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We make educational games for school students, age 7-18; we can't have any violence or blood in them.

I have scoured Google Play and YouTube for good examples of educational games.

So far I found this math game. The cannon fires at number-enemies, to score, the player should bring their values to exactly zero. As levels advance, the bigger numbers occur - 10, 20, 30, etc. ddd

Why is it hard to make educational games that are not boring? It seems violence is what attracts most young people nowadays! One big exception could be puzzles.

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    \$\begingroup\$ How do you make a game which is interesting? This is a topic whole books were written about. The game also being educational is yet another design constraint which doesn't make it any simpler. \$\endgroup\$ – Philipp Dec 28 '15 at 15:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ Who says violence is what attracts most young people? One of the most popular games with kids these days is about creating, not destroying. \$\endgroup\$ – Philipp Dec 28 '15 at 17:40
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Philipp Not the best example, since a not-insignificant part of the game is about survival and killing your enemies (and livestock). \$\endgroup\$ – Mast Dec 29 '15 at 10:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ Anyone who hasn't played Frog Fractions should give it a go. \$\endgroup\$ – Kelly Thomas Dec 30 '15 at 5:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ Seek first to entertain, then inform \$\endgroup\$ – Wayne Werner Dec 30 '15 at 18:49

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The reason you see so few high-quality educational games is because the most educational games do not look like they are educational. They don't even pretend to be.

As a kid I learned English mostly from playing non-localized RPGs on my Sega Mega Drive. I discovered the scientific method for myself as a teen by analyzing online games and trying to figure out the game mechanics. I obtained the ingame resources necessary to test my hypotheses by applying economical theory to corner the ingame markets and get rich. And even now that I am an adult, I keep discovering games which teach me something. For example, Kerbal Space Program taught me a lot about spaceflight and lately Crusader Kings 2 awoke my interested in medieval history.

What do we learn from that?

Do not hammer down the point "This is the thing I am going to teach to you, no matter if you want it or not". Design the look and feel of the game so it appears to be about something completely different. But design the game mechanics so that the player needs to reach your educational goal to progress in the game.

This, of course, begs the question "Then how do I market it as an educational game to pedagogues and parents when it doesn't look educational"? Well, you didn't ask about that :). That's the reason why many games marketed as educational suck so much. They are not designed to appeal to the young players, they are designed to appeal to the adults who buy them to educate their children.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Most importantly, playing COD taught me so much about my mother's late night escapades. \$\endgroup\$ – MonkeyZeus Dec 28 '15 at 16:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ the last paragaragh just HIT IT HOME!!!! now i realize, we did EXACTLY same thing! a week ago we had to demonstrate our games to ADULTS!teachers! they EVALUATE it and decide for kids, if it s EDUCATIONAL enaf! \$\endgroup\$ – ERJAN Dec 28 '15 at 16:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ This post brings to the point the most important thing, not only for educational games, but for all games, that want to leave a deeper impression behind. Create educational/interesting content and a fun/exciting gameplay hand in hand. No side of that balance should only serve the other one. \$\endgroup\$ – Kronos Dec 28 '15 at 17:58
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    \$\begingroup\$ The majority of games don't really teach you, instead they spark interest. Teachers need to follow a curriculum (which is a good thing). Therefore, unless teachers know that [insert-your-game-here] is going to fully cover their lesson, they are going to have to go back and reteach it anyways. \$\endgroup\$ – Nathan Merrill Dec 28 '15 at 23:27
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    \$\begingroup\$ When a dept store closed and sold off its inventory i saw a parent with daughter in tow (about 7-10) buying all the "educational" software. The girl said, "when are we going to get something for me?" I was about 15 at the time (1985) and I never forgot that. \$\endgroup\$ – Almo Dec 29 '15 at 11:39
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The issue comes from the fact that the general public hasn't accepted NORMAL GAMES as a learning tool, so in order to be an 'Educational' game you have to make the game with 'education' first, instead of 'fun'. This creates pressure to lean on the side of boring, prettied-up digital homework instead of simply making a game that happens to teach you stuff.

Minecraft teaches you about wildlife conservation and resource management. It doesn't claim to be educational.

Many RPGs will expand your vocabulary exponentially.

The point is, to be a good game you have to have fun first, not education.

You should do some google searches on the ideas surrounding "play time as education" and the like.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I started to say the same thing myself. Educational games have historically been terrible. There's a huge difference between something like "Math Blaster" and "Worms/Gorillas" or "Kerbal Space Program"-- MB is glorified homework, whereas the others make you stop and think about how you can apply mathematical/physics concepts to solve an actual problem. Done right, an educational game shouldn't raise any attention to the fact that it's educational, otherwise it defeats its purpose. \$\endgroup\$ – Ivan Dec 28 '15 at 19:46
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    \$\begingroup\$ I learned grid functions from an 'educational game' where you do the math to figure out points and then throw a water balloon at an enemy. I wasn't playing because I was learning. I was playing because i had found a way to weaponize math, and that's cool. \$\endgroup\$ – Ethan The Brave Dec 28 '15 at 20:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Ivan Math Blasters wasn't so bad for its time. Remember the space junk shooter? But I also remember Gorillas and having a lot more excitement every time that banana made a huge boom. Take it for what it's worth. \$\endgroup\$ – DrZ214 Jan 3 '16 at 16:38
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Most of these answers are on point when they say the game should first be a good game, but an educational game tends to be in a different format than a normal game. They tend to be made for shorter sessions of about 15 to 30 minutes, try to teach you more than you can learn with the same amount of time from a normal game, and have a broader and younger audience.

I think the answers that mention how much you learn from normal games are exceptions to the rule. Your average person wanting to play a game (think Wii or Wii U audience instead of Xbox One, PS4 or PC) isn't going to spend a lot of time thinking about game mechanics or even reading large blobs of dialog in an RPG if they don't have to.

Try to solve problems using the material you are teaching. Take for instance, "Where in the World is Carmen San Diego" franchise of yore. Using clues from the text to solve a crime was engaging and forced you to read the text. By not being timed, it allowed children with lower reading skills the opportunity to read at their own pace. This example also picks up from other answers in that it didn't feel so much like an "educational" game, just a game.

Use reward systems. These work and can be a great way to persuade your players to keep playing.

Allow for depth. Don't just look up a quick fact about Saturn and paste it on the screen for your players to regurgitate later, allow them to explore all kinds of things about the topic (and get further rewards with the more they know).

Make the game feel like a higher quality game with animation, sound, music, etc. Too many educational games play like something that was made for a programming course's assignment. Take for instance Auralux, which has good graphics and a very nice sound and music system. Without it, the slow and simple gameplay would probably be too boring for most people to play for more than a few minutes.

Make the experience personal. People (especially children) love to have a custom experience. Let the player customize their character, choose a name, and have achievements.

If you can, ramp up the difficulty based on how easily the player overcomes obstacles. Someone who can't get anywhere will just get frustrated and give up and someone who beats the game in 10 minutes isn't going to come back. If you can't spend the money for elastic gameplay, then try to find a good balance based on your target audience.

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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 for Carmen San Diego! In elementary school we'd play that game and have to try to look stuff up in the dictionary or encyclopedia to figure out where Carmen might have gone, because no google. \$\endgroup\$ – BrianH Dec 29 '15 at 3:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ Hmm. Carmen Sandiego just taught me that the Indian flag is red, white and green and the Mexican flag is brown, red and white... It's a little unfortunate when nobody checks the work of the colour-blind programmer. \$\endgroup\$ – David Richerby Jan 2 '16 at 17:01
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Puzzle games, with some quests or riddles could be a great start. I think that kids may find educational games boring not because they lack blood or violence but because they lack a goal.
For the game above: why should a kid play it? How does he/she gets rewarded? How his/her victory affects the game?

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    \$\begingroup\$ @ERJAN I don't think that a leaderboard is something really interesting for a kid (but it depends on the age), I was talking of something like robot customization, some kind of useful reward, to induce the kid to keep playing \$\endgroup\$ – Xriuk Dec 28 '15 at 11:34
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    \$\begingroup\$ thank you for pointing out ! i have to read some game theory stuff, what engages people - rewards like in COD, upgrades, storyline etc. \$\endgroup\$ – ERJAN Dec 28 '15 at 12:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ I would add that teaching something such as adding or subtracting requires repetition. Many educational games can get a child interested in starting to play, but the repetition is what bores them quickly. Even if you disguise the repetition in a variety of ways as the game is played, it becomes boring because you are performing one task again and again. In most skill-based games there are a variety of skills you could be good or bad at, and how they combine is your overall performance. How would you feel about a game entirely focused around one skill - which directly correlates to performance? \$\endgroup\$ – DoubleDouble Dec 29 '15 at 20:02
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    \$\begingroup\$ Goals certainly help and can overcome anything given a large enough reward. With the reward of candy, or a new toy, many kids may practice addition the old boring way on paper or flash cards. Others will not. I suppose my point is that the less repetitive a task seems, the less reward/goals are required. \$\endgroup\$ – DoubleDouble Dec 29 '15 at 20:42
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    \$\begingroup\$ @DoubleDouble Sure! Because at that point the task itself becomes the reward. The kid will want to discover "what's next". \$\endgroup\$ – Xriuk Dec 30 '15 at 14:56
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The number one thing I have found that limits educational game is a hard lined insistence that the adult programming the game define what will be learned in the game. Much of a game's appeal is from the player deciding what they want to get out of the game. The game maker can make suggestions, but in the end, it is the player that decides. If your game suggest "You should want to learn to add positive and negative numbers," and that's not the player's definition of "fun," they'll quickly put the game down.

Instead, make room to permit the player to decide what they want from the game. If they want to have fun in their particular way shape or fashion, let them! Sure, reward them for wanting to have fun in ways that support your educational goals, but don't make it hard to enjoy the game outside of a narrow window.

Let's use your cannon game as an example to brainstorm on. Unless you feel like adding numbers to get to a zero, it's a rather boring game. However, what if summing numbers to zero instead offered you power ups, and the "game" was a more standard cannon game. Now the game is just a game, but there's a way to make it easier by doing math. If a player wants to win simply by shooting every number out of the sky, guess what: they learned geometry! As the game progresses, you may try to encourage them to play the math part of the game more by making it gradually harder to progress without playing the part of the game you want them to play. If they want to stick to the easy stuff, that's fine. If they want to rely on raw twitch fingers to blast everything, that's fine. If they want to concentrate on the math, great. If they want to find their own balance between math and twitch, that's even better!

Now, consider that paragraph with respect to Candy Crush, one of the more addictive games of all time. The primary focus of the game is on studying patterns in the game grid. Instead of making that the game, they make it a way to power up: cookies kill off whole colors, wrapped sweets slaughter columns or rows, etc. At first you can just play the game any way you like. However, as you progress in the levels, the power-ups smoothly become more and more important, until you reach a point where some of the simpler power-ups are absolutely and utterly required to beat a level, and the game encourages you to reach for the more powerful power ups.

Candy Crush is a good example for how to not make a game boring!

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I'd suggest looking up and taking cues from game play in the following:

  1. The Lost Mind of Dr. Brain (personal favorite - plus it emphasizes IQ building from more of a Weschler scale approach, i.e. problem solving over straight memorization)
  2. Math Blaster / Reading Blaster (Davidson)
  3. Jump Start (Phonics, Reading, Typing)
  4. Number Munchers (pretty sure this is given).

My guess is, if you're old enough to be asking this question, you're familiar with everything I've listed, but maybe not.

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Consider:

"How do I make educational games engaging (and) not boring?"


Everything that can be used to make a game engaging in general - and there is a lot to do - should apply to educational games too. The matter is that if you set to create an educational games you are placing upon you an extra set of constraints that may make it hard to desing engaging game mechanics.

Yet, not knowing the gnre, I gotta cover from cooperative to competitive, from single player to massive multiplyer... so, gotta go the abstracts and the generalizations.


To see how to make games engaging, go back and look at how individuals play. Not just video games (and not just humans). A common theme of all play time is make-believe^1, without good immersion any game will become boring. But the immersion is not in the graphics or the music (even tho, they can help) but in the mind of the player.

^1: You should also consider: challenge, chance and thrill.

Consider how a child may enjoy playing with toys. Even if the toys doesn't have rewards or goals. How is that possible? Meditate on that.

Now, if we consider that all games have some form of make-belive, then we can consider that all games are a form of simulation. You may consider them training - except that people enjoy it!

By extension, all games prepare you for something. Even if that something is just playing the game itself. So making a game that teaches something is not hard, but when you settle to make an educational game, you are setting yourself to make a game that teach certain things - in particual those of academic value - and that teach them in a way that is measurable or testable.


Note: Another thing that makes the game boring is repetition, which sadly is one of the things that is used for memorization. So if you want to use repetition for the educational content (because it requires memorization) then your should do it in a way that is not predictible.


How to motivate

Before going futher, I would like to encorage you to ponder... why do you play the games you play?


The naive approach for decision making is that people choose what give them more value. And so there would be some value function that can be applied for each option (which assumes that the set of options is discrete and finite), that gives a value and you pick the one that give you more. Addendums to this approach will consider cost, risk, simulataneos tasks, etc...

But what is "value"? What is it that motivates people? What need do games fullfill to people?

As per Self-determination theory there are three core needs that could be fullfilled by games:

  • Competence: Games can give you the skill to do things. Become better at the challenges the game presents.
  • Relatedness: Games can serve a means to connect with other people.
  • Autonomy: Games can provide a framework in which people can own their actions.

Note: Also constrast with Maslow's hierarchy of needs: Games can provide a sense of belonging, can improve your self-esteem, and may help you become a better individual.


You can use tricks techniques such as random possitive stimulus rewards and conditioning creating habits that are known to bring poeople back to the game.

On the other hand you may inspire curiosity - and imho this is what you should try to do - so that people doesn't come back because they may get a new virtual medal^2 but because they want to know what's next, it is the unknown that calls to them^3. Of course this will be easier with certain topics than others. This is done in a game by surprising the player, and being ever changing. If the game is always the same, well it is boring.

^2: It is known that people attribute real value to virtual things, so yeah, they come back for the virtual medal.

^3: Which is also an argument of why people don't find interesting a game where they do what they do for work. Instead people are interested in games where they are and do things that they don't in real life.

So: More replay value => more engagement.


Yet, if the game is meant to have some challenge. And as the player has more experience their skill is expected to increase, and as such the challenge should increase too. Otherwise the game will become dull over time. If you consdier a competitive game, then you will have to balance the skill level of the players.

A measure of player skill will be handy, it will allow you to provide the appropiate challenge and also will be useful to see how well the players/students are learning the game/lessons.

Difficulty curves and how to adapt them is broad topic, and while it should not be overlooked, that discussion doesn't belong here.


Consider how to use randomness and combinations to provide structure to the game. For instance the game in the OP shows a game where - I pressume - numbers appear at random. Yet, the structure of the game doens't really change, it only makes you stop and think what number to pick. Now consider a game like Mario Kart where the random roll of the power ups (even if it doens't have an uniform distribution) may change the way you play the game (from an defensive to an offensive game play, for instance). Or the random maps of Age of Empires or Civilization may alter the means you use to expand your territory. Or for Minecraft, depending of your spawn location you may have to decide if you dig, build or explore first. And the next day, the player knows that the game may have a new experience for them, and so the player comes back.

Consider the other side of random: grinding. Many games use griding as a way to provide virtual difficulty. Grinding is tiresome, so it translate as making a difficult task. But it is not really making the game harder or more complex, just longer. And for each step of the grind, the player get a random reward, and maybe there is a chance of a really good prize. This thrill provides engagement, but for many player it doens't really make the game fun.


It should be noted that a frustrating game maybe both a good or a bad thing from the engagement perspective. You may decide to drop the game if it is frustating, or you may be enraged with the enemies in the game (but not with the game itself) and want to get back in to play it and beat it (or kill the enemies for the sake of it). If you want to laverage rage for engagement, you have to make sure that the frustation comes from the enemies and not for a bad game (riddled with bugs or bad controls, for example) and that it doesn't break the immersion or consistency.


Your players

Ok, that's the next thing to consider: your players. Not all players are equal.

You maybe interested in learning about Bartle's Taxonomy of Player Types (which is intended for online RPGs). For abstract it classifies player in four types: Achievers (people that want prizes), Explorers (people that want to learn about the game and its mechanics), Killers (people to who like to express power and domination), Socializers (people who like to build communities).

You will find that nobody fits any category exactly, instead people are to some degree one and to some degree the other. But it may be possible to tell if they have a dominant type.

You should provide game mechanics that interest to player of the categories of player that you want to have. For a tradicional MMORPG it is argued that you want a balance of the four. But many games may do well without players of some of the categories [Or the classification may be need to be adapted for other gnres].

  • Archivers will want to have prizes, titles, archivements, etc...
  • Explorers will want huge worlds, secrets, shortcuts, a good lore, etc...
  • Killers want taunts, competition, player vs player, anything that can act upon other players (including griefing and bullying), etc...
  • Socializers will want means of communication, chat, teams, guilds, markets, etc...

And make it educational

Just like you can't put all your player on the same bucket, you cannot assume that they all learn the same way. Some may prefer to be presented with examples, some may prefer to be told what to do, and some will prefer to be explore by themselves and learn by committing mistakes.

In fact, it is a sign of a good game the one where you don't notice where the tutorial ends, in particular if it is tematically consistent. For instance consider Portal, most of the game is an elaborate turorial for the final battle, but it doens't feel like you are just playing the tutorial. Also consider Mega Man X that introduces all game mechanics on the tutorial level without telling them to you explictly. An alternative is to have the tutorial be engaging by itself, for instance VR training in Metal Gear Solid plays like its own game, while the main game will do its best to teach you as it goes.

Now, since you want to teach certain particular things in the game, you will have to build them in the game. The ideal is the case where learning to play your game is learning what you want them to learn. You want the player to have some rewards^4 if they do it correctly, in particular you need the player to understand when they have done it wrong and WHY. And you want the player to be able to get textual visual help if they request it.

^4: You may have to tailor "rewards" to the player type, it may not always be in term of archivement. Also consider if the rewards is instrinsic (for instance is a successful execution rewarding by itself) or a skinner box extrinsic (it gives you access to something else, or point to buy stuff, etc...).

Futher more you want it make sense. If you can provide an in-game reason why are you doing that task (that you are trying to teach) the better. If it can be related to the real world much better. Consdier this a test for you: when in your life do you need the skill you are trying to teach? Who will use this kind of skill on a daily basis? How can you turn that into a game? It may be required to find other problem that has isomorphism to what you want to teach (mainly because academic problems are abstract) in order to add them thematically in the game.

Remember that the game has to teach how to be played in addition to whatever is your agenda for the current educational program. So if you can build in it affordance and utilize mechanics that the player may already be familiar with (perhaps from another game, or earlier in the same game) then it will be more accesible.


If you are pitching this to teachers you want statistics. It is good to know how much the players are playing, how long are the session? how frequent are the sessions? how much progress are the players doing? It may help you to improve your game by finding what are the cases where the players are not really engaged, and what are the cases where the players are having trouble learning. This will help the teachers too - they may take it as an aid for evaluation, and it may be an extra incentive if the students can skip some tests or homeworks if they are good at the game. It may be worth noting that if you go to the path of gamifing the claass room, you want cases where the players/students cooperate.

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Let me start off by saying something somewhat controversial: This is absolutely the wrong place to ask. Game developers are 1. hard core gamers and 2. the kind of people who analyze those games. The majority of people do not fall in to those categories. Most kids do not analyze the optimal way to do things in games, instead they just do whatever they want. This will still teach them certain things like foreign languages, but if the goal is to teach them a wide variety of skills then you do end up what others are making fun of as glorified homework. Just because those games seem boring to adult hardcore gamers does in no way imply those games do not fulfill their intended purpose.

So, whom should you ask this question? Well, probably two groups:

  1. Those who study psychology and gamification,
  2. and those who study didactics/the science of education (not sure of the proper english name).

And what you will find out is that just because a game is not violent in no way means it's going to bore young kids. The important thing is just to reward them for a job well done (gamification), though doing that in the right way and actually making the educational part stick is hard. So I am not even going to think about trying to answer this question here, as it's big enough to study for years and still only know the basis of.

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When our kids were growing up there were two sets of educational "games" that stood out

  1. the Reader Rabbit series, and
  2. the Zoombini adventures/games.

Both of them had reasonable graphics, etc, but what made them really stand out was

  • they had a story behind them. The kids were on an "adventure", and there were characters to interact with (in a limited fashion) and puzzles to solve. The "puzzles", of course, were what the kids were learning from, and they were well thought out and interesting.
  • they were age-appropriate. In the Reader Rabbit series there were programs from Toddler through Kindergarten to 1st and 2nd grade, then various program for ages up to 6-9. Also in the Reader Rabbit series there were a couple of programs where the story line was rather extensive (looking here at the list of Reader Rabbit programs I'm particularly thinking about "Reader Rabbit 1st Grade: Capers on Cloud Nine!" and "Reader Rabbit 2nd Grade: Mis-Cheese-ious Dreamship Adventures!").

The Zoombini series again were a "quest" or "adventure" type game where the player had to solve puzzles to move through the game world.

Our kids would play these for hours.

Were these programs effective? I think so. Obviously there's more to producing a successful student than a few computer programs, but of our three kids:

  1. Eldest was a straight-A student from 6th through 12th grade (in gradeless Montessori programs before that), took I-don't-know-how-many honors and AP classes, was valedictorian in her high school class, and is now a freshman at Harvard.
  2. Second is still in high school - straight-A student 6th through 11th grade (current), taking as many honors and AP classes as are available.
  3. Third is in middle school - straight-A student and captain of her school's Academic Challenge team.

I think that these educational programs helped. YMMV.

Best of luck.

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"Why is it hard to make educational games and not boring games?"

Educational games just as hard to make interesting as any other game. If you look at the example you gave, the graphics alone would be enough for anyone to say that game is of low quality. But if you apply a couple iterations of continuous redesign and improvements to that game, you may end up with Tetris, which was and still is a blockbuster, despite its very limited graphics.

Educational games often use the fact that they are educational as an excuse to publish a poorly made game. As a result, people have come to expect games that are sold as "educational" to be of lower quality. So if you make a good educational game and you want it to sell well, you don't label it as "educational game". Thus, if you want to look for truly good educational games, you look at games that are educational, but don't brand themselves as such.

Tetris is great for spotting and matching shapes, Pong teaches about elastic collisions, Microsoft Flight Simulator teaches almost everything about aviation, Kerbal is great for learning all about gravity and kinetics, Civilization 1 teaches a lot about history, Cities Skylines teaches about traffic and congestion, etc.

Focus on making a great game first. One affordable way to do that is to "get inspiration" (aka copy/borrow/steal) from good games that already teach most of what you want to. For simpler concepts - like the one in your example - I recommend to specifically "get inspiration" from board games.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I've often wondered how much of "educational software" is really just shovelware created by vendors to soak up contracts from institutional buyers. Nobody would buy it on their own, but sell a million copies to schools... \$\endgroup\$ – Ivan Dec 29 '15 at 19:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Ivan Heh. :) I'd say half of it. The other half was probably made as hobby by parents for their kids. Still not good but at least those have a soul. \$\endgroup\$ – Peter Dec 30 '15 at 0:13
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While there are some good points among the answers, I feel that none have really nailed what I consider to be the essence of a good game that teaches things. Here's my take on it:

  1. Start with the hook. Make the subject appear as exciting as possible. The game should have some kind of narrative that uses the subject-to-teach in the background, while leaving the foreground to the genuinely exciting parts.

  2. Use progression and variety to maintain interest. Rewards in the commonly understood sense are too narrow and often, bland. Plot twists, new "weapons" for puzzles, new scenery and interactions - that's where the excitement is at. Similarly, doing the same puzzle (but slightly more difficult) over and over should be avoided at all costs.

  3. Repetition is also necessary. Switching between entirely different kinds of tasks and sets of information is mentally tiring. While the content is full of variety, the subject shouldn't be.

  4. Associative transitions. Whenever the information taught is changed, it must be done gradually, to help the brain form links between things. Sudden jumps in context are hard to deal with and make things seem pointless - what's the point in remembering something if you're going to move on soon?

  5. There can be no time limits. If the player wants to understand something better, let it happen. In a typical classroom setting, everyone is forced to learn in sync with others, which is boring for some and stressful for other students. A computer is not constantly in a hurry, so it's an opportunity to do things right.

  6. Subject tree traversal:

What I call the subject tree is a graph where nodes are small bits of information and links determine which information depends on other information to be understood (nodes generally depend on deeper nodes).

Most teaching is done starting from the end (the small and simple things), breadth-first, towards the root (the big and complicated thing). This way, the reason to learn things is rarely, if ever, addressed. Things seem pointless.

However, if you start with the big goal and move deeper until understandable information is reached (depth-first), the reason for learning is always obvious.

The exception to this are muscle memory/calculation tasks (like playing musical instruments) that require copious amounts of practice and nothing else - though it seems that something like that can't really be taught in a typical setting, so I'm assuming the question isn't about teaching anything like that.


Plain gamification, while a somewhat valid solution, won't last long. Creating motivation and inspiration in students is what produces the best results. Coincidentally, I remain somewhat unconvinced that a game posessing such qualities can be produced from the starting point of wanting to create a good educational game.

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As a kid, Civilization II broadened my understanding of the world and the way it works. My vocabulary was largely increased as a result of studying the game's concepts to become a better player. The game wanted you to play to win, not immediately to learn, so in wanting to play to win (and have fun) I took it upon myself to learn.

The game should tell you to play, instead of telling you to learn.

You should choose to learn because you want to play, instead of playing because you want to learn.

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First of all, I'd like to state that this is a very good question.

Young population likes to be free, they like to play the games in their way. Their "way" is usually not education. You can play chess for hours even if you don't like it, but they won't if they don't like it.

You need to "inject" education into game. For example lets say that your game is Minecraft. Add a feature that gives you a chance (I mean optional, and non-intrusive) to solve a maths problem, and you get diamonds for it! Easier math problem, less diamond. Harder? More diamond!

You can reward the user for educating themselves, and they'll enjoy it too.

I used to play a MMO called hero years ago, and it used to ask you a random math question every hour or something, mainly to check if you are a bot or not. You had like 15 seconds to solve it, and if you did, you'd get some free loot. If it didn't give out anything, most people wouldn't solve it.

However, as stated in other answers, while the players will like this approach, families will probably not. "The game asks you to solve a math problem every 10 minutes, it is optional and it gives out free loot" will probably not satisfy the parents as an "educative game".

Another type of games that are educative and are liked by parents are puzzle games like Wordament. It is fun to play for some (believe me, the "some" here is way more than the "some" who will play purely educative "e-homework" games). The competitive factor is really important in these kind of games, for example leaderboards. You can give out real world prizes to the top 3 monthly etc, and it'll be liked by more players. (however, this requires the game to be paid or ad-supported)

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Very important question! Maybe no single right answer, but here are some thoughts:
The term 'computer game' is harmful to the technology it describes reaching it's true potential. That's my main point. We need a new word to describe a different ambition.

3 billion hours spent playing 'computer games' per week is costing humanity a lot. Find a way of making the player go up a level, rather than the character, and you've cracked the problem.

That probably means understanding your "game lesson" so well yourself, that you can break it down into unimaginably tiny pieces.

The (sceptical) 'player' should almost immediately crush the first piece and be rewarded with praise and power-ups. "CORRECT!" "THAT'S RIGHT!!" "SUPERB!" "ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED!!" Build up her confidence quickly; make her contemptuous even, of the difficulty of the 'lesson'. Whatever your trying to teach, French, Physics, Math or the Fiddle; the state of play can take the fear out of failure. Mario dies? Mario gets the hell back up.

Remember, 'games' are repetitive. Use that. and then give her a challenge (boss) that looks impossible, but is easy-when-you-know-how. If you can reveal the boss's weakness in the lesson fragments of the preceding challenges, I think that's the bridge we're trying to cross.

You can't skimp on the fun. Normal games only have to work, and be fun. Ours have to work, be fun and deliver a truth beyond the parameters of the 'game'. But yeah, step 1, stop thinking of it as a computer game. This is post-game software.

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The reason why your game is boring is because the player finishes learning the game objectives, and too quickly.

When playing a game, boredom depends on the game objective complexity, if the game's difficulty level is low, the player will quickly realize there is no challenge to the game, thus, easy, thus no reason to continue playing since it would be a waste of time, hence, boring.

If you want players to latch on your game, you need to make the difficulty dynamic, you can't expect people to keep playing a game where things don't change or get harder as you go.

This is one of many reasons.

Another could be that the rewards for playing is not well-thought out. So what if your player is doing good in the game, how do you reward a player and make them feel like the challenge was worth it?

These are many things game-developers must master in order to make great games.

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for everything "boring" to be engaging and interesting, it should be a "way" not a "goal" to be achieved, for example learning English is much more interesting if your goal is to do something fun or interesting with it rather than to make learning English the goal itself.

therefore it will be much more interesting to make the goal of the game something fun as every other games. and i think it's best for the game to contain around %70 of fun and actions and %30 educational and you shall learn them willingly to pass the game.

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