UK academics from Brunel University have announced the completion of a three-year study into online gaming communities, which they claim "defies the traditional educationalists' negative perception of gaming."
In particular, Nic Crowe and Dr Simon Bradford and the School of Sport and Education, Brunel University believe that computer games have a central role to play in the education and development of young people, contributing to the UK Government Qualifications and Curriculum Authority's strategy of work related learning, which helps children make an effective transition from school to work.
The study, which forms a chapter of a book, "Youth Cultures: Scenes, Subcultures and Tribes" to be published by Routledge, took the form of qualitative research into a community of players of the online game Runescape
, and shows many aspects of gaming already familiar to video game professionals.
The survey's authors point out that online worlds created by the gamers mirror many aspects of material society, such as the clan concept - highly disciplined co-operatives in which gamers share a common set of goals. According to the researchers, skills are learned which are highly valued, with experienced players tailoring their 'training' to acquire the 'desirable' skills - a clear example of 'work related learning'.
Nic Crowe from the Centre for Youth Work Studies in the School of Sport and Education at West London's Brunel University comments: "A recent survey showed that most young people spend as much time on computer games as they do on their homework - three hours a day. This is the kind of information to strike fear into the hearts of concerned parents and educationalists alike, as they perceive it as idle 'downtime'. However, this is far too simplistic a view. Our study shows that the online gaming communities are complex and highly developed, acting as 'training grounds' for the transition from school to work."
He continued: "When playing, gamers are undergoing a complex process of 'work related learning' - learning how to cope with work scenarios - which is far removed from the traditionally held negative view of gaming. Put simply, these games have a central - and positive - role to play in the development and education of young people."