Adam House, host of TEFLCast, breaks down the fundamentals of online gaming within virtual worlds, and we uncover some striking parallels with the basic tenets of teaching and learning.
According to the ‘End of the Year’ update from Bungie, the producer of online game Destiny, 13 million had people played Destiny, creating 22 million avatars, and spending 872 million hours battling aliens. What incredible statistics!
Benefits of Online Gaming
– improved hand-eye coordination
– problem-solving skills
– learning from trial and error
– teaches math/art (appreciation of graphics and colour)
– team work (communication and coordination with other online gamers)
Benefits for Language Learning
The presentation of (the) foreign language and the way learners engage with it is also crucial for success (Milton, 2006). Adam shares a story that reflects this idea – a time he taught high-school students here in China, who loved online games. Being a passion shared by both teacher and students alike, meant that the increased motivation of both parties to communicate about their hobby, pushed the students to find new ways to express themselves in English. In this example, the social appeal of online games and its place in popular culture, then, translated into the students acquiring additional vocabulary and terms, they may not ordinarily have done, had they been studying a topic they were less interested in.
Milton (2006) reminds us that interaction, such a vital part of online gaming, is of particular benefit to language learning. The completion of a game, or one level of a game, when text-based or oral communiction is used, can be considered as tasked-based language learning. When authentic language and meaningful tasks are successfully combined, where comprehensible input is provided and negotiaton of meaning occurs, then improved fluency and confidence are pleasing outcomes for the language learner.
Adam reveals that his avatar, an online representation of himself, looks very much like him. And apparently, most online games provide a lot of choice in terms of customising your avatar, right down to the “shape and how well-plucked your eyebrows are”. Milton (2006) extends the value of avatars for interaction and language learning, whereby wanting to change the clothes on your avatar, you may have to negotiate with another avatar. Similarly, it is thought that working through avatars reduces communicative inhibition and encourages risk-taking in language use (Peterson, 2010).
Milton, J. (2013). Second Language Acquisition via Second Life. In Chapelle C.A. (Ed) The Encyclopedia of Applied Linguistics. Blackwell Publishing Ltd.
Peterson, M. (2010). Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games (MMORPGs), as arenas for second language learning, Computer Assisted Language Learning, 23(5), 429-39