaching incorporates these concepts, and takes advantage of them. If learning is fun, participants are more receptive to education. Additionally consequences are readily available, and encourage improvement through understanding mistakes. The Institute of Play's research is certainly thought-provoking, and under the fun is the core mission to improve education. Gaming, whether video games or other mediums, have become increasingly prevalent, and curriculum must adapt to the shifting society.

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