Andy Robertson is a journalist specialising in video games for families. He has written for newspapers and broadcast for 15 years and has just written the Taming Gaming book. He runs the Family Video Game Database. He lives in Exeter and has three children.
Video games are a great way to entertain ourselves, have fun together and to relax. However, like any media, video games also offer a wide range of other potential benefits. I work with schools to deliver digital wellbeing sessions that have often evolved to become integrated with other lessons.
The challenge is that the educational aspect of different games isn’t always obvious. By playing a wide range of games and trying them out in different educational situations I’ve put together a list of games that are useful for this purpose.
A puzzle game where you construct different chemical molecules to solve them. It’s clever because it teaches you which atoms go with each other through gameplay interactions rather than written or verbal instruction. This is a great way to engage students who have a different learning style.
A puzzle game about an old man going on a journey at the end of his life. It’s a good game to use in a variety of lessons. You explore the geography of the landscape. You must solve complex routing problems to find the way forward. Under all this, is a lovely story about getting old that has been used in some schools to engage children with the concept of ageing in a light-hearted way.
This is a game about frustration. It appears simple. All you have to do is climb the mountain. However, you have to do it by clawing your way up with a hammer while stuck in a cauldron. It sounds a little bizarre but works really well in English lessons to spark creative writing about frustration, perseverance and different levels of mobility. One school I worked with challenged the children to compete with the staff to see who could get the furthest.
This is a game about communication, rhetoric and developing a convincing argument. You are all stuck on a space ship and must try and fix it. However, a couple of crewmates are imposters and try and foil the others. Unusually, at any time players can stop the game and call a meeting to discuss who they think is the impostor. In schools, this has been a brilliant tool to highlight fake news, and how it is often how you state your argument rather than having the best facts, that wins the day.
It’s, of course, also important, whether at school or at home, is to set up their devices with the appropriate settings. This enables you to ensure that only appropriate games are played. I also offer parents advice about how to set healthy ground rules for video games at home.
Andy Robertson is the editor of AskAboutGames.com and has written the Taming Gaming book for parents.