The most important research studies on games

Here are eleven of the most important research studies to know regarding the value of video games for education. Many of these are adapted from a recent Games for Change Festival keynote delivered by Constance Steinkuehler.

  1. When compared to traditional learning, several studies have found that game-based learning is indeed better than traditional methods.
  2. Video games, in some circumstances, have been found to be positively correlated with well-being, such as this 2021 study on Animal Crossing players.
  3. When kids play together, it’s a better experience. A study on motivation determined that when co-play occurs, outcomes are improved by 2 standard deviations.
  4. The content of games should be married to game mechanics. Rather than “bolting learning onto game mechanics,” a 2011 study by Ainsworth and Habgood found that when educational content is intrinsically aligned to the game elements, better learning occurs.
  5. Games are more powerful when they are combined with paratexts. A 2011 examination of simulation games shows when supplemental text is combined with the game, student outcomes are improved more than the game alone.
  6. Action games enhance attentional control. A 2012 study demonstrates that games are even effective at training us how to learn and shapes our attention.
  7. Games are especially great for language gains. The research study even found that the language acquisition didn’t even require that the game was a language game.
  8. Reading gains are inherent to gaming, but choice is a key factor. If students were allowed choice in their in-game reading, the impact was more powerful than the game alone according to Steinkuhler’s own research.
  9. Games are useful for overcoming bias and cognitive dissonance. The 2015 study demonstrates the power of games to overcome cognitive dissonance and reduce stereotypes.
  10. Despite popular opinions, games promote learning and discourage negative behaviors. In fact, the study illustrates that regular game-play improved mental health as well as cognitive and social skills.
  11. Games in research don’t reflect games in the market. There is a gap between game creators and what is revealed in the research literature.

I teach game design and educational technology courses at Teachers College, Columbia University in New York City. You can reach me at GAMES at tc dot columbia dot edu.