Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting nature.com. You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Teaching science through video games

Imagine a class without lessons, tests and homework, but with missions, quests and teamwork. Video games offer an attractive educational platform because they are designed to be fun and engaging, as opposed to traditional approaches to teaching through lectures and assignments.

Access options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.

from$8.99

All prices are NET prices.

Figure 1: Anatomy of a jetpack.
Figure 2: The design of the Polycraft World wiki page is such that the game instructions (recipes) are intertwined with real scientific information such as chemically accurate reactions and conditions and clickable links.
Figure 3: Examples of approaches to teach and assess basic organic chemistry using in-game content.

References

  1. 1

    Moore, J. S. & Janowicz, P. A. Nat. Chem. 1, 2–4 (2009).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  2. 2

    Malik, K., Martinez, N., Romero, J., Schubel, S. & Janowicz, P. A. J. Chem. Educ. 91, 1804–1809 (2014).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  3. 3

    Romero, C., Espejo, P. G., Zafra, A., Romero, J. R. & Ventura, S. Comput. Appl. Eng. Educ. 21, 135–146 (2013).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. 4

    Moy, C. L., Locke, J. R., Coppola, B. P. & McNeil, A. J. J. Chem. Educ. 87, 1159–1162 (2010).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  5. 5

    Mazur, E. Science 323, 50–51 (2009).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  6. 6

    Gee, J. P. What Video Games Have to Teach us About Learning and Literacy (Palgrave MacMillan, 2003).

    Book  Google Scholar 

  7. 7

    Kuchera, B. Microsoft spent $2.5 billion on Minecraft to buy the next generation of players. Polygon (15 September 2014); http://go.nature.com/2gKFsxg

    Google Scholar 

  8. 8

    Steinkuehler, C. & Duncan, S. J. Sci. Educ. Technol. 17, 530–543 (2008).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  9. 9

    Jenkins, D. Cinema analysts blame Halo 3 for low ticket sales. Gamasutra (16 October 2007); http://go.nature.com/2fqTLnZ

    Google Scholar 

  10. 10

    The 2015 Essential Facts About the Computer and Video Game Industry (Entertainment Software Assosciation, 2015).

  11. 11

    McGonigal, J. Reality is Broken (Penguin Books, 2011).

    Google Scholar 

  12. 12

    McGonigal, J. SuperBetter (Penguin, 2015).

    Google Scholar 

  13. 13

    Kiili, K. Internet High. Educ. 8, 13–24 (2005).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. 14

    Khine, M. S. Learning to Play — Exploring the Future of Education with Video Games (Peter Lang, 2011).

    Google Scholar 

  15. 15

    Csikzentmihalyai, M. Flow: The Psychology Of Optimal Experience (Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2008).

    Google Scholar 

  16. 16

    Baron, S. Cognitive flow: the psychology of great game design. Gamasutra (22 March 2012); http://go.nature.com/2gk6PKW

    Google Scholar 

  17. 17

    Gee, J. P. Good Video Games + Good Learning: Collected Essays on Video Games, Learning and Literacy (Peter Lang, 2007).

    Book  Google Scholar 

  18. 18

    Evans, M., Jennings, E. & Andreen, M. Int. J. Game-Based Learning 1, 16–29 (2010).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. 19

    Juul, J. The Art of Failure (The MIT Press, 2013).

    Google Scholar 

  20. 20

    Evans, M. in The Handbook of Research on Improving Learning and Motivation through Educational Games: Multidisciplinary Approaches (ed. Felicia, P.) Ch. 8 (IGI Global, 2011).

    Google Scholar 

  21. 21

    Hunicke, R., LeBlanc, M. & Zubek, R. A Formal Approach to Game Design and Game Research. In Proc. Challenges Games AI Workshop, 19th Natl. Conf. AI (Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence, 2004).

    Google Scholar 

  22. 22

    Squire, K. & Durga, S. The Handbook of Educational Gaming (Information Science Reference, 2009).

    Google Scholar 

  23. 23

    Squire, K. Replaying History: Learning World History Through Playing Civilization III PhD Thesis, Univ. Indiana (2004).

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgements

Minecraft and associated artwork are trademarks of Mojang. The Polycraft mod and associated artwork were produced at the University of Texas at Dallas

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Ronald A. Smaldone or Christina M. Thompson or Monica Evans or Walter Voit.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Smaldone, R., Thompson, C., Evans, M. et al. Teaching science through video games. Nature Chem 9, 97–102 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1038/nchem.2694

Download citation

Further reading

Search

Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing