It’s Just A Game… Right?

Story lines in media, whether it be video games, movies, or television, have become more complex. Webs being woven take more concentration, more awareness, and, in general, more cognitive functions to process. (Johnson, 2005) Video games are a great example of a media that motivates complex cognitive processes (Squire, 2005). 

Students learn in a variety of ways. Research in this field is so vast, that meta-analyses have been done just to make sense of all of the reported findings and styles (Cassidy, 2004). The Index of Learning Styles (ILS) is one such measure (Felder & Spurlin, 2005). Felder and Spurlin (2005) suggest two main uses for the ILS: to provide instructors with insight into how to address the learning styles of students who are struggling in the classroom, and to allow students to understand the implications of their own learning styles.

Because so many learning styles exist, educators must have a variety of tools at their disposal to be most effective. The presentation of information can be done in ways that students are already familiar with. For example, one study of over 1200 lower income students in Chile, found that video games, specifically designed to meet the material criteria for first and second grade students, significantly increased the amount of learning done in classrooms (Rosas et al., 2003).

Studies like this are popping up all over psychology. Rosas et al. (2003), also found that motivation for learning, as well as dynamics in the classroom, were significantly effected by the introduction of educational video games. Other studies have shown increases in social skills such as teamwork, self-expression, and the development of friendships, all via online game play (Cole & Griffiths, 2007).

If we are to afford students the best opportunities for learning, we must offer all the tools we have at our disposal. With the ever developing cognitive tasks required of us, rich and diverse technologies are needed. Video games are one such source of cognitive exercise, with which lessons may be learned, and students may be motivated to continue learning and growing.


Cassidy, S. (2004). Learning styles: An overview of theories, models, and measures. Educational Psychology, 24, 419-444.

Cole, H., & Griffiths, M. (2007). Social interactions in massively multiplayer online role-playing gamers. CyberPsychology & Behavior, 10, 575-583. doi:10.1089/cpb.2007.9988

Felder, R., & Spurlin, J. (2005). Applications, reliability, and validity of the index of learning styles. Int. J. Engng Ed, 21(1), 103-112.

Johnson, S. (2005). Everything bad for you is good. New York: Berkeley Publishing Group.

Rosas, R., Nussbaum, M., Cumsille, P., Marianov, V., Correa, M., Flores, P., … & Salinas, M. (2003). Beyond Nintendo: Design and assessment of educational video games for first and second grade students. Computers & Education, 40, 71-94.

Squire, K. (2005). Changing the game: What happens when video games enter the classroom? Innovate, 1(6). Retrieved from:

3 comments on “It’s Just A Game… Right?

  1. Thanks for the article. It’s nice to see someone backing his thoughts up with actual research. 🙂 One nitpick though: I don’t think including Johnson (2005) contributes to the quality of the article. Contrary to your other sources, this book is not peer-reviewed in any way, and it shows. Scientifically it’s very weak, and Johnson’s methods are superficial and questionable. I’m also pretty sure that especially in video games, storylines have become less complex in the last 10 years. About 10 years ago, publishers released many games that focused on complex stories or settings, like “Planescape: Torment” or “Morrowind”. This doesn’t seem to be the case anymore – the storylines get simpler while graphics and marketing improve.

    • Thanks! The congruity of this post was kinda tough for me. I started with a lot of ideas,and had to minimize them. What got me thinking, however, was Johnson’s sleeper curve. I don’t think his book necessarily needs to be peer reviewed (Rosas et al. wasn’t peer reviewed either, btw) in order to make a good point. And he’s not performing research, but rather introducing a theory and supporting it with complimentary research. I agree about Morrowind, but those were the exceptions rather than the rules, IMHO. And now-a-days, at least from a game review’s POV, if a game has little replayability, there’s no reason to pay full price. While FPS’s are highly replayable, and don’t have a lot of story line, there is still a lot more challenge cognitively (e.g., fully customizable gear vs. what you’re given by the game). Johnson makes the point better than I can, but I don’t disagree with you wholly. I think there is a large market for “pretty games”, but there are also a lot of gamers who won’t bother on games that don’t challenge them.

      Either way, I am SO happy that you responded. It’s cool to have people bring up points that our biases might keep us from considering. I definitely appreciate your bringing that to my attention. 😉

  2. Pingback: What makes computer games replayable? « psyringe

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