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Using Digital Games to Teach Collaboration

For students or employees – for anyone who interacts with others on a regular basis, really – collaboration is a fundamental skill. It’s also one of the 4 Cs of 21st-century learning. Problem-solving, troubleshooting, and reaching goals can become even easier when one knows how to work well with others. Research (and more research!) has shown that video games can help those from all walks of life gain and refine the kinds of collaborative skills they need for success in the real world!

via Giphy

Why Use Games to Teach Collaboration?

How can co-op gaming work to fill pedagogical gaps? Multiple studies have shown that collaborative learning can build a variety of professional and interpersonal skills — critical thinking, communication, leadership, accountability, and positive interdependence, to name a few. Co-op game collaborative learning can work to help foster these skills as well as help students increase their grades and their sense of social belonging. A 2018 study found that multiplayer video games boosted the “social and motivational inclusion of at-risk students.” In comparison to traditional group-learning methods, video games can increase interest and morale, and therefore, academic and social participation. That’s a win-win situation!

Considerations for Collaborative Gaming in the Classroom

However, not every co-op game may be of use in the classroom, and there are important environmental and design considerations to take into account before using multiplayer games as a learning tool for students. In an article for ACMI, Dr. Matthew Harrison, lecturer in Learning Intervention at the Melbourne Graduate School of Education, postulates that there are “ideal conditions for collaborative learning” that can be reached while introducing video games in the classroom – this involves both game design and all the people in the room. Dr. Harrison notes a couple of different ways to reach these ideal conditions. 

Firstly, he asserts that feedback must be given frequently both in the game and from a student’s peers and teacher. This way, players can more easily track their progress and figure out their individual roles within the team. Dr. Harrison also proposes that game design is critical in helping students recognize their roles within a team. If a game is designed without collaboration in mind, one student could, at best, take on a leadership role, or at worst, dominate the game and leave no roles for other students to fill. As an example, he states that side-scrolling games that limit scrolling until all the players are moving together are ideal for collaborative learning, as they mandate that all players contribute to the tasks at hand. Lastly, Dr. Harrison asserts that teachers should always be available to answer questions and help students with the mechanics of gameplay, the goals within the game, and the learning objectives targeted through the game.

Though it takes some more coordination than simply telling students to pick up a controller and work together, when implemented thoughtfully, multiplayer games and learning can be the perfect match.

Games That Teach Collaboration and Academic Subjects – All In One!

Educators or anyone else on the lookout for an educational multiplayer game to use in a classroom or just with friends– look no further! The following games teach both collaborative skills and academic subjects at the same time.

Annenberg Classroom’s That’s Your Right is a single and multiplayer game that teaches players all about the Bill of Rights. This easily accessible card game is free to play on a web browser, along with free lesson plans and other resources for educators. This game provides a collaborative space for students to solve problems together and work towards shared goals – fostering key collaborative skills which are directly transferable to other aspects of one’s career and life.

Rainbow Agents is a cooperative programming game available in both the New York Hall of Science in Queens, NY, and the Lawrence Hall of Science in Berkeley, CA. Each player controls an AI character, tending to a community garden through planting and watering plants. Created with inclusive game design principles in mind, this in-museum co-op game encourages students to create a lush and biodiverse garden, powered by teamwork! 

Games and Teambuilding in the Office

Games and collaboration can combine to make teamwork work beyond the classroom, too! Along with the potential to boost morale and grow stronger connections between co-workers, one study found that newly-formed small groups of adults who played video games together for 45 minutes were 20 percent more productive than another group that was assigned traditional team-building activities. The researchers noted that their results indicated that games may be the most optimal and effective way to team-build in the workplace. They also found that even the participants that were new to gaming benefitted from playing video games with their groups.

Playing video games in a work setting is an opportunity for employees to have fun and accomplish goals together in a low-stakes environment. Co-op games (and augmented reality games, too, among others!) present an unconventional and refreshed opportunity to connect and improve work performance. A team that plays well together, works well together!

No matter who you are or what you do, teamwork really does make the dream work – and gaming can put you on a fast track towards that dream! Dreaming of creating a custom educational game or app? Let’s talk!

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