How video games are teaching the world to speak English

Gaming as a curriculum goal

In the new curriculum, in high school English in Norway, gaming is introduced as a brand-new entry. I am sure it will please a lot of our younger teachers, and could for some seem like quite a challenge. Teachers my age for instance.  But not to worry. In my opinion, this is a very manageable and interesting goal.

Discuss and reflect on the form, content and instruments of English-language cultural expressions from various media, including music, film and games

Lesson plan

  1. Before playing the game, read the information below
  2. When starting the game, take notes on the purpose of the game.
  3. Write your analysis of the game using the goal above. Remember the use of verbs here; discuss and reflect. And what you are supposed to discuss and reflect on; form, content, and instruments.

Other ways of learning English is nothing new. Young people learn English throughout the day. At least they do in Norway. We have Netflix, Spotify, news online and gaming, to mention some. And no dubbing of movies or tv shows.

Video games are not always associated with learning. But increasingly, players are finding that along with their high scores and world-building, they are acquiring new language skills.

The pandemic has seen the gaming community grow. The percentage of players who call themselves “serious gamers” increased from 63% to 82% during the pandemic, according to a study by strategy and marketing firm Simon-Kucher & Partners. The group also found that people are gravitating toward more interactive, time-consuming games, with 60% reportedly opting for more multiplayer games during the spring lockdowns. Source; The Christian Science Monitor. 

Many parents might be worried that their children spend too much time gaming and that it takes time from learning. But in fact, that might not be true.

It’s important to remember though, that not all the research into children playing video games paints a bleak picture. In fact, there is a growing body of research that suggests such worries might be unfounded and that gaming could be an incredibly useful educational tool which might actually make children more sociable, not less.

Indeed, James Paul Gee, a leading researcher in the area of video games as language learning tools, suggests that role-playing games such as The Elder Scrolls series or World of Warcraft, offer an ideal learning space for what he calls “at-risk” learners. In theory, there is just enough challenge, just enough support, just enough room for players to be themselves and, possibly most important, students have just enough “ownership” of the learning process. Source: The Conversation. 

The game of the day

Today we will be playing the game Plague Inc. It is a game that is recommended in my new book by the experts Aleksander Husøy and Tobias Staaby.

In Plague Inc., you control a pathogen – a virus, a bacterium, or other nasty things –
whose sole purpose is to wipe out the world’s population. While the player has little
or no control over where the disease will spread, they have great control over the disease’s symptoms and how it infects its victims. The player can also choose the country
in which the disease first starts infecting humans. If you want a challenge, choose a
well-developed country with solid health services and good infrastructure; for a significantly easier start, you should choose a poor, highly populated developing country.
The game is available for both mobile, PC, and tablets. Source; The Digital Classroom, transforming the way we learn. 

At our school, we bought 10 PC’s for gaming to be used with our students last year. Most games can be played in groups of 2 or 3. This time last year we introduced this to our teachers, who choose to play Plague inc or Keep talking and nobody explodes. It is eerie to think that we were playing this game unaware of what was going on in China at that exact moment.

The game Plague Inc., which lets you simulate a global pandemic, has been exploding in popularity ever since the coronavirus outbreak in China made headlines. However, Ndemic Creations said the game’s sudden spike in popularity was nothing new. “Plague Inc. has been out for eight years now and whenever there is an outbreak of disease we see an increase in players, as people seek to find out more about how diseases spread and to understand the complexities of viral outbreaks,” the developer said.


I would love to hear from you