How Gaming Makes Kids Smarter: Review & Thoughts

For those unaware: Generation Y (anyone born in the late 80s through the mid-90s) are digital natives [1].  Those of us who make up this demographic are the first generation to have technology rapidly amalgamated into our daily lives, education, and social interaction.  Due to the emergent impact of technology in our lives, we have also typed the most, gamed the most and thus set off an entirely different trend in how we and the succeeding generation, “Generation G” as they are being called, learn and interact [2].  As the emerging generation has placed so much stock in gaming as a central component of their lives, I believe that video games could be an excellent tool to teach social skills and rules in order to combat issues such as “cyberbullying”.

Video Games as an essential component in the learning process of today’s children is the core argument of “How Games Make Kids Smarter,”a Ted Talk discussion by Gabe Zichermann [1].   Zichermann argues that today’s children (Generation G) have been “rewired” when it comes to how they learn and process information.  Zichermann, who coined the phrase “gamification,” the process of using game thinking and game mechanics to engage audiences and solve problems, explains how the current generation of children, “Generation G”, are further  changing the culture, societal expectations, and trends through their main source of entertainment: video games.

Video games have evolved from a passive form of entertainment to a versatile medium incorporated into many aspects of life. Video games have transitioned from educational computer games to social media apps that reward users for performing basic tasks, such as going out and socializing.  Due to the prevalence and adoption of video games in our daily lives, some corporations use game mechanics to attract and interact with consumers [2], and educators have incorporated video games and video game systems into their classrooms to make their curriculum more engaging [2]. Throughout the discussion, Zichermann notes that what makes video games so engaging is that they are essentially a constant feedback loop, designed for pleasure and positive reinforcement.  The feedback loop, combined with the user being in a state of continuous learning, enables video games to become a training tool for the user.

After watching the Talk, I began to think about what Zichermann was implying about the current trends in video games.  As someone who has been an avid gamer since an early age, playing for both recreational and educational purposes, I have always been interested in both the evolution of video games and game mechanics and their increasing inclusion in our daily activities.

Zichermann states that due to the consumption of video games by the current generation, traditional teaching and positive reinforcement methods are becoming outdated. Video games are now becoming both a method of instructing children and a means of stimulating youngsters’ minds providing them with a continuous active pattern of learning [2].

As video games become increasingly integrated into our lives, I have considered how gaming can be used to help children who seek the paradigms and mechanics that video games offer. Video games can help teach children about the world around them, and perhaps aid in learning outside of the classroom.  If Zichermann argues that video games and “gamification” are the new means to teach children, then why not use video games for personal character development? Perhaps a “Visual Novel” game, that follows a “Choose your own adventure” paradigm, allowing users to flow through a story line and see the cause and effects of their relationships and treatment of others within the game.  Or an engaging role-playing adventure that focuses on the effects of team work and group collaboration.  Whatever the course chosen, the game could provide essential real life lessons in empathy through entertainment and the positive reinforcement game mechanics inherently provide.

Presently, I am considering focusing upon video game culture, the effects of cyberbullying, and the emergence of the “netizen” while in the Communication, Culture, and Technology graduate program at Georgetown.  While there have been public service announcements and a considerable amount of activism regarding cyberbullying, it is still an ongoing issue plaguing the internet and damaging children’s safety and self expression.

The very core of game thinking, per Zichermann, is that it takes a large negative loop and seeks to change it to create a positive experience that interacts and reinforces short and long term lessons with the users.  Due in part to society’s acceptance of video games and game thinking in our society, I believe that using video games to fight the epidemic of cyberbullying could be an effective method of abating the problem.


Works Cited:

[1]   Zichermann, Gabe, and . “Gamification Corp.” Getting Started with Gamification., n.d. Web. 8 Oct 2013. < Paper_Enterprise Gamification_The_Gen_Y_Factor_20

[2]  Zichermann, Gabe, perf. How games make kids smarter. TEDx, 2011. Web. 8 Oct 2013.  <>.

[3] Eytan, Ted. Art of Video Games Exhibit 15099. 2012. Graphic., Washington, DC. Web. 14 Oct 2013. <>.

  • Mrs. Homeschool

    I’ve always found that a combination of theory and other practical activities bring about a more wholesome education. I mean, not just sitting in class and listening to lectures, but also actively participating in group activities, playing video games etc.
    My son recently joined public school again after being homeschooled for years and the teachers have commented about how he is smarter. I attribute it to him playing educational games online (I help him review which games, aiming for more educational ones. I have been using filtering by subject). Thank you for this article. I’ve now added a new word to my vocab – GAMIFICATION!

  • Pingback: Gamified Learning: Engaging Students and Solving Problems()