Atari Co-Founder: Video Games Really Are The Perfect Teaching Tool

Nolan Bushnell has a pretty impressive track record as far as video games are concerned. The 71-year-old entrepreneur was one of the original founders of Atari, an organization which many might argue effectively created the games industry. He was the man who got Steve Jobs involved in technology - some might even say Apple wouldn't exist today were it not for Bushnell. Since founding Atari several decades ago, Bushnell's become a prominent and respected figure in gaming. His words carry weight, his opinions merit.

For this reason, it's interesting that he's chosen now to turn his attention to educational games. To this end, Bushnell has founded a new studio, known as Brainrush. There, he's developing a new technology which he claims will allow students to learn up to ten times faster and retain acquired knowledge 'forever.' Part of how he's going to accomplish this is through making learning just as addictive as gaming - by making students feel compelled to learn in the same fashion they feel compelled to game, they might be inspired to absorb knowledge more efficiently and retain it far more effectively. 

According to Bushnell, his team has already made progress. 

"We have software right now that is teaching subjects ten times faster than in classrooms. We think once we're finished, we'll be able to do four years of high school in about six months," he explained at a 2013 technology convention in London.This is accomplished by breaking up the curriculum into smaller segments and subjecting those segments to 'gamification.'

"If you are in the software environment we are developing for twenty to thirty minutes a week, you'll be able to remember one hundred percent of everything you've learned for the rest of your life," he added on a radio program last Monday evening. "The brain science indicates that we should be able to do that."


Bushnell has referred to Brainrush's innovative new technology as "Education 3.0" (clearly a bit of a riff on Web 2.0). What's more, he says the software driving the system is both individual and adaptive, meaning it will tailor itself to each student's unique needs and learning styles. At this point, the skeptics among you are probably raising your eyebrows. With all the buzzwords Bushnell seems to be throwing out, how can we be certain his new product even works? 

Simple - because it's already been tested. According to the BBC - which referred to the results as 'remarkable' - there was recently an experiment performed which saw 100,000 students split into two groups in order to learn Spanish. The first group learned the language the traditional way - through textbooks, notes, and rote memorization. The second group, however, played video games. 

While the first group only retained around 150 words, the second retained a jaw-dropping 1,500.  That's a 900% increase, folks. Bushnell and his team clearly aren't joking around - if ever there was a doubt that there's some merit to gaming in school, I think we've found it.  So long as the students in the second group were actually able to apply the words they learned, we may well have just stumbled onto an entirely new educational method.Good thing, too - it's pretty clear the current model isn't working all too well.

When speaking of Brainrush, Bushnell quipped that the current generation might well be the last to ever be bored in school. Assuming all the research from the aforementioned study checks out, he might very well be right.