We live in an age unlike others, when more people outside of China have at least heard of concepts like qi.

But it is not a result of greater religious or cultural education. It is a result of Words With Friends.

Qi is a concept that one really ought to have heard about anyway. It is an important concept in Chinese medicine. It is analogous to the concept of the Force in the Star Wars universe.

But it took the combination of the high value of the letter “Q” in Words With Friends, and the popularity of that game, to make people aware of the word. And I suspect that at least a few players have taken the time to look the word up, if only in the game’s sidebar.

I had lunch with a couple of colleagues recently, to talk about our common interest in the intersection of gaming and education. The case I discuss here seems to me a perfect example of the potential for games to teach us even when the game is not designed to be educational per se. Perhaps a key is that the game challenges us to make words, and so depends on our education, and so as one plays against an opponent with a broader vocabulary, one’s one’s vocabulary is broadened in the process.

And so we have just crowdsourced the teaching of vocabulary, and also have a large number of people engaged in learning, who would never have signed up to either teach or learn if it had been couched in those terms.

What other examples can you think of that illustrate the potential of games to educate as a by-product, or better, precisely because the game is thought of as fun rather than “learning” and yet incorporates some element that is nonetheless directly related to education?

Let me conclude this post with a funny image that Marc Cortez shared a while back…



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