An extensive study going back a couple of decades by the National Centre for Biotechnology Information in the United States had revealed that surgeons who played the popular video game Call of Duty for some three hours a week made on average 37% less mistakes in the operating theatre. The researchers behind this discovery had argued that training curricula which included video games may help surgeons when dealing with screen-mediated applications, such as laparoscopic surgery.

Fast-forward to 2023, such news would certainly be quoted with delight by today’s army of school children, for whom, gaming is not solely at the essence of their entertainment needs but also a means of expression and collaboration between peers.

For Stephen Reid, Game-Based Learning Lead at Microsoft, the beauty of gaming is that while other educational tools such as books and movies provide varying experiences, their narrative is set.

“While playing games, I can decide which team to pick, which plane to fly, which strategy to implement. I can be anyone and go anywhere,” he told participants at the Transform-ED educational symposium, hosted by the Representation Office of the European Commission in Malta and which focused on the thematic area of games and AI in education.

Reid argued that the practicality of games is even more critical in today’s world where the space to play continues to be restricted, with young kids in cities practically being consigned to enjoy their leisure time inside their homes.

Advocating for the need for a wider integration of gaming in everyday life, whether in class or at work, Reid sought to dispel the notion that gaming is the prerogative of the Gen-Zs. Rather, the average age of gamers is 34 years and although 21% are under 18s, perhaps surprisingly, over 65s feature in double digits.

In recent years, experts have developed a number of compelling reasons for integrating games into the educative process. Primarily, for students, games are fun and engaging, thereby motivating them and holding their attention for a longer time. Secondly, kids would be actively participating rather than passively absorbing streams of information. Thirdly, they allow for the personalisation of the learning process, reflecting the needs of individual students, and strongly supporting an element of inclusivity and integration. Finally, games encourage collaboration and socialization among students, as many games require teamwork and communication.

Thus, educators can work on students’ social and emotional skills, such as cooperation and problem-solving. As philosopher Bernard Suits wrote back in 1978, playing a game is the voluntary attempt to overcome unnecessary obstacles.

Throughout the event, participants were taken through various games, ranging from League of Legends to Minecraft, Tombraider and Super Mario Bros, that allow students to enjoy a meaningful experience, through lessons which take place virtually anywhere, from farms to museums, from long-lost castles to World War settings.

Tammie Schrader, an expert on games in education echoed Reid’s sentiments, suggesting that games provide educators with a medium to connect with every child. “Learning through play is a natural way that allows the development of all species, including human beings”, she argued, adding that games tend to push us into becoming better versions of ourselves by establishing new objectives and targets.

“Games enhance the creativity of teachers and allows them to do what they do best,” she added.

Transform-ED, organised as part of the European Commission’s #EuropeanYearofSkills, is an initiative to facilitate collaboration and knowledge-sharing between educators, industry experts, thought leaders, and trainers on the future of education in Europe.

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