Video games are quickly becoming the most popular form of entertainment around and it’s easy to see why. In addition to their entertainment value and surprising health benefits, video games can also be used as a deep artistic expression or to discuss sensitive, often taboo topics. And, of course, the rise of eSports is changing the way we look at athletic competitions and proving that you can indeed pursue a professional career in this medium, and maybe even become successful if you’re good enough. But what about education? Well, as it happens, we are starting to see some examples of video games also being successfully used as educational tools. A great recent example of this is Odyssey, a scientific puzzle adventure game developed by The Young Socratics.
Odyssey is a very interesting indie project that aims to teach gamers of all ages about a variety of scientific disciples, such as physics, astronomy, and classical mechanics. Instead of simply filling your head with complicated theories and formulas, however, the game takes you on an adventure filled with puzzles to solve and mysteries to uncover. Along the way, players learn about the scientific method and are required to put into practice one of its most important aspects (testing) in order to solve a variety of puzzles and progress through the story. Your main tool in Odyssey is a young girl’s journal and that is all you’ll need because the knowledge contained within will help you replicate various experiments and eventually complete all of the game’s many puzzles.
Just recently, Odyssey was introduced as a learning tool at a school in California where middle school students got to play the game as part of a science assessment. After learning some basic notions about the relevant topics through regular means, the students were asked to put their puzzle-solving skills to the test by playing the game. According to both The Young Socratics and the school’s teachers, this assessment yielded some encouraging results as it showed that the young students were indeed learning about science simply by playing Odyssey. That said, they also agree that this was just the first step and that further funding and tests are needed in order to truly evaluate the game’s effectiveness as a learning tool.
“The initial results are promising, but truly evaluating effectiveness requires funding,” said The Young Socratics co-founder Omkar Deshpande. “One would have to create two groups – one to play Odyssey, and the other to be taught using a regular classroom teaching model, with students randomly assigned to each group. If the first group showed better learning than the second, that would show the game-based learning was effective.”
Deshpande also added that “Early signs are good – but we need funding, we need controlled studies, and we need to look very carefully at whether this could be a hugely significant way of improving kids’ educations.”
As for the students, they were unsurprisingly very excited about the idea of playing video games at school and seemed to have enjoyed their time with Odyssey. “What I liked the most about game-based learning unit was that I got to learn more about astronomy without having to take so many notes,” said one of the seventh graders. Another 13-year old found that “game-based learning is valuable and interesting… I think that we should continue using game-based learning as it adds a lot more challenge and fun into the unit.”
Odyssey is scheduled to hit Steam Early Access on February 23rd, with the game’s full version expected to launch later this year. If you want to learn more about Odyssey check out our hands-on preview right here.
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