Gaming is a major passion of mine, it is something that has been a part of me since my earlier years playing Super Mario Bros. and Final Fantasy on the NES, all the way to now where I play games across 3 major consoles, and their portable derivatives. I also have two other passions, and that is Culture, and Language, specifically Japan and Japanese, though I have an interest in other cultures and languages.
With that cultural and linguistic passion comes a desire for the education in both to improve, and while I feel that education through gaming has got a bit of a raw deal in earlier years. I feel that there is room to make it something that is not only effective, but fun to do, thus propagating the desire for more ways to educate through this digital media we love.
Edutainment, some would call it a four letter word (and I would happen to agree with that thought) and led to educational games garnering a bit of a stigma. This could be due to the fact that usually the games that fall under the title of 'educational' most were either educational to the detriment of the gameplay, or used as a means for them to make more money to the detriment of educational value and gameplay. One could say that due to the majority of the educational games being built towards a younger audience,(usually pre-kindergarten to about 3rd to 5th grade) that the mechanics of the game and the complexity of the educational tools of the game is not as important. However, I feel that to limit educational gaming to such an early time of learning, and not making sure that both the education, and gameplay is on par with one another is creating a somewhat self-fulfilling prophecy with the lack of faith and popularity of educational games.
Educational gaming as a genre, has its share of issues, but feels as though if it was just tweaked slightly it could be something that people look forward to playing again. One example would be to broaden the horizons of things to educate gamers with, such as learning a language, learning a skill, or teaching more complicated versions of those games made for younger children as they age or to create interest in older people. A good example of a game that is good at teaching and in a non-traditional subject is "Rocksmith" a game by Ubisoft. The game seems to be a good training tool in how to play the guitar or bass. It feels as though the education tools were not sacrificed in order to create better gameplay. While the gameplay itself seems competent enough to where you are not feeling as though you couldn't just simply lower the difficulty and play it as a game if you so desired. There is also a feeling that the game respects your intelligence and time, while giving you that incremental sense of learning progression that you want to continue of your own volition.
These thoughts are of course geared towards games that wish for their educational value to be on the forefront of the game. There is of course ways for education to be in the background of the overarching game and gameplay while still striking that balance of fun and learning. I believe that there are many things that becomes more approachable to those who are not already interested in the topic, when it is noticeable enough. They do not feel as though they are bludgeoned to death with the topic and are allowed to learn about it as they enjoy their game. Please share your ideas and thoughts and ideas below, on how we could make educational games, fun while still being able to teach the people who play them.