While most of the media attention given to video games focuses on those geared towards the entertainment industry, a less covered topic is the role of serious games. Also known as “educational” games, serious games are designed with the intent to teach the player a particular skill or topic. These games have gradually been working their way into our educational environments. Children are often taught to type, perform simple math, and correctly spell through a variety of games that have been widely adopted by teachers. However, teaching multiplication is one thing; teaching college-level advanced mathematics is another beast altogether. Can video games actually be used as an educational tool in higher education?
This is a difficult question for a variety of reasons. A major issue to consider is whether the students who play this game are actually learning the material, or simply improving at the game itself. If the game is not designed correctly, one could potentially learn to exploit game mechanics without applying knowledge of the material. While this person’s efficiency at completing the game quickly would suggest mastery of the topic, they may not actually be prepared to take a test on the subject. As such, it is important to thoroughly study the effectiveness of serious games before they are deployed to actual classrooms. This study will do just that with the game Vector Unknown, which was designed to help college students learn linear algebra.