12 things wrong with educational games

It’s just a list, it’s probably way too harsh and uncompromising, so educational developers, I know you care: please don’t take it personally, let’s just start making a bit more progress towards putting these things right

  1. hardly any of them are aimed directly at non-early-learners, except ‘dedicated training games’
  2. they make unnecessarily arbitrary assumptions about what the player already knows, wants to learn and how they want to learn it
  3. they never use ‘deep insights derived from player behaviour’ to drive ‘emergent gameplay
  4. they aren’t using ‘open world’ concepts yet
  5. they very rarely prioritise exploration over task completion
  6. they tend to treat in-depth realism as being ‘just for simulators’
  7. they tend to take enthusiastic, learning-based motivation as a ‘given’
  8. they are experientially less compelling than entertainment-oriented games
  9. they treat immersion as a non-essential, incidental by-product, if at all
  10. they are mostly either puzzle-solving or ‘practice until mastered’
  11. they are much more ‘developmentally static’ than other popular types of game
  12. they don’t make enough of an effort to directly involve players in the game’s ongoing development of content or functionality

I’ll name no names, but every serious gamer knows of at least one of their favourite bestselling ‘realistic’ non-educational games that has a ‘training/beginners mode’ where fewer of the criticisms above apply to that ‘educational’ experience than they do to just about any purely educational game that they’ve ever played.

I could add the dreaded item 13: the extent to which educational games integrate seamlessly (or at all) with other ‘unconnected topic’ educational games is usually purely incidental and in most cases, they just don’t integrate with anything that is not directly connected to either another educational game produced by the same developer or one that is part of the same game development initiative. Solution? See item 4.

Curriculum-wide, ‘broad-spectrum’ games-based education, aimed at lifelong learning for ‘motivationally challenged learners’? Don’t make me laugh!

But funnily enough, if we make some serious inroads into the above shortfalls, you never know…