5 Reasons Why Learners Should Play Video Games

02 Sep 2020

Marianne Pickles, Assessment Development Team Lead for Cambridge Assessment English, explores the potential benefits of video games for English language learners.

5 Reasons Why Learners Should Play Video Games

1) Video games build transferable life skills

It is a common refrain that video games are ‘a waste of time’ and that we don’t learn anything from them which transfers beneficially into the other parts of our lives. The reality is that video games can help us to develop the skills of collaboration, communication, problem solving, and strategic thinking as well as perseverance and curiosity, all of which can be extremely valuable life skills.

2) Communities grow around video games

There is a common misconception that video games are isolating and anti-social. While it is certainly possible to play video games, read books, or watch TV in an isolated or anti-social way, it is also true that rich communities of interest exist around video games. Some games are multiplayer and require in- game teamwork, but even single player games can involve social elements, with online discussion groups as well as live events.

3) Emotional investment

Video games often feature a story and compelling characters. Sometimes the player can change the appearance of the main character to personalize their experience. In other games, the player may be able to make decisions about how the main character acts. The emotional investment that these features create help to make the game experience more memorable. We know from the classroom that personalized activities, which are more relevant to the learner, are more memorable and more effective.

4) Freedom to fail

Teachers who follow the communicative approach to language learning understand that errors are learning opportunities and are a natural part of the process of learning a second language. Video games are designed to allow players to learn how to complete different actions through trial and error. They provide a safe space in which to learn and practice, which is something all language learners would benefit from.

5) Meaningful, contextualized language practice

Video games provide extremely rich resource for language learners. Every task the player completes is contextualized within the story, and there is a clear purpose for the language to be used. This is the heart of communicative approach that we believe is the most crucial for all language learners: the need to focus on meaning and context.


Note: Not all of the features listed will apply to all video games and some judgement will be required in
selecting video games that provide the desired benefits.