Gaming’s only for fun, isn’t it? Doesn’t teach you anything? Hmmm, that doesn’t sound right. Surely gaming offers more than just light-hearted entertainment? With the right game, couldn’t playing be an opportunity to work on honing useful life, social and business skills?

After a hiatus, I decided to start playing games again this week, the one to hook me was multiple award winning 'INSIDE' by Playdead.

Calling it a platform game doesn’t quite do it justice, it’s much more than that. INISIDE’s an action-adventure puzzle platform game, it will bring out the logical thinker in you, make you laugh and squirm in equal measures.

It’s pretty dark, gruesome and graphic in places too. The ending is spectacularly odd. You will finish the game confused and curious. And you'll definitely end up doing an immediate Google, scrolling through fan theories to try and figure out the story you just played. 

Things I loved about INSIDE:

  • It's really tense, the mood and music is perfect
  • Stunning graphics, animation and muted colouring
  • It’s SO simple - walk, run, jump, push/pull is all you have
  • The boy character is really pared back, no discernible facial features even, he could be anyone 
  • Everything you need to complete the game is in the scenery around you
  • The puzzles are tricky enough to be super satisfying when you do them, but not so difficult you give up 
  • The game designers were kind, each time you lose a life you return to roughly where you were 
  • Limitless lives, no energy bar to monitor, no need for food or collecting weapons 
Perfecting a zombie walk. 'INSIDE' by Playdead, 2016

Perfecting a zombie walk. 'INSIDE' by Playdead, 2016

Keeping watch for things that lurk in the deep. 'INSIDE' by Playdead, 2016

Keeping watch for things that lurk in the deep. 'INSIDE' by Playdead, 2016

It may sound like I’m down-playing the game, portraying it as easy and that’s why I liked it. But that’s not true. What's actually so clever about this stripped back approach, is that it lets you focus on becoming immersed in the game. Thinking your way through the puzzles, learning the techniques as you go and applying that learning to the next, more complex puzzle. By ramping up the difficulty level as the game progresses, completing the puzzles only becomes more satisfying.  

I had always thought gaming to be a mostly solitary, dare-I-say slightly anti-social activity, but I was happy to be proven wrong. I spent 3 evenings playing the game, chatting and laughing my way through it. Ok yes, I did get given the occasional hint from my other half when I got stuck. Although nothing like the epic cheating that used to happen when playing Lucas Arts' adventure game ‘The Secret of Monkey Island'. My brother and I used to spend hours playing, get stuck and then head for our computer magazines detailed cheat-sheets! 

'The Secret of Monkey Island' by Lucas Arts, 1990.

'The Secret of Monkey Island' by Lucas Arts, 1990.

Learning through play

Hidden amongst the platforms, levels and sequences are opportunities to nurture useful real-life skills like: persistence, memory, timing, mapping, creativity, team work and strategy. Playing video games is a much underrated learning opportunity. No matter the job you do, there are useful skills to be learnt through gaming and you can have a lot of fun in the process.

Wouldn't it be great if more learning could be done through the prism of accessible, playable environments? If AR and VR can nurture this area, I for one will jump on-board with enthusiasm. 

What game/s have you played recently? Can you recommend any that taught you something or are a clear learning tool?


Further reading on the connections between gaming and learning:

How video games can teach your brain to be more creative and productive

5 Life skills that video games can help you develop

What does a video game teach you?


By Charlee Sully, Designer at The Usual Studio. Twitter: @TheUsualStudio
I work across design, ideas, strategy and content, writing about branding, design, innovation and entrepreneurship. I love sushi, tea's my cuppa of choice and BBC6 music's always on. Unlike a former housemate - I do find comedy funny.