Just at the moment when gaming has achieved broad cultural acceptance, a new way of using commercial sport video games is emerging, which adds a new perspective on the educational and social value games may offer for learning. This research calls attention to how elite athletes are currently using commercial video games for training purposes and the potential the games may afford for all elite athletes who can play as their “second-self.”
While the emphasis in classical game theory has been on what constitutes play, sport video games deliberately blur the lines between a game and an experience, and between places of play (the “magic circle”) and places of everyday life (Salen & Zimmerman, 2003). The understanding of sport video games as immersive and realistic enough to be an effective simulation, runs in direct opposition to the theorization of play as open-ended, although kept intact by the acknowledgement that these simulations give players numerous choices and are fun. The use of video games for athletic training purposes supports the notion and model of game based learning environments (Squire, 2007).
The term “edutainment” has been suggested for video games that have an educational purpose as well as providing entertainment. But this term is still inadequate to define sport video games. As Resnick (1998) explains, when people think about “education” and “entertainment” they tend to think of them as services that someone else provides. Studios, directors and actors provide an individual with entertainment; schools and teachers provide education. Edutainment companies try to provide both. Sport video games are primarily thought to be strictly a form of entertainment. However, they potentially afford athletes a designed experience that provides an opportunity for usage as a tool for learning, while still being a form of entertainment.
The line is now blurred between entertainment and education, with athletes such as NASCAR® drivers and professional coaches starting to use commercial-off-the-shelf sport games as tools for training (Rosewater, 2004). As professional racecar driver, Carl Edwards explains, “A video game helps you get the rhythm down – helps you find a place where speed is made up and speed is lost.” Whenever he has to drive a track he regularly has trouble with – like Martinsville in Virginia or Bristol in Tennessee – he will spend a couple of hours in his trailer with the game.