Games in Education: Learning by Doing

Here is the definition of the game from Wiki: “a game is a structured form of play, usually undertaken for enjoyment and sometimes used as an educational tool”. And a video game is an electronic game that involves interaction with a user interface to generate visual feedback on a video device such as a TV screen or computer monitor.” In my view, the meaning of these terms at least two points: First, the game can be regarded as an educational tool; secondly, interaction is an indispensable and even the most important part of the game. In other words, playing games is also a kind of “learning by doing”.
Mark Carnes’ ideas about “active-learning” are very interesting. Essentially, I think the learning style that he describes is role-playing. During the gaming process, students need to actively collect materials and build a world of their own and this adventure is of course exciting. However, what I want to emphasize is that games in education are still at an experimental stage. Two and a half hours of the schedule per week may not be able to adapt; on the other hand, the time and energy that students spend on it will inevitably increase dramatically. Can the games in education improve the graduation rate problem at the universities? I also have deep doubts about this because the education evaluation system still uses credits and grades as the key criteria. If these fundamental factors do not change, then this model will be difficult to promote.
Personally, I have a positive attitude towards games, including video games. As a student majoring in public administration and political science, I learned about the operation of the government in Western countries including the United States through a game called “Democracy 3” before I came to the United States. It is considered as a sophisticated political strategy game which has a unique user interface that makes visualizing the connections between laws, policies, voters, and situations easy. I must say that I learned more about the US politics from this game than I learned from the boring textbooks. Other examples include “Minecraft”, my nephew in elementary school really likes the open world of this game. The game developer, Microsoft has already treated Minecraft as “a collaborative and versatile platform that educators can use across subjects to encourage 21st-century skills”. Other games, such as League of Legends and Dota2, have higher requirements for teamwork. With the development of AR and VR technology, I am optimistic that games can break the boundaries of the classroom and play an increasingly important role in education.

The game UI of “Democracy 3”Image result for democracy 3Image result for democracy 3

14 thoughts on “Games in Education: Learning by Doing

  1. I agree with you. I learned soccer system from “Football manager” and government system from “Sim City”.
    The game gives us not only “fun” but also “complex knowledge”. The game teaches us in an empirical and practical way, and we back up the theory through lectures. To get true knowledge, both must be done.


  2. Hey Ruixiang,

    First of all, thank you for sharing your experience of learning about Western government using Democracy 3. This sounds like a much more exciting way to learn about politics. I looked it up and now I want to play!
    I also like how you point out that:

    “the time and energy that students spend on [a course] will inevitably increase dramatically,” if courses are gamified.

    This sounds like a good thing because students will be thinking about the course material more outside of class instead of just during the lecture time. They will also probably have more positive experiences playing a game compared to working on homework problem sets. That being said, do you think that dedicating more time to a course could have a negative impact on overall student performance? You mention graduation rates with respect to the current evaluation system. I agree that the way we assess student performance may need to change. However, I was also wondering about time management and students wanting to spend too much time playing a game. I look forward to discussing this more on Wednesday!


    1. Hey Ruixiang & Kristen!

      I wanted to echo what Kristen said about introducing us to Democracy 3–it is an interesting concept. For your studies, do you try and accurately simulate present issues when you start a session; or were you more interested in how political systems work in general? Stuffy textbooks are hard to learn from; games certainly make learning lively.

      On some of Kristen’s questions–specifically the one about overall student performance. I was thinking this notion of gaming & learning could be like all things–where moderation is the key. BUT; I was also thinking that if a student’s plan of study was designed around a game, that could potentially turn what I just said on it’s ear. So it’s an interesting concept to consider.


      1. Hi Kristen and Slharrell,

        Thanks for your comments! I think we should have different attitudes towards different games. I mentioned “Democracy 3”, developers have developed educational games from the beginning, such as showing the differences, advantages, and disadvantages of the Western-style systems. This type of game is undoubtedly a niche game. But we should be vigilant about violent games and porn games. Except for some games that may be philosophical, many games are like drugs to satisfy people’s desire for excitement. Not all games are beneficial, and our education system should know how to identify them.


  3. I love that you pointed out how role-playing has such a place in education. This may be showing my age, but I remember learning how to do some basic coding from Myspace and Neopets! I think games have the ability to make learning fun, especially some subjects that may be intimidating.


  4. Great point about how games are educational tools. It reminds me of when I was a kid, my parents would buy me educational computer games to play! (Also- the Democracy game sounds interesting.)

    I’ve also experienced games in a classroom setting (as an adult) and really enjoyed the application of concepts and games themselves. However, I found that many other students thought they were dumb, or maybe that they were too cool to play educational games. I’m not sure how to engage those students, because I don’t really understand the source of their reluctance… Maybe being told it’s an educational game makes the playing off-putting to some people?


    1. Hi Rinaley,

      Thank you! I think most people still like shooting games or action games. Games like Democracy 3 may not be very popular, especially when you need to face a lot of data and charts. This may remind people of their work and homework. Maybe another good game is the Civilization series. But it is more entertaining, and few people will read the encyclopedia inside carefully.


  5. I enjoyed reading your post. I agree with you that in order to adapt games in education, the grading system should adopt too. Such a new grading system needs to take into account both the process and milestones in achieving the intended game goals. Generally, current grading systems focus only on achieving goals while rarely addressing the processes of reaching these goals.
    I am glad you mentioned the game “Democracy 3”. I heard a lot about it but never had the time to try it. I will definitely give a try someday.


  6. Hey Xie, I like your post and I am happy that you did learn from those videos games. But as Kristine pointed time management and spending much time playing video games might be something to think about. I used to see some of my classmates sleeping a lot in class and people said it was because they used to spend all night playing games. The question then is: was what they were learning from those games worth what they were losing in class?


    1. Hi Oumoule,

      Thank you for your comment! Do you remember the video we watched in the first class? The sleeping boy in the classroom became a game developer finally! Of course, I know this is just a case. I think the key to the problem is still in time management. Although I never skip class, I am not against this behavior – if someone spends time on other, more meaningful things. My undergraduate roommate did not attend classes for the whole third year, but only completed homework and exams. However, he did not waste his time, but went to the internship every day and practiced spoken English. After four years of graduation, he has already opened his own foreign trade company by his own efforts! Sometimes, the time in class is really not that meaningful.


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