Educational Gaming

Time-to-Adoption: Two to Three Years
The interest in and trend of educational gaming has accelerated considerably in recent years. Discussion and research has continued, identifying games that are goal-oriented and those that are more social in nature; games that are easy to construct and play, and those that are more complex and time-consuming; and games developed expressly for education versus commercial games that are appropriated for educational use.

One development that offers interesting potential for education is the convergence of simulations with massively multiplayer online (MMO) games. MMOs bring many players together in activities that are sometimes collaborative and sometimes competitive, generally goal-oriented, and often tied to a storyline or theme. Like other kinds of games, educational MMOs combine a carefully crafted setting with specific educational objectives. What makes these games especially compelling and effective is their multiplayer nature — students can work in small or large groups, or can pursue goals on their own, all in the context of a larger community of player-learners. Role-playing simulations, which have broad applicability across a wide range of disciplines, are another rich area for exploration.

Relevance for Teaching, Learning, or Creative Inquiry

  • Educational games offer opportunities for both discovery-based and goal-oriented learning, and can be very effective ways to develop teambuilding skills.
  • Simulations and role-playing games allow students to re-enact difficult situations to try new responses or pose creative solutions.
  • Educational games can be used to teach cross-curricular concepts that touch on many subjects in an engaging way.

Educational Gaming in Practice

  • Developed at the University of Southern California, GameDesk is aimed at high school students and combines project-based learning with engaging game design:
  • The Global Kids Gaming Initiative uses online games to promote digital literacy skills, global awareness, and citizenship among young people:
  • Arcademic Skill Builders offers free, Flash-based math and language arts games, aligned with current educational standards, for K-12 students:

For Further Reading

Deep Learning Properties of Good Digital Games: How Far Can They Go?
(James Paul Gee, Arizona State University, January 2009.) This study by noted educational gaming researcher James Paul Gee discusses the merits of good digital games and their design along with the learning that can accompany them.

Moving Learning Games Forward (PDF)
(E. Klopfer, S. Osterweil and K. Salen , The Education Arcade - MIT, 2009.) This white paper provides an overview of the current state of the field of educational gaming and proposes strategies for those wishing to enter the domain.

Using the Technology of Today, in the Classroom Today (PDF)
(E. Klopfer, S. Osterweil, J. Groff, J. Haas, The Education Arcade - MIT, 2009.) This paper discusses effective learning in a gaming context and explores games as more than just single person experiences, but also part of social networks.