It Isn't as Easy as It Looks

Given the variety of motivations that each student brings to the playing of educational games, the variety of formal features and challenges in games, and the dynamics of neural systems, it would appear that designing effective educational games is a nearly impossible challenge. Certainly, the results coming from static media effects research provide little reason to believe that educational game designers have mastered that complexity. Nonetheless, we know that people of varying motivations attend school with a broad array of teachers who provide them with a variety of challenges and that these people emerge from the school system having acquired a great deal of knowledge. Systematic educational interventions do work. The challenge is how to make systematic educational games work.


One of the great ironies in educational game design is that designers rarely use science to create games designed to teach science. Most funding and effort has gone into creating games based on experience or intuition, and then the resulting games are tested using static media effects research strategies. Scant attention has been given to the basic problem of how people learn from games (despite many journal articles and books that claim to do so). Working from science to design will dramatically shorten the time it takes to understand how to design effective educational games.

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