Learn while playing: Five factors that speed up learning
Surely you have heard that games speed up learning and improve retention capacity, right?. If you are an analytical person then perhaps you do not give credence to that, and maybe you want to know specifically why people say that about games.
If you have ever played games as a way to learn and been surprised at how quickly someone learned something by playing, then you will already know the truth of it. But in case it is not clear why this happens, the factors which make games the perfect way to learn are described below.
Why is it that when something interests us, that we can learn all the facts, dates, methodology, etc. without any effort, and we remember it weeks, months, or even years after having learned it? And why it is that other things are simply forgotten just fifteen minutes after hearing them? The answer lies in the fact that, although your brain is a powerful computer, it must save resources, and to do that it filters the things that are important to us from those that aren’t, thus devoting itself to the things that require attention. In this way, the brain quickly throws out those things which seem boring to you.
The pleasure of the game makes your brain consider the activity “important”, and therefore it focuses more attention upon the activity, which is the principle factor for learning.
Your brain requires feedback in order to be able to categorize an action as correct or incorrect. If you have ever practiced a sport then you know what I am talking about— the first time the ball is kicked, it will fall short or go in the wrong direction. And the second time it will go too high and miss the target. Little by little, through practice, you manage to determine the precise force and direction to use to kick the ball to score a goal. That is exactly what the brain needs— it requires failed attempts so that it can figure out how to make corrections. If the brain does not have immediate feedback then it will not be able to recalibrate its efforts, and learning does not occur.
Instant feedback is an intrinsic part of game playing— there are moves that draw you closer to victory, and others that pull you away. So the player has to learn which moves help you to win and which ones help you avoid losing.
Practice with a purpose
As you know, practice makes perfect, but not just any kind of practice. It is through practice with a purpose (where you correct unsatisfactory actions until they are finally satisfactory) that you will become a true expert.
Games make the player repeat and repeat—making mistakes and correcting them—in order to win, and they do it in an engaging way that makes the challenge enjoyable.
An important part of the learning process is recognising correct actions and effort with some kind of reward. When you do something and you get recognition for it, you feel good, and you will try to repeat that very same thing.
Games present rewards all the time, and in ways that simultaneously steer you toward correct actions as well as motivate you to play more, and therefore learn more.
Another critical factor for learning is the environment in which learning takes place. In the wrong environment learning will not occur, but in a proper environment it will happen at a brisk pace, naturally.
The best environment for learning is one that demands you to frequently use your skill and knowledge and, moreover, is one that provides a sense of purpose. That is why people learn a foreign language better when living in a country where it is spoken.
Games create the perfect environment for learning— they require that you utilize your skills frequently, and also provide you with a sense of purpose when playing them. So go play, and win!.
Games are, without question, the best vehicle for learning. They create the conditions where you need to use what you have learned. They provide you with constant feedback. They show you your progress. They keep you motivated to play. Plus, they are fun and could even become an addiction!
Once you learn how to learn by playing games, you realize there is no better way to learn, nor is there a better way to sharpen your knowledge and skills.
If you had reason to doubt that games could speed up and improve your ability to learn, they should now be dispelled after having read this article. Even if you consider yourself an “old dog who can’t learn new tricks”, I assure you that after trying to learn by playing games, besides having a good time, you will have learned a new skill.