When does a music game become educational, and when is it just entertainment?

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

Are those games really worth spending our hard earned money, time and energy on?

In Music there are all kinds of 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.

So what is educational when it comes to games? Music teachers are definitely split on this issue. Most I know still teach the same way they always have, and probably won’t be spending money on too many games. 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?”

When you learn something you take something which you didn’t know before and make it known. it really is that simple Are you making anything known that wasn’t already when you are playing that computer game? If all you are doing is playing one game over and over again you won’t achieve anything but being good at that level.

If however when playing a music game you are constantly introducing new songs, and you use the music game as a vehicle to move forward with skills, then you’ll find this to be a well worthwhile educational experience.

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 besides being very enjoyable that time spent on music games will actually build musical skills.

Kevin Tuck, the author of this article is a musician and music teacher of wide experience. In his work as editor at the fun music company he is currently developing educational music games for school students.