Educational Video Games Are a Thing of the Past...Present and Future
The era is fast approaching when you'll actually hear parents tell their children to go play their video games--not do their homework. With the recent rise of #edutech, the educational opportunity that video games offer students, especially teenagers, has garnered widespread attention. Today, students can learn, discover, and explore through video game simulation and roleplaying, capturing creativity and 21st century skills along the way. What's more fascinating--especially for education professionals--is that this teaching method is met with enthusiasm by students!But this isn't a new idea: Video games have been educating people for over 25 years. For instance, doctors use video games to learn new surgical techniques; commerical airline pilots use flight simulation video games to sharpen their skills and even the army uses tactical simulators to improve their real-life military decisions.
In an ode to educational video games, today we're taking a look at a few of our favorites over the last two decades that have been quietly teaching gamers about physics, medicine, resource allocation, micro- and macroeconomics, strategy, teamwork and much, much more!
Emergency Room Series as an Educational Video Game
The Emergency Room series, which was first released in 1995, allows players to take on the role of an ER doctor tending to patients! The game features over 100 unique cases; clinically-correct procedures (well, correct for medicine in the late '90s!); and lessons on anatomy, physiology, and microbiology.
In the game, budding doctors are forced to evaluate their patients and make daring treatment decisions to save lives. While playing, gamers educate themselves on surgical proceedures and are taught more medical jargon than an entire season of any medical drama! Once done, these digital doctors can even diagnose acute appendicitis with ease (we're kidding of course)!
Today, more companies are reviving the medical game genre. One example is Surgeon Simulator which is available on most mobile devices. This wacky video game veers away from the realism of Emergency Room with crazy graphics, unreal scenarios, and comical control of your virtual hands. However, there are still plenty of realistic elements: all the organs are anatomically correct, and the surgery features some accurate procedures. Weird as it may be, this game just might be all it takes to drive young students to the medical field!
Minecraft as an Educational Video Game
Minecraft is a more recent educational phenomenon (it was released in 2011), and has quickly become a favorite of educators and students alike. The eductional computer game lets users create their own world through crafting items and building almost anything, block-by-block. Minecraft calls for students to use their creativity and analytical skills as they explore and build a world that is uniquely their own. Teachers are also able to devise custom packages and add-ons that allow them to expand on typical classroom lessons in a more interactive way. Today, many middle and high schools are using the game to teach students history, science, coding, physics, and digital citizenship.
Director's Chair as an Educational Video Game
Director's Chair is a '90s game that allows players to go behind the scenes on a movie set for a truly experiential film education. From filming to sound production, the game offers a completely immersive experience that demands creativity and a keen eye for its student users to succeed.
Director's Chair took not only teaches filmmaking terminology, it empowers any budding Spielbergs with a critical eye for cinematography through the wide selection of camera angles and video editing techniques. Future marketers were also pleased that the game touched on the creative process of marketing a movie to the public with poster design and more.
Through Director's Chair, aspiring 'Hollywood Big-Shots' learned that film production is a multi-faceted process that takes creativity, patience, and collaboration. Oh, and did we mention it features a young Jennifer Anniston as the star of the "movie"?
SimCity as an Educational Video Game
Before you could control a Sim's every living moment, there was a time when the city they lived in took precedence.
In the SimCity series, which debuted back in 1989, players become the mayor of their own city complete with real-world problems to solve, such as traffic jams, pollution issues, and natural disasters. Fans of the game can spend hours perfecting their city, but deep down, lessons such as micro- and macroeconomics are all being explored to balance infrastructure spending, communal benefits such as firemen and schools. Yes, the mayor must even deal with taxes -- too high and your resident population decreases, yet too low and you won't be able to fund your fantastic dream city!
From trade agreements to financial planning to rectifying traffic problems, SimCity exposes players to hundreds of choices that real cities deal with every day, inspiring a new generation of city planners and civil engineers.
After recognizing the practical applications that SimCity has afforded, EA Games developed SimCityEDU--a version specifically made for the classroom that allows teachers and students to further explore issues like sustainability and preparing for the Common Core.
Tropico as an Educational Video Game
Another city-building series called Tropico has been an underground hit since 2001. Across more than five iterations, this game focuses a bit deeper than SimCity on the economic and political facets of city-building. The game dives into these aspects so much that many bloggers and online writers still praise the game for teaching them politics ("Tropico was the Game that Taught me Politics").
While Tropico entices players to research political systems and strategies and put them into action in their virtual city, these strategies often don't work out well. Failures lead Tropico players to question what truly is an effective form of government and lead them to the understanding that maybe there isn't just one right way to govern.
Players can take the lessons learned about different political systems, how policies are pushed out at a bureaucratic level, and the benefits and pitfalls of each government, and apply them to real world political institutions, which helps players become more involved citizens of their own countries, and of the world in general!
Scribblenauts as an Educational Video Game
Scribblenauts is one of the most unique games to come out in the last decade! It starts with a simple 'capture the flag' premise. However, the flag in this case is a star and almost every item under the sun is available for summoning in order to help the main character reach that star. Summon a rocket ship, a Griffin, or even a pirate ship. Need a vampire or a shark for whatever reason? No problem, just don't expect them to behave well!
Whatever you summon, the possibilities to reach the star are endless, creativity and the laws of physics being the only limit. The game also lets players add adjectives to their nouns, sprinkling them into each puzzle to push along whatever star-catching contraption has been created.
Not only is Scribblenauts a great tool to help non-native English speakers learn new vocabulary, but it also hones students' creative thinking with its unique mix of physics, english, and problem-solving skills.
Civilization as an Educational Video Game
Many teenagers grumble at the thought of learning history, but one company has figured out a way to make an accurately historical interactive video game!
By letting users interact with the past instead of just reciting from textbooks, the Civilization franchise takes players through time and around the world from the perspective of many different civilizations, from ancient Babylon to Korea.
In the game, players choose their civilization, each with its own discoveries, wars, and events that influence game-play. What makes Civilization a truly impressive teaching tool is that its gameplay mirrors each civilizations actual historical timeline.
In Civilization, users have to decide on tactful ways to deal with their allies and enemies who are also real historical figures. Talk to Gandhi or wage war aginst Queen Victoria! As time passes, this turn-based, role-playing game teaches players history, geography, economics and empire-building strategy without making any of it feel like a bore.
What do you think of our list? Share your favorite games with us!
Educators like Knovva Academy continue to look at different ways to include games into their lesson plans to boost comprehension and retention of daily lessons while collaborating between global cultures and communities. Subscribe to our blog to stay updated with Knovva Academy and be the first to know when we launch our own gamification classes!