Educational games are games explicitly designed with educational purposes, or which have incidental or secondary educational value. All types of educational games may be used in an educational environment. Educational games are games that are designed to help people to learn about certain subjects, expand concepts, reinforce development, understand a historical event or culture, or assist them in learning a skill as they play. Game types include board, card, and video games. An educational games are games designed to teach humans about a specific subject and to teach them a skill. As educators, governments, and parents realize the psychological need and benefits of gaming have on learning, this educational tool has become mainstream. Games are interactive play that teach us goals, rules, adaptation, problem solving, interaction, all represented as a story. They satisfy our fundamental need to learn by providing enjoyment, passionate involvement, structure, motivation, ego gratification, adrenaline, creativity, social interaction and emotion in the game itself while the learning takes place.
With the increase and availability of technological devices, there has been a shift in what types of games people play. Video or electronic gaming has become more widely used than traditional board games. Barab (2009) defines conceptual play as “a state of engagement that involves (a) projection into the role of character who, (b) engaged in a partly fictional problem context, (c) must apply conceptual understandings to make sense of, and ultimately, transform the context”. The goal of such play spaces is to have the “gamer” engage in the narrative while learning cognitive and social skills. The ability to immerse oneself in the gaming process facilitates “empathetic embodiment” which occurs when a player learns to identify with the character they have chosen for the game and the virtual environment of the game (Barab, 2009).
According to Richard N. Van Eck, there are three main approaches to creating software that stimulates cognitive growth in the gamer(Educational games). These three approaches are: building games from scratch created by educators and programmers; integrate commercial off-the-shelf (COTS); and creating games from scratch by the students. The most time- and cost-effective approach to designing these educational games is to incorporate COTS games into the classroom with the understanding of the learning outcomes the instructor has for the course. This requires the teacher to buy into the positive results of using digital games for education. It also requires teachers to have adequate self-efficacy concerning the use of these games and their technology. The students usually have high amounts of self-efficacy in usage of digital games, while the lack of confidence teachers have in incorporating the digital games usually results in less effective educational use of the games. However, Gerber and Price (2013) have found that teachers’ inexperience with digital games does not preclude them from the desire to incorporate them in class instruction, but districts must have in place support through regular professional development, supportive learning communities with their colleagues, and adequate financial support to implement game-based learning in their class instruction.
Games often have a fantasy element that engages players in a learning activity through narrative or storylines. Educational games can motivate children and allow them to develop an awareness of consequentiality. Children are allowed to express themselves as individuals while learning and engaging in social issues. Today’s games are more social, with most teens playing games with others at least some of the time and can incorporate many aspects of civic and political life. In classrooms, social game-based learning platforms such as Kahoot! are gaining traction, as they enable students to reinforce knowledge, take ownership of their progress toward learning objectives and develop social and leadership skills. Students that participate in educational video games can offer deeper, more meaningful insights in all academic areas.
The success of game-based learning strategies owes to active participation and interaction being at the center of the experience, and signals that current educational methods are not engaging students enough Experience with and affinity for games as learning tools is an increasingly universal characteristic among those entering higher education and the workforce. Game-based learning is an expansive category, ranging from simple paper-and-pencil games like word searches all the way up to complex, massively multiplayer online (MMO) and role-playing games. The use of collaborative game-based role-play for learning provides an opportunity for learners to apply acquired knowledge and to experiment and get feedback in the form of consequences or rewards, thus getting the experiences in the “safe virtual world”.
The built-in learning process of games is what makes a game enjoyable. The progress a player makes in a game is through learning. It is the process of the human mind grasping and coming to understand a new system. The progress of understanding a new concept through gaming makes an individual feel a sense of reward whether the game is considered entertainment (Call of Duty) or serious (FAA-approved flight simulator). Well-designed games that motivate players are what make them ideal learning environments. Real-world challenges are easier faced within a game containing effective, interactive experiences that actively engage people in the learning process. In a successful game-based learning environment, choosing actions, experiencing consequences, and working toward goals allows players to make mistakes through experimentation in a risk-free environment. Games have rules and structure and goals that inspire motivation. Games are interactive and provide outcomes and feedback. Most games also have problem solving situations that spark creativity.
Identification with the character within the video game is an important factor in the learning potential of the gamer. Some of the electronic games allow the gamer to create an avatar that is designed and “owned” by the gamer. This character is an expression of the human creating the virtual character. This has opened a new set of scientific possibilities. The virtual world can be used as a laboratory. The relationships and space within the games can simulate complex societies and relationships without having to truly participate. This application of an avatar in not limited to simulation exercises. According to Bainbridge, interviews and ethnographic research could be conducted within the reality of the game space. This could include experiments in social psychology and cognitive science. The fact that game creators and gamers are wanting new experiences within the games, the introduction of “experiments” could increase the level of play and engagement.