Can Video Games Teach Academic Skills?

Video games are beginning to be used in the classroom environment in many school settings, from universities to elementary schools, to teach in an interactive style that can be more engaging than typical teaching methods. Recent studies have explored the benefits video games can have as teaching tools. Heins (2018) discusses the educational value of video games in multiple content areas for children of all ages. A study by Hamlen (2017) investigated the relationship between time spent playing video games and academic success.

The true influence that video games may have on education is still to be determined. It is not yet clear whether games such as Big Brain Academy are able to increase school performance or general intelligence. Numerous ongoing studies supported by the Federation of American Scientist are seeking to answer these questions in a more definitive manner. In the meantime, current research indicates that certain video games, when properly implemented, have great potential in the classroom.

We still have much to learn about the impact of video games on learning. To learn more about this important topic, we have selected a few scholarly but straightforward articles that reflect the current state of the science. You can also access our lengthier bibliography by clicking here or by going to the Center for Media and Child Health Research base for more extensive information.

Bonhotal, I. (2009). Professor: Video games can teach people. Wabash College.

Retrieved July 19, 2018 from

This article discusses a professor’s lecture about real-life applications of video games. Dr. James Gee, Professor of Literary Studies at Arizona State University, is the author of What Video Games Have to Teach us About Learning and Literacy and Why Video Games are Good For Your Soul.

Federation of American Scientists. (2006). Harnessing the power of video games for

learning. Summit on Educational Games. Retrieved July 19, 2018 from

Federation of American scientists believe that digital technology such as video games should be Incorporated into the teaching of academics and would be effective in developing higher-order skills in students. Educational games and simulations are also posited to benefit the development of complex aspects of expertise, not simply short-term memory of facts.

Gonzalez, C.S., Gonzalez, R.M., Rio, N.G., Adelantado, V.N., Delgado, P.T., & Fleitas, Y.B. (2018). Gamified educational programme for childhood obesity. IEEE Global Engineering Education Conference (EDUCON). Retrieved July 19, 2018 from

“Physical and active games can attract young people and children to have regular physical exercise and to promote healthy habits. The PROVITAO project has developed a gamified educational program for healthy habits, based on video games assets and motor games. The developed program consists of a plan of activities specifically designed on healthy habits with motor games, commercial video games (WII fit plus and apps) and own such as TANGO:H, that they can be developed at home and in group face-to-face sessions.” (Gonzalez et al, 2018).

Hamlen, K. (2017). Developing expertise in video games and in academics: a comparative investigation. Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education. Retrieved July 19, 2018 from

This study was to determine the similarities between expertise in academics and expertise in video-game play. It also investigated whether time spent playing video games was related to success in academics.

Heins, M.C. (2017). Video games in education. Education and Human Development. 625. Retrieved July 18, 2018 from

This literature review explores the impact of video games within the education field. The author discusses the educational value of video games in multiple content areas for grades kindergarten through twelfth grade and the existing limitations of technology in schools.

Stuart, K. (2008). What we can learn about learning from videogames. The Guardian. Retrieved July 19, 2018 from

Good games can be good teachers, but only under certain circumstances. Author Keith Stuart discusses why games that are too hard or poorly designed aren’t the best medium for children’s learning.   

Wenzel, J. (2011). Academics study the avatar life and like what they see. The Denver Post. Retrieved July 19, 2018 from

Multiplayer online role-playing video games can portray virtual worlds equally as complicated as the real world. Studies have shown that this has benefits for the people who play them.

Willis, J. (2011). A neurologist makes the case for the video game model as a learning tool. Edutopia. Retrieved July 19, 2018 from

Dr. Willis argues that playing video games releases dopamine, a reward system that promotes pleasure and motivation. In the article he also claims that using visible models helps to build executive functions and encourages habits of the mind.

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