Video Games Teach Us More than Just their Content

“A book or movie can show us what it is like to be in a character’s shoes, but it is the video game that can put us into those shoes.” – Robert B. Marks, Ph.D., Whittier College

Generally speaking, active learning fosters far greater curriculum engagement than say listening to a ‘sage on the stage’ or memorizing stats from a textbook. Fortunately, modern technologies, specifically video games, are making this kind of immersive, hands on learning a greater reality. Game-based learning is enabling students to walk in the shoes of both real life and imaginary characters, empowering them to interact with content in an entirely new way.

But it doesn’t end there. Because video games inspire active learning, students are able to gain skills beyond the knowledge of the content itself.

Video games teach the art of persistence. Students are encouraged to try again until they succeed. There is less of a stigma around failure as it becomes fun to practice and attempt new strategies to see what works. For example,  in our calculus game, Variant: Limits, students can visually see how manipulating equations impacts graphs, charts and their course of action, and therefore they are encouraged to use a trial and error approach.

Video games can help shape students’ decision making and critical thinking skills. It is exploration and experimentation at its best. Students begin to think outside the box, act on their curiosities, and look at different ways to get the correct answer. Once they start to understand what works, they apply that knowledge to help the story unfold.

Video games inspire social interaction and are a great tool to promote teamwork. According to instructor Anita Streich, “ARTé: Mecenas taught my students the importance of collaboration, a great example of active learning. Students were willingly working in pairs and in groups. They were having a dialogue with each other not only about the game’s content, but also its strategy.”

Being immersed in a video game, walking in the character’s shoes, and having a stake in the character’s outcome keeps students invested. Whether they know it or not, they are not just learning the content, but they are acquiring accompanying life skills–the kinds of skills that will serve them over the long term over every aspect of their life. I ask, could a talking head or textbook do that?

Command History as the Medici: Play ARTé: Mecenas on Steam

College Station, TX – November 8, 2018 – Triseum’s ARTé: Mecenas, the first game created by students in the LIVE Lab at Texas A&M, will be released to more than 90 million monthly active gamers on the Steam platform on November 16th.  ARTé: Mecenas transports players to the Italian Renaissance where they command history as the head of the Medici family, one of the most influential merchant and banking families of the era. True to history, players must balance relationships with powerful city-states, merchant factions and the Catholic Church or risk excommunication, exile and bankruptcy.

As players navigate their trade networks and relationships in ARTé: Mecenas, they must keep their financial status and reputation in check. By following the footsteps of the Medici, players become influential patrons of the arts, and experience the political, social and economic forces that shaped the Renaissance. To prosper, players must lead the Medici bank and family through risky ventures and political crises, commissioning and supporting works from upstart artists like Brunelleschi, Donatello and Raphael.

“The opportunity to connect with gamers on this worldwide stage is incredible,” said André Thomas, CEO of Triseum and director of the LIVE Lab. “There is a sense of sheer enthusiasm among Steam gamers and we can’t wait to be a part of it.”

Award winning ARTé: Mecenas was originally developed by student gamers in the LIVE Lab at Texas A&M University under the guidance of Thomas, who previously served as Head of Graphics for EA Sports Football games. The Steam version of ARTé: Mecenas is for entertainment purposes only. If interested in adopting the game for classroom use, please contact

At last count, Steam’s daily active user count had risen to 47 million, and this upswing could be attributed to its performance in ChinaARTé: Mecenas also is gaining ground in the Chinese market where it recently won a Game Academy Award at the Play Beyond the Gameexhibit at the Central Academy of Fine Arts (CAFA) Museum in Beijing.

Steam delivers access to thousands of popular games, from action to indie and everything in between. The platform was created by Valve in 2003 to serve as a digital content distribution channel before app stores existed. Today it remains widely used as a means to unite, share and play.

Three Reasons Why Video Games Work in Education

Slaying dragons. Rescuing princesses. Scoring goals. Winning races. Building masterpieces. Battling enemies. These are today’s video games. They have become so mainstream in our culture that not only is the U.S. video game industry one of the nation’s fastest growing economic sectors, video games in general have become a legitimate global force.

Today’s video games are sophisticated and suspenseful. They provide lifelike graphics and scenarios that empower users to assume imaginative identities and immerse themselves into fantasy worlds. They captivate players’ attention and inspire them to keep playing time and time again. And let’s face it, they are fun. This begs the question, can this obsession serve a purpose beyond entertainment?

As student digital literacy rates continues to climb, it seems only natural that the power of games be used to advance the education experience, creating an entirely new kind of obsession by engaging and motivating students in innovative ways. Known as game-based learning, this phenomena has already started transforming teaching and learning as we know it.

Video games are relatable.

The average gamer has been playing video games for 13 years, not to mention online gamers spend 6.5 hours a week on average playing with others. Video games are second nature for a lot of students who have grown up with this form of entertainment at their fingertips. To them, technology is instinctual and playing video games is intuitive.

Academic video games allow students to interact with content in relevant ways. They bring the subject matter to life and transform static course experiences into highly interactive ones, mirroring the innovation and modern events that are part of students’ everyday lives.

Video games encourage students to try and try again.

The word failure can have a negative connotation in an academic setting. Yet, video games can turn failures into dynamic learning opportunities. When students fall short and don’t advance to the next level, they are taught the art of resilience. They learn lessons through failure and begin to understand the importance of persistence. Failure is merely a roadblock.

Academic video games encourage practice and repetition, challenging students to think creatively in their pursuits. They must consider a variety of options and even not-so-obvious strategies. They discover the consequences of their choices and answers. For example, in our art history game, ARTé: Mecenas, students must balance relationships with powerful city-states, merchant factions and the Catholic Church or risk excommunication, exile and bankruptcy.

Learning games present a world where it is ok to fail if ultimately it helps learners re-evaluate their approach, understand the content, and advance toward the learning objective. Through exploration and experimentation, deep and formative learning experiences occur, and it even becomes fun for learners to try and try again.

Video games promote content mastery.

Video games inspire players to go for the epic win. In an academic setting, the epic win translates to subject mastery. Unlike books where a student can continue reading even if he or she hasn’t grasped the concepts, an academic video game holds learners accountable. They can’t advance to the next challenge or level until they prove sufficient understanding and mastery.

Mastery is key to measuring what a student has learned. Yet typical grading scales award students with the highest grades even if they haven’t reached 100 percent mastery. In our 3D adventure calculus game, Variant: Limits, a student can’t proceed to the next level if he or she achieves anything less than 100 percent.

Game-based learning gives students the opportunity to  play a more active role in the learning experience and connect with content on a deeper level. Some research even suggests that video games might make people better learners.

At Triseum, our immersive academic video games serve an important educational need, boosting engagement and making learning fun. Our team of game designers and educators are redefining the education experience through game-based learning, focusing on student digital literacy, motivation and mastery.

Originally published in Edarabia, available here.