Leo Vaccaro, a avid gamer, spends a lot of his free time online playing games such as Defence of the Ancients 2 (more commonly known as DotA) in between his intensive studies. It has been established that education is no longer just the textbooks we’re given or the lectures we attend but that there is a component that is done through experiential learning.
Q: How many hours a week do you rate you spend playing DotA?
A: Roughly 2-3 a day, so about 10-12 a week.
Q: What attracts you to DotA?
A: I was introduced to DotA in 2010. My interest for the game was virtually immediate. I took a liking to it instantly. The game I would consider like a sport. It’s a good combination between the strategy of chess, and the team sport and speed of soccer. It looks great and it plays great. You can do a lot more than you can in a typical game. It’s incredibly complex. Knowing that, and interacting with it in that way means that there is a lot of mental provocation and teasing at high speeds which is why I really enjoy it.
Q: Speaking on mental provocation, what skills has DotA given you?
A: Referring to gaming at large, thinking quickly on your feet is something that is an undercurrent among all games. Specifically with DotA, one has to plan very fast and strategise. Everything has to be done in a short amount of time and it all helps with exams where you have to also think really quickly. I feel that in exams, while most people – because I’m a bit of a slow reader – my ability to read a question once and to immediately come up with an approach and a tactic for my essays is a result of my high speed planning and strategy abilities in DotA.
Q: Why do you think there is such a “laziness” stigma in gaming then?
A: I think it’s changed. Gaming has taken a different outlook in certain places around the world. If you look at South East Asia, the view on gamers is very good. They are a part of what you would normally think the athletes are in our context. If you are a good gamer, and you are good at the games you play, you are considered an athlete. In regions where gaming hasn’t taken off as much, gaming is still a very slow, developing thing. I do still feel that even between now and five years ago because would have found gaming nerdy and a waste of time where now it is a commonly accepted thing. You won’t find someone who has never interacted with games.
Q: In terms of the education system, do you think there are ways to incorporate gaming methodology, in terms of quick thinking etc…?
A: I think gaming should be incorporated as an extra-mural. It is something that shouldn’t be shied away from. If a game like chess is considered a sport, there are far too many games that have a sporting element. eSports are the fastest growing sports in the world. Just this year, the prize pool for DotA International reached $15 million. As far as education is concerned, while it shouldn’t really be used as a way to teach anything particularly, it is good for exercising skills that are useful in learning. Like how someone would encourage their kids to play sports to exercise the body and mind, I think that gaming should be encouraged as it develops the mind in a very nuanced way in terms of reflexes, quick thinking and strategy, even arguably critical thinking sometimes.
In terms of education, I think that sometimes educators have difficulty encouraging group work. With games like DotA, particularly, it is set up with teams. If you don’t work in that team, you cannot thrive. There is leadership, delegation, support and communication. Very often we were given a group assignment in school to learn to deal with peers. Gaming could be a great way to unlock this ability in a way that is fun and you’ll learn the skill quickly.