Do Video Games Really Enhance Learning?

Are Video Games Just A Waste Of Time?

There has been much debate about whether or not video games are just a waste of time or if they actually enhance your children’s ability to learn.   If we think about it, even before the days and popularity of video games many children’s programs such as Sesame Street, Barney and Dragon Tales tapped into children’s imaginations.

Can video games be effective teaching aids?

Many analogies have been made describing the brain as being similar to a video game because we as humans seem to learn best when we use our imagination and then integrate various experiences into simulations.  As new technologies emerge, video games are becoming more and more complex and are demanding more skills from players to progress to more difficult levels of the game.  This in turn can enhance your child’s critical thinking ability.

Can Video Games Be Thinking Tools?

Good video games can be good thinking tools.  They allow players (who are also learners) to integrate their knowledge with the knowledge of the characters within the game.  In addition, good video games allow players/learners to actively customize the environment to suite their learning preferences.  Typically, video games are designed to reach a specific goal or objective and then progress to the next level where new sets of more difficult goals and objectives must be obtained.  This helps keep the player/learner from becoming frustrated since the different levels allow a progression of skills that make the game more challenging as the player progresses without running the risk of the player/learner becoming bored.

In addition, video games often require comprehension as opposed to just storing general concepts in one’s head.  Instead, comprehension should be centered around an experience that requires an individual to act in a way that requires some form of action (e.g. through simulation, imagination or exploration) in order to meet goals or bring about a framework which helps facilitate situated actions.  Many video games offer this integrated type of learning.

Some Benefits Of Video Games

Here are just a few of the proven benefits of video games.

  1. They help break down complex tasks allowing the player to learn in a series of steps.
  2. They can provide learners with immediate and constant performance feedback.
  3. They can often be paced to the individual learner
  4. They can promote social interactions as kids make friends in person and on-line.
  5. They can help working memory, critical thinking and problem solving.
  6. They can test memory skills and eye-hand coordination.


When Should Children Be Introduced To Video Games?

Often time parents will ask us, at what age should they introduce their child to video games for learning?  As with video games, this is a complicated question.  Our experience with working with young students is they have an incredible imagination and if it is stimulated early through various learning techniques including video games they can develop better attention skills in the classroom since many video game demand that players be focused if they want to progress to the next level and higher challenges.  But with all things, too much of a good thing may not be so good after all.  So we suggest that parents steer their children toward educational video games and then monitor the child’s “play time” to allow them other ways of learning as well including trips to museums and interactive play with other children.

Can video games be educational?

It’s probably short-sighted to dismiss all video games as a waste of time.  Particularly as more games are developed that enhance interaction between the player and the game there are many useful skills that can be learned.  As more games are developed, creators of video games are developing more complex simulations which allow your child to be immerse in this virtual environment. There are some games that allow for 3-D multi-user virtual environment where young kids (ages 9-16) can learn about writing, math, biology and space science.

In these types of games, players often create avatars that can interact with other characters in the game.  Then they are met with challenges like exploring solutions on cleaning up their environment.  The better games offer realistic simulations that allow kids to experience the consequences of their actions and then allows them to correct their actions.

Where Can I Find On-Line Educational Video Games?

Perhaps, as more research is done on the effect of video games on student learning more details will emerge on how best to structure your child’s exposure to them.  If an interactive style of learning vs the traditional sit and listen to the teacher approach can be shown to have a greater positive impact on comprehension and critical thinking in students then the learning environment in schools will likely change over time.  But for now, it is good to get your child started with some great learning videos that can enhance your child’s ability to learn.

Check out the free educational video games at the NASA website at  These games are mostly logic and memory.

Or check out the Whyville site at for activities for kids (ages 8-14).  Players can create avatars and explore academic subjects like art, history and economics.

As a closing thought, perhaps there is a place in learning where video games can play a part.  After all, we have been encouraging kids to play games that allow them to interact with others to help with social interaction.  So maybe it’s a good idea to think of action video games in the same way as activities that have the potential to sharpen your children’s perceptions and responses to the world.

If you are in the Boulder area and you believe your child could benefit from some extra attention with a math tutor or science tutor, we have a number of programs that can help them excel.  Please give us a call at 970-226-8704, we would love to see if we can help enhance your child’s learning experience.


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  1. I’ve always heard that video games are detrimental to the attention span of children, that they encourage violence, and that staring at screens is bad for kids. It’s interesting to see research that contradicts those opinions. I remember learning typing and practicing math through computer games as a child.

  2. I’ve always heard that video games were detrimental to the attention spans of children, that they encourage violence, and that staring at screens is bad for kids. It’s interesting to see research arise that contradicts these opinions. I remember learning typing and perfecting my math skills through computer games as a child.