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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.