Gaming 101: University Professor Wants Video Games Added To Schools

Dennis Faas's picture

Math, Science, English, and Philosophy: those are the types of courses university students expect to be confronted with.

Will video games soon be added to that list?

Yes, video games.

David Williamson Shaffer, an education science professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is pushing to have gaming adding to the curriculum. If he succeeds, students could eventually have chemistry and video games on the same class schedule.

It's not as farfetched as it sounds. After all, video games *do* have their practical uses:

  • The U.S. military uses games to train its soldiers.
  • Teenage cancer patients use games to fight their illness.
  • Surgeons practice with games to keep their hands swift for operations.

Schaffer believes that schools should use games to prepare kids for the increasing technological demands of the working world.

"People think that the way we teach kids in schools is the natural way we should learn," stated Shaffer. "But young people in the United States today are being prepared for standardized jobs in a world that will, very soon, punish those who can't innovate. We simply can't 'skill and drill' our way to innovation."

But Shaffer has put his money where his mouth is -- by starting his own video game company: Epistemic Games. He and a group of designers have developed games to prepare students for careers in a variety of professions. (Source:

According to official website, "Epistemic games are computer games that can help students learn to think like engineers, urban planners, journalists, lawyers, and other innovative professionals, giving them the tools they need to survive in a changing world.

When students play epistemic games, they participate in simulations of a society that they might someday inhabit. These games help them to develop ways of thinking and knowing that are valued in the world, giving them a way to imagine who they might someday become."

The Epistemic Games site has a list of the games Shaffer and his crew have worked on, along with descriptions of them. Here they are (quoted directly from the company's homepage):

Digital Zoo

In Digital Zoo, players become biomechanical engineers. Using Sodaconstructor, a sophisticated physics simulation, they design wire-frame character prototypes for an upcoming animated film. Players meet with clients and engineering experts, and present their work, developing real-world skills while learning concepts in science and engineering.

Urban Science

In Urban Science, players engage in the professional practices of urban planning and learn how to become ecological thinkers in the process. They work together to tackle the urban issues that face their city, using iPlan, a Geographic Information System (GIS) tool that helps them develop a comprehensive plan for their community.

In, players become reporters working for an online newsmagazine. Working with professional journalists and interviewing community leaders, these young reporters learn about how journalists think about news and its important relationship to the community.

In, our latest and best-developed game, players become science reporters. Working with professional journalists and interviewing local scientists, these young reporters learn about how journalists think about scientific issues and their important relationship to the community.

The Pandora Project

In The Pandora Project, players become high-powered negotiators, deciding the fate of a real medical controversy: the ethics of transplanting organs from animals into humans. Along the way, they learn about biology, international relations, and mediation.

Escher's World

In Escher's World, players become graphic artists and create an exhibit of mathematical art in the style of M.C. Escher. Based on an architectural design studio, the game helps players learn to think like designers about geometry and graphic art. (Source:

Rate this article: 
No votes yet