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.