Can games make you smarter?

Just got back from a conference in Washington DC about language learning and video games.  

I was there along with a number of other game industry peeps to explain some basic ideas about game design and the game industry to government and university language acquisition experts.  The idea was to get everybody in a room together from our different industries and see if by sharing knowledge we could come up with some ideas about ways that video games might be able to make the process of learning a language (or anything else for that matter) more engaging and productive.

Sounds like it could have been kind of dry, but was actually super interesting.  In addition to speakers from the games biz, Dr. David Traum spoke on the research his team has done in natural language simulation at USC, and Dr. Ray Perez of the Office of Naval Research told us about several experiments his group has done to improve training in the US Navy and other branches of the US Armed Forces.

The whole thing got me thinking about "edutainment", which is often treated as a dirty word in game development circles.  But why?  Everybody has to learn; everybody has to go to school.  Surely there must be a way to make games that are fun to play and teach you something in the process.  

Too busy getting ready for our visit to Microsoft next week to blog deeply about this right now, but I'll come back to the topic again -- it's got the little gears in my brain spinning.

Oh, and eventually they're going to post the videos of our presentations online.  I'll update this when they do.