Education needs gaming appeal

21:22, Nov 19 2012
Bill English
PLAYER 2: Finance Minister Bill English opening the ANIFMX gaming and animation conference at Te Papa.

New Zealand's school curriculum needs to take a lesson from video games to get kids more engaged in learning, according to Deputy Prime Minister Bill English.

At the opening of the seventh annual creative digital industries symposium Animfx in Wellington this morning, Mr English praised the ability of the gaming sector to get a hold on New Zealand's younger generation.

Government, he said, would like to capture some of the gaming sector's capacity to engage and stimulate kids and apply that in an educational context.

"I suspect that is going to be one of our single biggest challenges in education over the next few years, for the government - and I mean the state, not just in a political sense - whose educational processes are built around the industrial revolution to provide an environment where young New Zealanders', whose minds are being trained by you, are able to learn a broader set of skills," Mr English told an audience of gaming and animation professionals and students.

The father of six children, Mr English said that like every other parent in the developed world he fought the gaming industry for the hearts, minds and attention of his kids but was "fascinated" by how games had an impact on the way young people think.

"What strikes me is the sheer complexity quite young people are grappling with when they're participating. When I think about what I was thinking about when I was a ten year old I'd have to say it was nothing like the kind of decision making processes that our kids and young people go through as they balance a whole lot of complexity and decision making in finding their way through the challenges [video games] set for them."

He said children learned "pretty quickly" there were consequences to their actions by playing video games, where their choices of how to move a character through a digital world could mean a triumphant win or instant 'game over'.

The Animfx conference, organised by the New Zealand Games Animation and Visual Effects (GAV) Trust runs for three days. Speakers include Patrick Lie, creative director at Angry Birds maker Rovio and Jeffrey Conrad, president of American Greetings Properties which created Strawberry Shortcake and the Care Bears.