Experts advocate video games for learning

Academics, policy makers and industry experts agree that students can learn not just by playing video games, but also by creating them.

Late last year video game experts and enthusiasts gathered at PAX Australia, one of the largest video gaming events in the world, to delve into the future of game-based learning and showcase the winners of the first-ever Australian STEM Video Game Challenge.Coordinated by the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) and supported by PwC, government, universities, corporate partners and game developers, the Australian STEM Video Game Challenge aims to increase interest and participation in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines by inviting school students to create an original educational video game.Panellists Dr Jeffrey Brand, Associate Dean and Head of the School of Communication and Media Studies at Bond University; Dr Bronwyn Stuckey, post-doctoral research fellow of the Arizona State University Centre for Games and Impact; and Siobhan Reddy, Studio Director of game development studio Media Molecule, discussed the place of video games in education.

The benefits of games

A bi-annual survey conducted by Dr Brand with the Interactive Games and Entertainment Association revealed that more than 95 per cent of Australian homes with children under the age of 18 have game devices, and 94 per cent of parents reported that their children learn about technology from playing games. Other strongly reported results included learning mathematics and learning to plan and strategise, as well as learning about science, work, life, society and language.

But the evidence in support of games for learning is more comprehensive that just parental feedback.

According to Dr Brand, the systematic literature reviews that have been conducted in this space are ‘absolutely unequivocal’ in their support for the place of games in learning, with affective and motivational outcomes among the most commonly reported benefits.

‘Games motivate us,’ Dr Brand said, ‘And if we’re motivated, we’re going to learn.’

Other positive outcomes from playing video games in education highlighted by Dr Brand include behaviour change, knowledge acquisition, motor skills, perceptual and cognitive skills, physiological outcomes such as paying attention, and social skills.

Games in the classroom

Dr Stuckey explained that video games have an obvious place in education, because the development of students’ literacy – the ability to interpret media – is a significant goal in all education, and games are just another media.

‘Good teachers have used games in the classroom for a long time,’ Dr Stuckey said, noting that board games and card games have been a feature in classrooms for decades.

‘But somewhere along the line teachers have missed that digital leap that kids have made, and they’re playing catch up at the moment.’

Ms Reddy, the Studio Director of Media Molecule, the company behind the multi-award winning game Little Big Planet, agrees that many teachers face a steep learning curve in introducing cutting-edge games into the classroom.

‘If you haven’t played games since you were eight and you’re now in your thirties, there’s a lot to catch up on,’ Ms Reddy said.

For Dr Stuckey, choosing the right game is an important factor in successfully integrating video games into the curriculum.

‘Teachers want to find the “e-d-u” game to use in their classroom, and unfortunately most of them suck because they hit you over the head with the goal of the learning right from the very beginning, and all the fun and challenge that games represent is sucked out of it,’ she said.

Dr Stuckey noted that research by the Joan Ganz Cooney Centre shows that teachers’ own game playing behaviour is very closely related to the games they introduce into their classroom.

‘So we really need to get all teachers playing games of all kinds,’ she said.

Dr Stuckey pointed to the hugely popular Minecraft as a ‘game changer’ for the integration of video games in education. She explained that, in schools she has worked with, teachers brought it into the classroom because students were ‘hammering down the door’ to get it in.

‘Teachers could see that they could actually build their curriculum inside Minecraft and, even better than that, students could build their curriculum inside it,’ Dr Stuckey said. ‘That fits with what’s happening in a greater movement in education at the moment, and that’s the “maker movement” – wanting children to be designers, not consumers, of education.’

From playing games to making games

In professional game designer Reddy’s experience, while games give us a chance to go to other places and experience other worlds and people, in making games you learn continuously.

‘Every day I go to work I learn about something. It may be that I’m learning more about physics. It might be that I’m learning more about how to evoke an emotional response. It might be that I’m learning about a new art movement that I’ve never heard of before,’ Ms Reddy said.

Making games is not just for adults. Ms Reddy said she is always amazed by what the youngest people in communities are actually doing.

‘If I ever see something amazing I always think, “It’s probably some 12-year-old somewhere in the world that made this”, and they’re…probably seven.’

Many free game development platforms provide simple point-and-click or drag-and-drop methods for building video games, such as Gamestar Mechanic and Gamemaker: Studio. Platforms likeStencyl and MIT Scratch are designed to introduce young or novice game designers to the concepts of programming and can be used as a stepping stone to a more sophisticated platform such as Unity, and the more advanced world of computer programming.

‘Getting coding into schools is really, really important because it is the language of the future,’ Ms Reddy said.

This sentiment was echoed by Australia’s Minister for Communications, Malcolm Turnbull. Speaking at an Early Childhood Australia event in January, Mr Turnbull described coding as a ‘vital language’ that will soon be as important as the ability to read and write.

Australian STEM Video Game Challenge

The Australian STEM Video Game Challenge is one initiative bringing game design into the classroom.

The Challenge not only introduces game design but also addresses the growing disengagement of students from STEM learning – particularly girls and those from disadvantaged backgrounds – at a time when the STEM disciplines are among the most critical for success in the 21st-century workforce.

More than 550 students from across Australia registered for the inaugural Australian STEM Video Game Challenge in 2014, a quarter of them girls.

ACER Foundation Director Deirdre Jackson said the winning entries show that students can be much more than consumers of video games.

‘The Australian STEM Video Game Challenge provides students, wherever they are across Australia, with a real-world opportunity to apply their skills and knowledge in STEM, programming and game making to create games that are interactive, stimulating and meaningful,’ Ms Jackson said.

Winners in the Australian STEM Video Game Challenge each received an HP Pavilion laptop as well as $1000 to donate to their nominated school or not-for-profit organisation. The PwC People’s Choice Award winners also received a six-month mentoring package with access to members of PwC’s Digital Change team.



1. Learn politics and economics in this multiplayer game. Reign over your own state, form alliances with other countries, and more as you learn the intricacies of ruling a country.


2. This 3D game teaches about the impact of districting on politics. Redraw your districts and see the impact, learn how it works, and see how abuse happens with The ReDistricting Game.


3. Learn politics with this strategy game that has players making decisions such as implementing green policies, raising or lowering taxes, creating harmonious foreign relations, and more.


4. Set in ancient Egypt, this massively multiplayer online role playing game has a focus on economic and community development. This game is one of the few MMORPGs that includes no combat at all.


5. Players must keep their refugee camp going despite the threat of the militia in this game that teaches about the plight of the 2.5 million refugees in the Darfur region of Sudan.


6. Designed for middle, high school, and entry-level college students, this game teaches about the human immune system. It has been a popular tool in schools to get students interested in science and research.


7. Learn about food safety while playing these simple games. With shooting games, matching games, and more, learn important facts about preventing food-borne illnesses.


8. From the Army to the Navy to handling emergencies to disarming situations non-violently, these games all focus on training for the real deal. Students at online colleges for homeland security can have fun while also learning valuable information about handling missions.


9. Used in colleges to teach business, math, and economics, this game teaches about supply and demand.


10. Practice running the most powerful company in the world so you can sharpen your skills for management in the real world.


11. Your teen has to invent new and different products that will be unique and will sell. The idea of the game is that your teen should know how to manage money well and make profit the right way.


12. Your teen requires good logical and analytical thinking skills in order to solve this problem. He has to make his way through a maze to get the trophy and develop more problem solving skills.


13. The Great Attic Escape game will keep your teen thinking and busy by trying to make an escape.


14. Maths Quiz is one of the best teen educational games if he loves maths. It is a simple quiz based game where your teen will have to solve maths problems by beating a clock.


15. Mansion Impossible will see your teen play the role of a real estate tycoon. He has to speculate about property prices, various property portfolio and has to buy and sell properties in order to make profit.


16. Pandemic 2 is a strategy based game where your teen has to take on a negative role.


17. Your teen will have to earn money by drilling land, finding oil and extracting it. He will also have to get involved in various political dealings where he can influence leaders of the world and make successful pacts.


18. Airport tycoon is a strategy based game that will help your teen learn about various money and management skills.


19. Rolling Fun is a game that is based on physics and will require your teen to apply basic rules of physics to play.


20. Game Corp is another business management game that will allow your teen to get involved in various business themes and strategized thinking.


21. Frontier is an economics based game that will also teach your teen about American history.


22. Arm Surgery 2 is an educational game for your teen if he wants to pursue the career of a nurse, doctor or any other medical profession.


23. 3rd World Farmer is a serious thought-provoking game that will teach your teen about business strategy and simulation. The game is targeted at high school and college teens.


24. Cardinal Directions, Making Deliveries to Addresses.


25. Word Patterns; Completing words with sections omitted.


26. Advanced Adjectives; Matching Facial Expressions with Adjectives.


27. Estimation in Addition, Subtraction, and Multiplication.


28. Counting Change with Decimals (multiples of 0.05 or 0.10).


29. United States Landforms, Rivers, Mountain Ranges etc.


30. Latitude and Longitude.


31. Idioms.


32. One Hundred Most Commonly Misspelled Words; Find the Misspelled Word.


33. Rounding with or without Decimals.


34. +, -, x, /


35. Fun with Famous Americans like George Washington and Harriet Tubman.


36. Parts of Speech such as Nouns, Adjectives, Verbs, and Tensed words.


37. +, -, x, /


38. Inequalities; Comparing Equations; , =


39. Totem Pole Symbolism.


40. Hawkabulary.


41. Unscrambling Words; Timed with Different Skill Levels.


42. +, -, x, /; in different skill level.


43. Visual Patterns.


44. Learning the Locations and Shapes the Seven Continents and Five Oceans.


45. State Geography.


46. Determining the missing letter from words; Difficulty level increases.


47. Alphabet Patterns.


48. Addition and Subtraction to 20.


49.Ordering Numbers 1-100


50. While searching for its brother, the left boot meets various furniture, clothes, kitchen items, toys and other things in the house.



1. Experts advocate video games for learning

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3. How video games could make our kids smarter and learning more engaging

4. How Virtual Games Can Help Struggling Students Learn

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6. How To Transform Education With Video Games

7. Why Video Games May Play Big Role in Education

8. It all adds up: Learning early math through play and games

9. The benefits of the game-based learning

10. U.S. Department of Education: The future of education includes video games in classrooms

11. The Element of a Great Educational Game

12. Do Games Have a Future in Education?

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16. Using Game Mechanics to Enhance Leadership Education

17. Educational video games can boost motivation to learn,NYU,CUNY study shows

18. Department of Education Believes Video Games are the Future of Learning

19. Intrinsic Motivation in Education and Video Games

20. Educational Games

21. Education Through Play: How Games Can Help Children Learn

22. Let Them Play: Video gaming in education

23. Impact of Game Based Learning on Education

24. Video Games & The Future of Learning

25. Videogame prepares students to learn about statistics, Stanford study finds

26. The Effects of Video Games on Learning: The Positive View

27. The role of games in teaching children

28. Learning with Computer Games and Simulations

29. 7 Ways Video Games Will Help Your Kids in School

30. How mainstream video games are being used as teaching tools

31. Digital games and classroom learning: Study finds helpful features, gaps

32. How Schools Design Classroom Games for Learning

33. Intellectually Stimulating Children’s Games

34. Using Educational Games In The Classroom

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36. Teachers Surveyed on Using Digital Games in Class

37. Games In The Classroom: What the Research Says

38. Do educational computer and video games lead to real learning gains?

39. Benefits of Gaming: What Research Shows

40. What Research Says About Game-Based Learning

41. Are Video Games the Future of Education?

42. Engaging Classroom Games for All Grades

43. A Neurologist Makes the Case for the Video Game Model as a Learning Tool

44. How Virtual Games Can Help Struggling Students Learn

45. The Art and Science of Teaching / Using Games to Enhance Student Achievement

46. Can Video Games Reshape STEM Education?

47. Will Gaming Save Education, or Just Waste Time?

48. Educational video games can boost motivation to learn

49. Fact or Fiction?: Video Games Are the Future of Education

50. Five Reasons to Use Games in the Classroom