Games and critical thinking

Critical thinking is a complex concept and the history of its research dates back as far as 2,500 years ago. Various definitions of the term were formed from the mid-late 20th century. One of them defines critical thinking as ‘the intellectually disciplined process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to belief and action’[1]. In a short and simplified way, to think critically means to process the received information and adjust our behavior accordingly. This definition allows us to see why games and critical thinking go hand in hand. Because the process described as critical thinking by the above definition is exactly what a regular player is doing in a regular game all the time. When one considers the defining traits of games (see above), they are by their nature built to teach critical thinking. There is a problem (goal) the player tries to resolve and they are doing so by processing the information (received through rules and feedback), which guides their actions and decision-making process. Without this constant information gathering and evaluation which fuels the behavior adjustment, one would not be able to meet the goal of the game.

Another reason why games are suitable for critical thinking development (or almost any skill development) also relates to their very nature. Games eliminate our fear of failure[2], because in games it is OK to fail. You can always try again. Thus, the negative stress is replaced with positive stress and a person can focus more on learning rather than performing[3]. The constant feedback allows you to see how you can get better over time. The chance of success is always present. The prospect of success motivates you to continue, to try harder until the very end when you meet the desired goal.

Other games that teach critical thinking and media literacy

Here are some examples of games from other producers dedicated to building critical thinking and media literacy.

  1. The Foundation for Critical Thinking
  2. McGonigal, J. (2011). Reality is broken: Why games make us better and how they can change the world. Penguin Press.
  3. McGonigal, J. (2011). Reality is broken: Why games make us better and how they can change the world. Penguin Press.