Games can provide a great goal oriented environment for language learning. We have a fairly wide selection of PC games for students play on their own, including many of the hit titles from the previous year. However, since the content the games is so wide ranging, it makes their integration into a course fairly difficult. Another problem is that with single player games, each student is in his or her own little world, which makes it difficult for the professor or other students to offer guidance.
Of course, these single player commercial games are only a subset of games as a whole. Multiplayer games, whether online or traditional board games, can have a more common and limited vocabulary and offer an envrionment that supports social interaction between students and professors. For example, the hit German game “Settlers” is now playable online in German and English. It’s a game that has bargaining and town life as it’s center focus, so it would make for an ideal environment for language usage. An obvious comparison would be role-playing activities most of us have used in class. These games could function as an environment for a language exchange as well. Native german speakers could be invited to play with our students. The first game could be played in German and the second in English.
Background and review of the game – http://www.wired.com/gaming/gamingreviews/magazine/17-04/mf_settlers
The online version – http://www.cms.playcatan.com/content/view/5/34/lang,en_US/