Parents and teachers are constantly thinking about this: At what point is a computer game like guitar hero educational, and at what point is it just entertainment?

What are the critical aspects that something like this an educational activity, and something that would make teachers and parents spend our dollars, time and energy on it?

In our area of music education there are lots of educational music games: Some of the music games which are available today are nothing more than an evolution of the toy guitar that you’d give a toddler to play with. Some are almost like playing a real instrument, with real instrument sizes and materials used.

Where do we draw the line? Most music teachers have a differing opinion on this issue. Most teachers probably won’t be spending much money on music games, they’ll be teaching just like they always have. However there is real educational value in some aspects of the game.

This is the question we need to ask before engaging in any game activity: ”What does this game show or teach me (or my students or children) that I previously did not know?”

Learning something is the process of taking something which is unknown and making it known. That’s as simple as it is. Are you making anything known that wasn’t already when you are playing that computer game? If you are simply playing one level of one game over and over again nothing will happen except that you’ll be good at that one thing. You’ll really know that one thing, but nothing else.

The music game can be a great educational experience if you constantly introduce new songs and use the game as a vehicle to move forward with your skills.

Music game developers should consult instrument specialists when building games about specific instruments, so that playing the game does not negatively impact students technique when playing the real thing. Most do, but as usual when there is a big market there will always be cheap imitations who cut down the price and also cut down the educational value by not investing in this quality researched advice.

If you always ask this question: What is this game teaching me that I previously didn’t know? Then you’ll find that time spent on games will always help… besides being great fun!