9 Reasons to use Games for Learning

Here are 9 reasons why you should consider dumping your online learning courses and start usning games instead. You can view the full presentation by clicking on the box to the right.

#9 They Give Learners Choice

There is plenty of research that points to the connection between giving learners choice and their increased motivation to learn:

  • Monty, R & Perimuter L 1972
  • Constance Kamii, 1991
  • Ranti & Corno, 2000
  • Zimmerman & Salen 2003

Games do a great job of setting some parameters and then letting learners decide what to do within those parameters. Electronic Arts sport games are intentionally designed to make a decision every 1-2 seconds with feedback on those decisions every 7-10 seconds. Games such as Plants vs. Zombies, Our Courts, and Minecraft all do a great job of providing learners with choice.


#8 It's what Amazon.com would do if they made learning content

"We need to move from individualized learning, to differentiated to personalized learning." - Karen Cator (US Dept of Education)

Amazon.com does an excellent job of customizing the experience to individual customers. Amazon's profitability depends upon their ability to serve up, and even predict, exactly what you need. Most learning tools do neither.. It's hard to find what you need even when you know EXACTLY what you're looking for; to say nothing of actually guiding you toward what you need.

Games do a great job of this. They adapt and change based on the learner's needs. As soon as user's are proficient in a level they are moved up. If they cannot demonstrate proficiency they are given more opportunities to learn. This perxonalized learning is based on data, not goofy ideas (like learning styles).

Learning should be customized based on:

•Learner’s needs
• Past performance
• Desired Future Application of the material



#7 There are no next buttons


#6 Cognitive Psychologists Dig It

#5 Sometimes it's good to Fail

Games allow learners to "fail to success". This concept of failing forward permits learners to test their limits in a safe environment. In addition, gaming increases muscle memory, or the rehearsal necessary to solidify correct behavior. Finally, gaming increases an internal and external competitive spirit related to learning opportunities.

#4 Immerses Learners in context

#3 Gets rid of learners... And turns them into problem solvers

•- Maria H Anderson
•“My students, some of whom can’t seem to learn algebra, CAN seem to learn complex video games that require logic, memorization, teamwork, and strategy.”


#2 They make data sexy

In learning we are really bad at using data in exciting ways. If we collect it at all it is usually "post-mortem" data.

Let’s say I collect the following data

Customize the learning experience.  In traditional classroom learning there used to be a lot of talk about “learning styles” and making different learning experiences based on people’s learning styles.  And while the whole idea of learning styles is largely considered a load of crap, what if we continue with the idea of customized instruction based on data?

Karen Cator:

We need to shift from individualized learning to differentiated learning to personalized learning. I like the distinctions (this is what online learning would look like if it were made by Amazon.com)


#1 Games are more fun

•“Boredom is the brain casting about for new information.  It is the feeling you get when there are no new patterns to absorb”
•- Raph Koster (theory of fun)



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