Everything You Always Wanted to Know about English and the Gaming Community… But Were Afraid to Ask

How big is the English gaming community?

The global media and entertainment market has consistently been on the rise. The entire worldwide market is projected to grow to 2.2 trillion U.S. dollars by 2021. Online gaming in particular is one of the branches that has evolved over the past decades. It includes social gaming, mobile gaming, as well as free-to-play and pay-to-play massively multiplayer gaming, otherwise known as MMO gaming. The latter two segments combined generated revenue of roughly 19.9 billion U.S. dollars in 2020 and, judging by the data volume of global online gaming traffic alone, it is safe to assume online gaming is here to stay. 

How do gamers interact?

Since the early 2000s, Internet capabilities have exploded and computer processor technology has improved at such a fast rate that every new batch of games, graphics and consoles seems to blow the previous generation out of the water. The cost of technology, servers and the Internet has dropped so far that Internet at lightning speeds is now accessible and commonplace, and 3.2 billion people across the globe have access to the Internet. According to the ESA Computer and video games industry report for 2020, at least 1.5 billion people with Internet access play video games. Technology allows millions around the world to enjoy gaming as a shared activity. The recent ESA (Entertainment Software Association) gaming report showed that 54 percent of frequent gamers feel their hobby helps them connect with friends, and 45 percent use gaming as a way to spend time with their family.

How can videogames help you learning English?

You’ve heard all the arguments against video games before:

Aren’t you a bit old to be playing games?

Don’t you think you’re wasting your time?

Can’t you do something useful instead?

Perhaps you’ve even asked these questions yourself. What’s important to remember, though, is that not all games are created equal. Yes, there are games that are only for entertainment, but these are not the games we are discussing. There are hundreds of excellent story-based games out there that include a lot of useful language.

Today we’ll tell you five reasons why video games are a useful tool for learning English.

Whether you’re already a gamer or you’ve never touched a controller in your life, we hope this reading will persuade you that video games can really benefit language learners.

1.  Practice your reading skills

It’s no wonder reading quickly and accurately in another language is challenging – around 10% of people struggle to learn reading skills in their first language. A team of researchers from the University of Padua were inspired by this fact to see whether video games could help children who have difficulty reading. The findings were fascinating: nine sessions of playing video games for 80 minutes a day improved the children’s reading ability more than a year of traditional learning methods. Of course, video games have to contain enough text to make them worth playing, but if you choose the right kind of game, imagine how quickly your reading skills could improve.

2.  Become a better listener

The days of text-based video games are behind us. Games nowadays are often voiced by talented actors with a variety of accents, so playing games exposes you to a lot of English. The best way to practice is to listen to something you find interesting, so find a game that you like and your listening skills will improve at a remarkable rate.

3.  Improve one skill and you improve them all

You never develop one language skill in isolation. Becoming a better reader makes you a better writer because you develop an instinct for what looks right; becoming a better listener makes you a better speaker because you hear different pronunciations. Both reading and listening to English can expand your vocabulary and grammar. If you need to turn on the subtitles, don’t feel embarrassed – many native speakers do the same so they don’t miss any essential information, and reading while listening will help you absorb more language.

4. Get better at multi-tasking

Communication involves multi-tasking: you’re listening to the other person and thinking about how to express what you want to say. People do this naturally in their first language. Understandably, it’s more difficult in a second language because you need to work harder to think of the words you need. A research team at California State University studied whether action video games can improve multi-tasking. They found that 5 hours of gaming a week for 10 weeks increased people’s ability to concentrate on more things at the same time [b]. This comes as no surprise, because video games involve a lot of concentration – that’s why you can play them for hours and feel like you’ve been playing for 20 minutes. So, play video games and you’ll get better at concentrating on more than one thing. This means you’ll get better at communicating spontaneously.

5. Take a break

Most people associate language learning with endless lists of vocabulary, sitting at a desk for hours, and tests that make your blood pressure go through the roof. But learning doesn’t need to be done that way. You’ll want to learn more often and for longer if learning is enjoyable. You’ll never put off playing a video game because it’s fun, but you’ll hear and read so much useful vocabulary in context. Spend an hour a day gaming and you’ll start to notice your English improving, all because of something you did in your free time!

What videogames could be good for improving my English?

So, you’ve read all of the above and you’ve reached the natural conclusion: you need video games in your life. But where to begin? Here are some incredible story-based games to get you started:

Detroit: Become Human (2018)

Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End (2016) 

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (2015) 

Life is Strange (2015) 

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (2011) 

Heavy Rain (2010) 

Dragon Age: Origins (2009)

Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater (2004) 

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (2003)

Mario Kocher


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