Part Of The Game


Abode2 talks to Eva Rez, Investment Manager at Edge Investments, to discuss the future of gaming and edtech

Gaming has long stood at odds with education. Parents and educators alike have often associated immersive video games with encouraging violence and viewed them as a drain of young people’s time and concentration. A paper published by four leading economists in 2016 served to reinforce this view, linking the popularity of video games with a decline in younger individuals entering the workforce.

The gaming industry is no stranger to the value of education within games, however, as illustrated by resources such as Assassin’s Creed: Origins Discovery Tour. And during lockdown, when remote schooling was at its height, educators identified the benefits of “gamifying” learning, and the significant role that technology can play in both engaging students and increasing motivation. Despite these correlations, though, there are still challenges when it comes to bridging the gap between gaming and education.

The results of a recent survey, carried out during the pandemic, reveal that over a third (36%) of teachers in the UK and almost half (46%) in the US struggled to properly engage children through online resources. Interestingly, gaming was specifically mentioned as an area that both teachers and parents see as a force for good for holding pupils’ attention, broadening their imagination, and helping with vital motor skills.

The younger generation, historically, has always been ahead of the curve when it comes to technology. In fact, three-quarters of six- to 10-year-olds already play video games. So, it’s fair to argue that, with the rise of remote working and leaps in technology, now is the time for gaming to help improve education, rather than viewing it as a hindrance.

This belief that gaming can play a vital role in education is something that shouldn’t be overlooked by games creators.

Interactive games, for example, in which players are able to influence the storyline or outcome, are proven to be more engaging. And this engagement can be taken to another level through the addition of innovative augmented or virtual reality (AR/VR) technology as found in Polyarc Games’ Moss adventures and Playdeo’s Avo and Mystery Coast “playable TV shows”, or through collaboration with friends or family, as in Caribu and Jackpot Games’ shared online experiences.

Indeed, this socialising element is crucial for the youngest generations, many of whom have spent a large part of their school career at home due to COVID restrictions. With access to a wealth of multi-player games, online tournament platforms can encourage greater socialisation, enhancing engagement with the element of competition enabled by leaderboards and online communities. Such is the popularity of multi-player gaming, a clutch of startups has emerged that specialise in coaching e-sport players, for whom physical and mental wellbeing is crucial.

But the potential for gaming in education isn’t limited just to video games. The advent of 5G means we’re likely to see more widespread educational elements in mobile games. There’s a growing trend, too, for a combination of online and physical experiences, such as those found in a number of increasingly popular escape rooms.

Ultimately, whether online or on mobile, multi or single-player, any game that can embed learning through play and reflect the content of the curriculum will only serve to ease the burden of teachers in ensuring pupils remained engaged and motivated.

As parents and teachers continue to recognise the benefits of gaming to children’s education, we can expect the educational tools of the future to contain elements of everything mentioned above. They’ll be more mobile – half of children own a mobile phone by the age of 10, and nearly all children do so by 13 – more inclusive of minorities, and more short-form, to account for a generally shortening attention span.

Socialising will be a big element of online experiences as well. After all, as the pandemic proved, it’s important for teachers to be able to facilitate teamwork, even remotely.

Interactivity is already a key component of learning and will only become more important to engage future generations for whom digital devices are often their main source of content and information. Many complain about the negative impact phones and tablets can have on children’s imaginations and cognitive skills, but the fact is they’re here to stay.

Why not, then, use them to provide immersive educational experiences such as allowing children to learn about historical sites, and explore them virtually if they don’t have the means to visit them physically? Similarly, any tools that can help people to master real-life skills without the need for face-to-face tuition are likely to be at the forefront as the worlds of gaming and edtech continue to converge.

In terms of delivery, the growing adoption of cloud gaming (or the hybrid of cloud and edge) will effectively democratise gaming, making these educational experiences far more accessible to far more people, and at a much lower cost. As with any digital developments, however, security remains a challenge that will need to be addressed. Protecting a user’s online identity and IP is paramount – especially when those users are children.

Importantly, gaming for educational purposes isn’t only for children. Training companies often use gamification techniques to teach and reinforce skills in adult learners, by enhancing engagement, motivation, and opportunities for teamwork. According to the World Economic Forum, one billion people will need reskilling by 2030.

The UK Government has also recently announced that it will invest £8 million to help support entrepreneurial, start-up video game developers from across the UK to create new games. Not only has the gaming industry become a resource for education and training, but it is also creating jobs for the next generation. With the ever-increasing demand for AR and VR technology, professional esports players and game creators are crucial for both training platforms and building the metaverse.

There will always be doubters, of course, but there is plenty of evidence available which supports the effect that games can have on cognitive development, such as enhancing short-term memory, spatial awareness, and reaction time.

Minecraft, for instance, helps children with key mathematical concepts such as developing complex shapes and tackling geometric problems, all of which form part of the curriculum. And, as the results of the aforementioned survey show, there’s growing recognition among the people responsible for educating our children that gaming can play an important role in their education.

The pandemic showed us the value of technology in teaching. The challenge now is ensuring students remain engaged. Employed sensibly – a lesson comprising a mass Fortnite brawl may be fun, but probably won’t be hugely educational – games are a valid and increasingly important educational tool. As perceptions change, and as educational technology develops, there’s a real opportunity for games – and gaming companies – to establish their place in the classroom.

At Edge, we are excited to see emerging businesses in the gaming space and we welcome any initiative supporting their rise. While the pandemic showed the entertainment & socialising value of video games (UK games market reached £7bn in 2020, although this was down in 2021 YoY, but long term trend is upwards), we also see the educational potential in the industry.

We envision that many from the next generations will have some relations to games – either by actively/passively consuming gaming content, by interacting with others in a digital environment, or by finding employment/occupation in the gaming industry.

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