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What Are the Different Types of Educational Games?

By Tara Barnett
Updated May 23, 2024
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There are many different types of educational games, but some are more explicitly focused on education than others. While games that are thought to improve general thinking skills are sometimes considered educational games, most people limit this category to games that improve knowledge within a specific subject such as language or math. This means that while games like chess are known to improve logic skills, reasoning, and other traits valued in education, these games are not considered educational. Various types of activities can incorporate educational materials to form games, but flashcard based games and video games are likely the most common. Subjects like Trigonometry can also be presented and taught in a fun and enjoyable way, seeing as they concern shapes. Creating the materials may not be as easy, but it is still very much possible.

Many types of educational games take advantage of computers and technology to guide players through information. Games involving facts, analysis, or more basic skills may be integrated into the game in various ways, but these are typically hidden behind an overall plot line. This type of educational game is often highly effective but requires technology that is not available to all people. A good example is when creating fun activities that involve Physics equations. These activities will take more time compared to those that involve simple learning concepts like addition or division.

Basic games involving flashcards can be used as educational games in a number of ways. Matching games are popular, as are those that involve answering questions. These games are typically differentiated from purely educational activities by prizes or some concept of winning. Other games, like bingo or baseball, can be altered to include educational elements in a classroom setting as well. It's no wonder why grade school level tutors try to use these strategies to make learning more fun and encourage long-term retention in kids whose attention spans aren't as good as others.

Educational games can be as simple or as complex as the designer wishes, but some types of games are more effective at hiding educational content than others. Hiding the educational content is not strictly necessary, but it often helps encourage children to play this type of game compulsively, as a child might play purely recreational games. For example, typing games in which the keyboard is the controller are nearly perfect in the integration of enjoyment with learning, as these games teach a skill. Flashcard games, on the other hand, are often less concealed and therefore less popular. Granted, some subjects might be harder to incorporate to games, like Math, so if you can't find a fun way to make it into a game, you can just get an online math tutor to help.

Reading activities are popular as educational games, and with some computer systems books can actively incorporate side games involving additional learning. Spelling, phonics, and other reading basics can be made part of popular books in order to increase the degree of interaction between the user and the book, creating something similar to a game. In order to hold the reader's interest, some parts of the book may even be animated or resemble more conventional games. Although these things seem to be most applicable for younger learners, the bottom line is that every student will prefer a different form or learning. If you're thinking about your kid pursuing, say, college Math in the future, be prepared to provide them with educational support that leans towards their learning style.

Educational games aren’t just for elementary schoolers; they can even work for older students who are learning about more complex subjects. For example, algebra 2 tutors may utilize certain logic games to help students develop strategies for approaching challenging algebra equations. Educational games can also be helpful for history or foreign languages, as they allow students to work with a different set of skills, which can be beneficial for the memorization and retention of material.

Some traditional games can also be considered educational games. For example, the Japanese game Karuta involves knowledge of a large number of Japanese poems. Games that require knowledge in order to participate, such as trivia games, can often be considered educational if a player watches for long enough or has been given time to prepare in advance, but the teaching through playing aspect present in many other educational games is lost. Educational games help experts like private online tutors teach and present complex subjects and topics in a fun and interesting way making it easy for tutees to comprehend and remember.

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Discussion Comments
By pleonasm — On Jan 05, 2014

@irontoenail - I would say that's true for adults as well. I've never had as much fun or learned as much about my friends as when we took a drama class together and most of that was playing games.

In fact, I'd say the most important things kids and adults learn from playing games together is how to win and how to lose without annoying the people around you. Co-operation is something that is best taught in that kind of environment as well, particularly when kids are young and can't really do complex assignments together. Educational kids games don't need to be stuffy. They can learn from a game of tag.

By irontoenail — On Jan 04, 2014

@Ana1234 - I read a study a while ago that video games can even be good for people like surgeons, and that they are less likely to make mistakes if they play a computer game for half an hour before going into a surgery.

Which makes me wonder whether the video games might not be good for kids in general, because they do promote concentration. And there are a lot of online educational games that kids play at school.

But games don't have to be electronic. My nephew and I play pretty simple memory games of trying to remember all the things we saw on our walk, for example. We also do things like estimating whose stick will go faster down the stream and why. All these things are good for kids. Play is a way to learn about the world.

By Ana1234 — On Jan 03, 2014

They say that almost any game can be educational and even organizations like the Air Force will use flight simulation games to improve hand-eye coordination in their pilots.

I do think, however, that there is probably a point where the benefits of playing games starts to pale in comparison with the drawbacks. I know a lot of kids who seem to sit glued to a screen all day. I know when I play too much of a particular game it almost crowds into my mind so I keep thinking about it even when I'm trying to sleep.

It makes me wonder if kids' electronic educational games are really worth the fact that they demand even more attention to a screen. If you can't find other ways of educating your children you might be better off just sending them outside with a ball.

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