I finally had the opportunity to try the Xbox Kinect the other day, and I was surprised at the amount of physical coordination it required. Like many games on the Nintendo Wii, the Kinect requires players to listen for voice commands, and then perform simple hand and body movements to control an avatar on the screen. It was a truly multi-sensory experience, and this got me thinking about some research I had read recently on gendered learning in classrooms throughout North America.
I have been looking at a whole bunch of different sources, but the gist of the research is this: male and female students process information differently, and this means that they have different strengths and weaknesses when it comes to classroom learning. The backbone of this research is nothing new: men are much better at tasks requiring visual spaces, and they thrive when they can focus most of their energy on a single task; women, on the other hand, are better at multitasking, as their brains are better equipped to process information from a variety of sources at once. But it seems that only recently have teachers and educators begun to apply these intriguing findings into their own classrooms, when it comes to teaching such core subjects as math, languages, and science.
What impact do these studies on gender-based learning have for video game playing? It stands to reason that as gameplay changes, male and female players will have to adapt their learning strategies in order to master a virtual platform using a higher degree of mental and physical coordination. By this logic, female players who experience the Xbox Kinect may actually have a sharper learning curve than male players, since games using this technology are more multi-sensory. In the past, video games were primarily a visual experience, but now that consoles are increasingly requiring vocal and physical commands as part of the game experience, the cognitive strengths of female players are likely to be showcased even further. Of course, this is all theoretical, but I would love to know if there are studies being done on this subject which support and/or refute this viewpoint. Certainly, there are many, many studies on gender-based learning both online and in scholarly journals. With video game consoles becoming increasingly recognized as truly educational tools, I predict it will only be a matter of time before more fundamental research is done on the different cognitive experiences between male and female players.