What is the educational potential of video games beyond their recreational use?

The use of video games has caused rivers of ink to flow in recent times, almost always warning of the dangers involved in their abuse.

However, more and more voices say that video games can and should be used for educational purposes beyond this negative side. In the following paragraphs, education specialists from essay writing service will discuss this issue and the main arguments that support it.

Can video games be used to educate?

Ever since video games became popular, especially from the 1980s onwards, and have been gaining an increasing market share ever since many sectors have demonized them. They warned (and still warn) of many consequences, many of them unfounded, that children could suffer simply for dedicating their leisure time to this activity.

But in contrast to these harsh criticisms, other professionals ask themselves a question: can video games be used in education? If we are talking about a means of entertainment that a large part of children loves, why not use it as a means to bring the educational content that would otherwise not be attractive to them?

Other digital media have been progressively introduced in the classroom, as did audio CDs, movies, whether explicitly created for educational use or others that also served to educate because of the subject matter they dealt with. Finally, the use of computers, electronic whiteboards, and other devices. It is logical to think that video games can also be handy if you know how to use them.

Some experts do not doubt this positive effect. The key is to know when to use video games to support the traditional lesson and thus consolidate knowledge. In addition, there are different ways of approaching video games, something we will see in detail in the next point.

Different methodologies

Once we are clear about their usefulness, we could ask ourselves how video games can be used in education. According to the intention with which they have been created, we can establish the following classification.

  1. Classic games

The first category we would find is that of classic video games, i.e., games that have been created with a playful intention, but that due to their plot or the elements that are handled, teachers can also extract a didactic utility. Depending on the subject to be treated, many examples can be found. One case would be that of video games set in a particular historical period, which help to immerse oneself in the characteristics and events of that period.

There are many examples of video games with a historical theme, from the great war genre, where the Call of Duty, Medal of Honor, or Battlefield sagas stand out, to those of the Wild West, such as Red Dead Redemption, or those that deal with different eras, such as Assassin’s Creed, Age of Empires or Civilization. Although obviously, the examples are many, some will delve more deeply into the historical context than others, where they will tiptoe around it.

It is essential to keep in mind that video games, like any other entertainment work, such as movies or books, do not necessarily have to be true to reality or historically accurate. Therefore, they may introduce some or many fictional elements in their plot and context. Consequently, it will be an essential task of the teacher to point out those fantastical elements not to create erroneous learning.

But they can also be games as different and simple as Minecraft, which can be ideally used to explain to children some concepts about geometry that on paper could be more complex or tedious. Through the screen, it is much more attractive.

Another example could be the SimCity simulator or other similar ones (Theme Park, Theme Hospital, or Caesar). The player gradually creates a city and discovers the needs of the citizens and the difficulties involved in managing a territory, even when they are as simplified as within the parameters of a video game.

  1. Games adapted for education

Sometimes, video game developers take advantage of an already created work to generate an adaptation adapted to the school world. It is the case of the Assassin’s Creed saga. These famous video games have released installments set in historical moments as different as the Peloponnesian War, ancient Egypt, the Crusades, Renaissance Italy, China during the Ming dynasty, and more.

After having swept the board in its purely recreational mode, this saga has decided to take advantage of its potential and create specific ways to promote the teachings about the historical moments in which some of its installments occur. These are the so-called discovery tours, modes in which the player can explore the open world of that era without a specific objective other than to admire the historical details.

In the case of the tour proposed in Odyssey, the student has the opportunity to get to know Ancient Greece in all its splendor, going through almost thirty different locations, also enjoying audio guides that will further expand the teachings of this videogame. As if that were not enough, at the end of each level, a small knowledge test is proposed to check that the player/student has integrated the data.

Another video game already mentioned in the previous point is Minecraft, a game based on interaction with a three-dimensional world made of cubes with different textures. As was the case with Assassin’s Creed, the developers of this video game have created an exclusive mode for educational contexts.

This game has the advantage of being especially popular among children, so it is an extraordinary way to bring different concepts to children through playful activities. In this way, they pay great attention and retain new knowledge in a more efficient way than traditional education methodologies.

  1. Games created for didactic purposes

Other developers have tried to answer whether video games can be used in education differently: by creating video games with a didactic purpose. These are tools designed for educational use, which can be either in the classroom so that the teacher is the one who guides the activity or in the child’s own home so that they can use it with the support of their parents or even by themselves.

Many video games have been created for this purpose. However, logically, their scope is more localized in the academic world and families, so they do not have as much impact as the great works of interactive entertainment. Some examples could be the Knowledge Adventure saga, which proposes exploring different nature scenarios, Rabbit Reader, where children are helped to learn to read, write or handle simple mathematical concepts.

Another series of video games created specifically for education is GCompris. This saga proposes different games depending on the educational subject to be worked on. For this purpose, it has a whole range of options ranging from algebra or reading to geography, natural sciences, or even office automation tasks, animation, puzzle games, memory games, chess, and others.

These video games are designed so that even 2-year-old children can have their first experiences with these interactive activities, as they are fully adapted to their abilities. They have modes that increase in complexity to be a challenge for older children, thus offering very entertaining activities for children up to 10 years old.

Another advantage of GCompris video games is that they are free software programs, so anyone can download them and even edit them to suit the wishes and needs of the particular family. In this way, it is accessible free of charge to people from anywhere in the world simply with an internet connection to obtain the files.

  1. Simulators

Although it may seem that video games are new elements in educational contexts, the truth is that, beyond school classrooms, these tools were already being used in other areas that were also educational in some way, although not in the children’s field. It is the case, for example, of simulators, both flight and driving simulators, which are used to train pilots in particular situations.

For example, Formula-1 pilots use this type of software to rehearse certain maneuvers or get to know a circuit’s characteristics in-depth. But the range of simulators goes much further. NASA itself and other space agencies use these tools to anticipate possible situations in a mission beyond the Earth’s atmosphere.


Vicki Mata is the author of the educational blog She writes articles that are helpful information for students about education in general. She believes that video games, one of the new techniques in education.

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