This is a very important point for teachers and parents. At what point is a computer game educational, and at what point is it just entertainment? What are the critical aspects that make a game educational, and something that would make us as teachers and parents spend our dollars, time and energy on it?In my area of music there are all sorts of computer games: Some of the music game guitar controllers which are available today are nothing more than an evolution of the toy guitar that you’d give a toddler to play with. There are a few that are far more advanced, and are almost close to playing a real instrument. There are a few music theory and aural training games that are very serious, and definitely are an excellent training tool to help musicians and music teachers with aural and theory skills.Where do we draw the line? Music teachers are definitely split on this issue. Most I know still teach the same way they always have, and probably won’t be spending money on too many games. However there is real educational value in some aspects of the game. The question that we need to ask ourselves when thinking about any game activity is: “What is this teaching me (or them, if thinking about your children or your students) that I didn’t know before?”Learning something is the process of taking something which is unknown and making it known. When you learn to play a computer game, are you making anything known that was not known before? If you are simply playing one level of one game over and over again nothing will happen except that you’ll be good at that one thing. You’ll really know that one thing, but nothing else! If however when playing a music game you are constantly introducing new songs, and you use the music game as a vehicle to move forward with skills, then you’ll find this to be a well worthwhile educational experience.Music game developers should consult instrument specialists when building games about specific instruments, so that playing the game does not negatively impact students technique when playing the real thing. Most do, but as usual when there is a big market there will always be cheap imitations who cut down the price and also cut down the educational value by not investing in this quality researched advice.So always ask that question – What is this activity teaching me that I didn’t know before? Then you’ll find that time spent on games will always help… besides being great fun!