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Game on

Chris van der Kuyl is founder and chief executive of the highly successful VIS Entertainment, the producer of the US and UK chart-topping game State of Emergency. He likes to draw instructive parallels between the film and computer games industries: "Nobody would suggest that the big Hollywood directors are going to make a movie to match the school curriculum," he says.

"But a teacher might watch Saving Private Ryan and tell her class: 'This part isn't historically accurate, but it will give you a good idea of what went on.' The film itself can't stand alone as an educational resource, but a good teacher can use it as one.

"In the same way, a game like SimCity can become part of a geography or economics lesson. Although the game wasn't designed for education, a good teacher can turn it into an excellent resource."

With an active interest in both computer games and learning - through his many contributions to schools enterprise education - Van der Kuyl is well placed to talk about the potential of games in education.

The games industry, he says, is evolving rapidly in ways that may not be obvious from the outside. As development tools grow easier to use and technical skills less essential, creativity is becoming the single skill the industry needs most. As creative and artistic input grows, and games become more varied and appeal to a wider audience, their educational potential will also increase.

A key lesson education can take from gaming, says Mr van der Kuyl, is the importance of engaging the learner, whatever his or her ability. "As games developers we don't want anyone to feel bad when they play one of our games, even if they are not very good at it.

"So we design them in such a way that they reward you and encourage you to play on and try things, no matter what your skill level. Games don't make you feel inferior or bad about yourself. I think education can learn a huge amount from that."


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