Friday, June 21, 2013

How Games Develop Creativity

By Sean Scarpiello

With the rise of technology in the past few decades, it is hard to look back and imagine a life without computers. While we use computers and technology a lot in the workplace, technology has also found its way into entertainment and leisure time - especially in the lives of young children. The majority of children have some form of video game console, whether that is a Wii, Xbox, PlayStation, Nintendo DS, or others. And while many adults complain that video games are ruining our children’s social lives and physical fitness-which it may- there are some benefits that children can derive from certain video games.

While not all video games are beneficial to a child’s learning, there are a few that help develop a student’s creativity. Of course, a lot of the racing and battle-based games would not work well at developing minds, but a few genres of video games extensively develop creative ideas. One type of game that I grew up with were tycoon games. By playing games such as Roller Coaster Tycoon, Zoo Tycoon, and others, students can learn about many different subjects that hold true in real life. For example, in the game Roller Coaster Tycoon, the player starts with a blank map and a budget. With this budget, the player must create and maintain their own amusement park. To do this, the player will learn about business by seeing how money works and how influencing customers with advertising and changing prices can alter a business. Also, the player must create their own rollercoasters, which is harder than one might think. These games are based off of the laws of physics, so the player then begins to learn about G forces, the law of gravity, and other real world physics. Therefore, if a player creates a roller coaster with G forces that would harm the park visitors, the game informs them of this allowing the player to correct their mistakes. On top of learning about business and physics, players have fun by bring their own ideas to life. While all of this goes on, players look to make more and more creative parks. This creativity developed at a young age can pay off by encouraging new creative ideas in the workplace.

In addition to the tycoon-based games, there is a genre of games called sandbox games. These games also offer the player an open world where they can explore and create. As a child, many of us would play with LEGOs, K-NEX, or some other forms of building blocks. However, games like MineCraft and Blockscape, players can play with their own version of LEGOs or K-NEX, but do this on a computer with an unlimited amount of blocks. Players can do this in their own 3D world which is also designed around real world physics. In fact, the game MineCraft has its own wiring and circuit system which mimics the types of batteries, resistors, and capacitors that are being taught in college level physics and used in our daily lives every day. These sorts of online versions of LEGOs or K-NEX allow players to build everything from a farm or coal mine to a skyscraper or a rocket ship. These games also allow for multiple players to interact and build creative new things together.

In light of all of these ideas on video games, it would be interesting to implement these games outside of simple recreation. If teachers assigned homework based off of these games, students would be eager to learn and have fun doing it. For example, a business teacher could assign their students certain goals that their amusement park should reach. Also, an engineering teacher could tell each student to design their own bridge or tower. Later on, the student could bring in their assignment and share what they did to their classmates. This will also give students an incentive to create the coolest amusement park or build the most interesting bridge. On top of this, students are having fun while they learn many of the basic principles that govern our world today.

While many people scoff at the idea of video games, there are some types of video games that actually boost creativity by allowing students to bring their own ideas to life. While many of these games would not replace class time, they would make fun and creative homework assignments or class projects. By helping students cultivate their creativity using these low cost technologies, we could see a boost in the number of innovative ideas in fields like medicine, engineering, physics, art, and government when these students enter the work force.

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