Gove: Games offer "huge potential for maths and science teaching"

British secretary for education expresses support for games in speech at the Royal Society

The British secretary for education Michael Gove spoke in praise of video games as a tool for learning at the Royal Society last week.

In a comprehensive speech on the future of education, Gove highlighted games developed by the noted mathetmetician Marcus Du Sautoy as an example of the medium's potential.

"When children need to solve equations in order to get more ammo to shoot the aliens, it is amazing how quickly they can learn," he said.

"I am sure that this field of educational games has huge potential for maths and science teaching and I know that Marcus himself has been thinking about how he might be able to create games to introduce advanced concepts, such as non-Euclidean geometry, to children at a much earlier stage than normal in schools."

When children need to solve equations in order to get more ammo to shoot the aliens, it is amazing how quickly they can learn

Michael Gove, MP

Interactive experiences as a tool for learning is hardly a new concept, but Gove has rarely shown his support for the idea in the past. His failure to attend the Learning Without Frontiers conference in January was widely seen as representative of his thoughts on the matter.

Eidos life president Ian Livingstone expressed his surprise at Gove's comments via Twitter, saying, "Michael Gove in favour of technology AND computer games in the classroom as a learning tool for maths! WOW. Art next?"

Livingstone was involved in a review of education for game developers in Britain earlier this year, which criticised the government's "worrying lack of awareness" of the industry and its needs.

Gove's comments arrive in the wake of a special parliamentary debate on government support for the UK games industry.

The debate was led by Jim McGovern, MP for Dundee West, who emphasised the threat posed by increasing international competition, and spoke in favour of tax breaks for the UK industry.

"I was delighted to have secured this debate in parliament. This has been a long running campaign, and one that deserves to be taken seriously by this Government," McGovern said.

"They must introduce specific solutions to the specific problems faced by the computer games industry as a matter of priority."

"I received a great deal of cross party support in this debate. This is a campaign that will continue. The government persists in failing to see that we are being outwitted by our international competitors. I will go on pressing them to introduce the policies that the computer games industry needs in order to succeed for the benefit of Dundee and the wider UK economy."

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Latest comments (14)

For our combined interest, we just need to re emphasize and showcase 3-4 good examples of how games are

1/ Mainstream now
2/ Have international appeal
3/ Produce applied fringe benefits across various cross platform disciplines of technological, science & humanities skills
4/ Next Next-gen real world application of haptics, augmented reality, interactive media and 4D approach to problem solving
5/ Defense & Future Tech: homeland security, counter intelligence, surveillance, cross border control, future defence application (those old xbox/PS3 controllers have good effective drone, UAV and unmanned vehicular real-world application). For the new UK merged forces - PJHQ, this has additional real world impact. For QinetiQ - games and interactive media have the next gen skill already in place/effect
6/ Inspirational testbed for Future tech: Going beyond star trek, entertainment design and interactive media provide the fertile breeding ground of tomorrows future today. Crysis nano suit - its really possible. Cloaking suits - all being developed. Smart weapons & drones/unmannned vehicles - many prototypes exist. Future world AI and advanced robotic lifeforms - only a matter of time. With games, we imagine, determine and provide real inspiration for the physics & future of the impossible, because rather than plucking out ideas from thin air, these ideas are the hard work and combined research, development and distillation of countless fertile minds.

Creative Design scientists for the future.

We can sell all of these, we just need to let these governmental suits appreciate the endless possibilities that games provide as a medium. We are so gone past the persona of violent games only.
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Antony Cain Lecturer, Teesside University10 years ago
Beyond playing educational games, get kids making them! I learnt more about trigonometry making an asteroids game in my bedroom than I ever did at highschool. The same applies to physics and, since typos are such a big no-no while making their little games, it'll indirectly help the students' literacy skills.
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Farhang Namdar Lead Game Designer Larian Studios 10 years ago
Try the games we make at Larian Studios, we've been making games that will ship with Math books of fourth and fifth graders and they love them. The games are called Monkey Tales and they did what the British Government is thinking a long time ago. No need to re-invent the wheel, there is also proper research backing these games up so if you feel like you can see them at

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Farhang Namdar on 4th July 2011 11:54am

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Show all comments (14)
Patrick Frost QA Project Monitor 10 years ago
I'll have to research the games he has mentioned specifically but I wonder if he has thought past the "kids can be forced to do sums to win" ethos on to deeper and more developed concepts. So far Gove has shown that he is quite the Dickensian dinosaur so this really seems to be an appeal to make him seem more forward thinking.
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Good to see support for this obviously good idea.

We made The Great Sperm Race game with channel 4 and still get emails from teachers who use it in class. The gameplay is directly related to the subject matter, you play as a sperm on the way to the egg, learn about the process and importantly it is fun. It was also an internet hit becoming one of the biggest draws to the c4 website for a while.

Im totally behind games for education on a number of levels, when done right it has a big impact, there is so much that can be done in this area.
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Hurple CEO, Zattikka Ltd.10 years ago
Suggest all you guys and Goves himself goes to www' who have been running global events based on games in education and a specific one called 'games based learning' for the past 5 years.
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Bev Bush Course leader B.A. (Hons) Games design, University of Central Lancashire10 years ago
At Uclan we encourage our Games Design students to create more diverse and innovative games which include those for education and business.
[link url=

We have students currently designing 6 games for a mobile Science unit called Flashbang Science - a mobile laboratory facility which provides exciting science experience to primary school children. For an example of their first game - See: [link url=

There are more to follow very soon.

Edited 5 times. Last edit by Bev Bush on 4th July 2011 4:55pm

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Mary Matthews Strategy and Business Development Director, Blitz Games Studios10 years ago
Great to see Michael Gove actually talking about games, but sad that he still thinks their best use is carrot and stick - do the equation and get ammo to shoot the aliens - eat the brussel sprouts and then you can have the Christmas pudding. Using games for motivation is only one facet, let's get him thinking about exploration, experimentation, team building, problem solving and independent, personalised, differentiated experiences - then we'll really be tapping into the full potential games can offer for learning..
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Stephen Woollard Online Infrastructure Specialist, Electronic Arts10 years ago
I will certainly check out some of the links listed - my 5 year old son loves playing games on PC and console but most of the crop currently available that link into the school curriculum are quite frankly crap. The majority of the them are six or seven years old and barely run on Windows 7 without the graphics going mental because they're designed in 256 colours.

Any studio out there making educational games take note - the UK KS1 to 5 curriculum is begging for some new content, on PC and/or console.
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IT would be good to generate a new age of British Brunels, Joseph Bazzelgates, Isaac newtons, Herbet Spencers, Thomas Youngs, Edward Heron-Allens, Desmond Morris, Jonathan Millers, Rowan Williams.

For the computer gods, we should cultivate folks like Nathan Myhrvold.

These are the unsung heroes to emulate and strive towards to which games education can instill. A passionate sense of discovery, invention, reinvention, optimization, problem solving and creative inspiration
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Adam Campbell Studying Games Technology, City University London10 years ago
I'm not sure about this guy's education policies in general, but it's interesting to hear him make mention of games in this way. That said, we get a lot of good mentions about games and not a lot of action!
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Stephen Hands Director, 3dnative10 years ago
Might be worth checking out who have a track record of using games technologies to provide services from simple engagement, maths development, SATS boosters, Shakespeare, working with NEETS to develop their skills to get them on the path to work, reducing gang affiliation, working with special needs and the list goes on.

There is an immense amount of 'discussion' on the uses of games to teach, lots of research to define and make conclusions that its an obvious method of reaching young people and increasing their learning, which continues to grow and is... a positive step to convincing non believers of the value of interactive technologies that isn't office based software.

LearnPlay tries not to shout about or overtly promote its results in the mainstream, it simply grasps the nettle and gets on with it.

Making a difference to peoples lives using games technologies is its motto, which is of course an easy statement to sum up its main objective. However, the people it works with, the impact it has made can be truly understood by the positive difference it has on the people it works with. For that I am extremely proud.
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John Tearle Founder, CEO, Flix Interactive10 years ago
At Raw we create games that inspire learning rather than teach directly, focusing on tangential teaching methods in intrinsic learning environments (wow, that sounded wordy!), it's something we're looking to focus on in the near future anyway. There's a really good discussion/argument that can be had that surrounds the validity of educational content in games that actually teaches gamers (of all ages and not just children!) to truly learn outside of the classroom, i.e. "deeper" games that most gamers play out of choice and not typical free educational games.

I think that one of the challenges that you face for integrating educational games are the following; if take a person that learns well and that works hard, you'll tend to find that they will apply themselves to most tasks you give them anyway and work hard as they understand the "risk vs reward" of making an effort with learning, i.e. work hard/put time in = results/praise. It's the people that find it hard to engage, that escape into games as a form of release and that are not always so focused when in an academic environment that I feel you need to crack. These people are often better at games than academic work as they spend hours in the world of Oblivion, WOW, COD, Farmville, competitive online games etc... as great games work hard to addict the gamer to the gameplay. COD is a great example of this, specifically targeting the male psyche of quick, easy success' and rewards repeated over and over. This in itself can be detrimental to a gamers enthusiasm for learning as they get hooked on quick success and easy rewards. In other words - it's fun for little effort - where as truly learning something can often require a lot of effort and drive.

One of the things that you can do within a traditional game (think retail and social) intended for 'fun' (rather than for teaching) is to enable learning rather than try to explicitly teach the player. Take the Assassins Creed series, it encouraged more young people to learn about Italy than certain history classes do, if you take this to the next level and start to build real world information into gameplay as well as game lore without forcing it onto the player, you allow gamers to get into the substance of a game world that is based upon a specific real world subject matter, i.e. science, history, economics. If the game also has optional in-game resources that mix game lore and fact, and then additional (optional) outside links and videos based entirely in real world fact, the game itself could really inspire people to get into something new. If you tie the story and the facts behind the game into what they love about the game itself along with an easy, open ended option to learn more about it, you soon find that people invest into the fact that is inspired by the fiction.

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Right, can we get a roundtable of the pro education related parties above, and give Gove a shove for an improvement in games as a educational interactive tool?
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