Are Video Games Educational?

Are Video Games Educational?

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based on 263 ratings
Updated on Feb 28, 2008

Video games. While they may seem like the bane of every parent's existence, they don't have to be—many of them offer unique learning features. And with increased requirements in schools placing unprecedented demands on children and parents, it may be time to start thinking about video games as teaching tools. The learning component of gaming can be optimized with parent involvement. That means understanding what makes a game both fun and educational.

What makes a game fun?
  • Challenge and strategy – this is the core of the game. It includes the objective, the play and the scoring. The game should provide a challenge for its players and allow them to use different strategies to gain a level or win. This is what determines the age group or skill level.
  • Element of surprise – this is the variation of the game. The element of surprise must be built into the game to provide laughter, excitement, regret or risk.
  • Replay ability – this is the ability to play the game over and over with different outcomes each time. This is measured by the ‘boring’ factor. If the child gets bored fast, the game lacks replay ability.
What makes a game educational?
  • New information – this is the educational information provided. It may be text or graphics, and is normally unknown by the age group or skill level for which the game is made.
  • Memorization – this is the part of the game that rewards good memory. If players are able to remember the new information, they can advance in the game.
  • Context and Cognition – this is the part of the game that puts the new information to use. Players win or score points by matching pairs, answering questions or problem solving.
  • Gender and Ethnic Balance – the game addresses equity issues through cooperative group play, language diversity, and character gender options

Armed with that information, let’s take a look at what the PC and console video gaming industry has to offer. Several game development companies are devoted to designing video games that help kids learn.

  • Big Fish Games. These games teach about animal habitats and the solar system, like “Wild Thornberry's Australian Wildlife Rescue” and “Chicken Invaders 2.” They also make mind bending puzzle games and challenging word group associations, such as “BeTrapped” and “WordSearch Deluxe.”
  • Broderbund. These games allow elementary students to explore spooky museums and learn about bugs with “Scooby-Doo in The Glowing Bug-Man,” or follow the real life journey of the Oregon Trail. Middle and high school students can explore the features of shapes and solids and the relationship between length, perimeter, area and volume with “Mighty Math's Cosmic Geometry.”
  • Educational Insights – This company makes games that focus on mathematics, acting as tutors in basic skills from addition and subtraction, to decimals and percentages.
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