Arguably, since this article was published in 2005 educational games – or ‘serious games’, as they now like to be known – have improved a great deal. Of course there are still crappy games out there, but the merging of games for entertainment and games to teach is slowly happening in some areas.
Despite the fat that – at the time of writing (though it does rather still apply today) – the general consensus among the game community is that educational games are a monumental failure, “Educators are energized by games’ ability to engage with students, to capture their wayward attention and help them learn in rich and dynamic ways.” Kids these days are just more entertained by something on a screen. They want immediacy. They want interesting. And games are a great way to do that – if they are designed well.
The main problem, it seems, with designing educational games is that those making them are looking from two different side and don’t know how to work together. The educator only cares about dressing up their topic in a ‘fun’ way, while the game designer is more interested in making a game, first and foremost. And the game designer understands that games need certain elements in order to be successful games, which are: “interactivity designed with clarity of input and output; short-term and long-term goals to shape the player’s experience, a well-designed ramp for beginners to learn the ropes; and a game structure that actually contains the possibly of genuine play, not just quiz-style questions and answers.”
“Every game contains a seed of conflict… The struggle to overcome these obstacles, the engagement necessary to outwit the opponent or solve the riddle, is a primary source of fun.”
REF: Fortugno, N., Zimmerman, E. (2005). Learning to play to learn [Article]. Retrieved from http://ericzimmerman.com/files/texts/learningtoplay.htm