minecraftVideo games are a waste of time, right? They turn children into violent sociopaths, compulsively smashing their faces against brick blocks in a futile attempt to find hidden gold coins. In fact, all video games should probably just be banned.

And yet… 25% of Europeans say they play video games at least once a week. And among younger Europeans, gaming is almost ubiquitous – with 80% of males and 61% of females aged 16-24 playing games regularly. Gaming is a huge, global industry worth €54 billion per year, and Europe is the second-largest market for video games in the world after Asia.

Seeing as so many children and young people are anyway spending their time playing video games, could gaming be a valuable tool in their education? According to a consumer study by the Interactive Software Federation of Europe, a majority of parents across Europe (58%) thinks video games encourage their children to develop more skills.

As part of our Debating Europe Schools series, we’ve been taking questions from students from across Europe to policymakers and experts for them to answer. For today’s debate, we had questions sent in on video games in the classroom from students from the EFP Uccle and the Université St-Louis Brussels, both from Belgium.

Curious to know more about video games as educational tools? We’ve put together some facts and figures in the infographic below (click for a bigger version).


First up, we had a question from Gabriela, a young person from Sweden who works in a gaming café in Brussels. She would like to know what sort of skills video games might potentially help develop.

To get a response, we put this question to Tom Chatfield, a British author, commentator and designer whose work focuses on games and technology.

Next, we had a question from Maxime from EFP Uccle in Belgium. Maxime agreed that video games can teach certain skills, but thought they were inapropriate for the classroom. He thinks the separation between school work and leisure activities should be kept clear:

citizen_icon_180x180I don’t think video games should replace any of the traditional courses in schools, as they cannot replace the general culture and personal development that theoretical classes can give. However, video games do help children develop certain reflexes and skills like creativity, and therefore should really be supported as leisure.

To get a response, we took this question to Daphne Bavelier, a cognitive researcher at the University of Geneva, Switzerland. How would she respond?

Finally, we had a question sent in by Balthazar, a student at the Université St-Louis Brussels, asking about whether video games could help promote inter-generational learning. Are games just for children, or can parents and teachers play too? What would Daphne Bavelier say to Balthazar?

Can video games help children learn? Could gaming be a valuable tool in their education? Are games just for children, or can parents and teachers play too? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below, and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!

IMAGE CREDITS: Minecraft – Screenshot by Philip Roeland

80 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

  1. avatar
    James McManama

    Civilization II taught me everything I know about history. The Babylonians conquered America with stealth bomber technology, right?

  2. avatar
    Christos Mouzeviris

    Why not? Yes..!! Better that a spectacled old teacher who is bored out in his life, trying to make you memorise pages upon pages of theory..! People learn better what they enjoy!! Make it fun..

    • avatar

      Yes this is true

  3. avatar
    Matej Zaggy Zagorc

    I mostly learned English from games as well as cartoons. And history as well. From the Roman era to the modern age.

  4. avatar
    Rui Manuel Simões Oliveira

    Video games can be an important educative tool, if the Industry turn their purposes in a different path, that could transform video games, in a powerful pedagogic tool. Making for example: video games having as main goal, the chance to passing a Level to disbloque a foreign Language ; creating more interative games, that help children and young people to become better students and citizens.
    Of course, at the beginning, the Industry will not see their rates increasing but the secret is to continuous a constant bet in this way. The future of education, can be also in video games.

    • avatar
      Hriday Dabasia

      i thing it gives children a bad influence and after makes them do bad things

  5. avatar
    Dino Šakanović

    Yes, but games must be evaluated first. Some up say that in Civilization II Babylon conquer America xD

    I suggest Paradox Development Studio games as best history and geography simulations- Crusader Kings II, Europa Universalis IV nad Hearts of Iron IV (upcoming).

  6. avatar
    Costi Ciudin

    I still think books are the best tools to learn but don’t mind me, l am from the XIXth century or something

  7. avatar
    Paul X

    Assuming you identify a game which can actually teach something useful, the point to consider is the balance between what they are likely to learn and the amount of time spent playing the game

    I imagine whatever educational value is obtained from a 4 hour gaming session could probably be taught in 5 minutes in a classroom

    I suggest keeping education where it is best placed and not pretend that games are anything other than a distraction from real learning

    • avatar

      me too :)

  8. avatar
    Nikola Petkov

    The concept of the Playing man is not new, esp when it comes to philosophy. And now that you have improved concepts and even real platforms (i.e. CodeCombat, Mine Craft), you are asking this question? Seriously…

    • avatar
      I v I

      No uvu — except for educational video games specifically for children.

  9. avatar

    Define GAMES – Most games teach nothing, other than quick thumb responses… very useful indeed in real life (sarcasm…)! They also preclude children (see definition below) from interacting with others. Most games do not leave time for children to develop social skills. Not good. Video games too often become “baby sitters” for children whose parents did not learn to play with their children. Video games should have a relative value and should take a back seat to other games (games without video but with other children).

    Define CHILDREN – What age groups? To talk about “children” is a gross generalization at best, and a dangerous one at worse. This “children” thing needs to be properly defined first. Without this definition any answer is prone to gross errors.

  10. avatar
    Erich Scheffl

    As everywhere. You may use it positive, but also negative. Think about, that children are completely vulberable, and have no business, or legal capacity. Choldren must be protected against markets, which only want to make them dependent.

  11. avatar
    John Zervas

    The short answer is “yes”

    But only if handled correctly and in a serious manner in a controlled environment. Finally there should be studies about the value of teaching via videogames which results should indicate whether its worth as a more permanent means of teaching.

  12. avatar
    Inês Beato

    Educational games can be good, but as support for traditional classes. When I was young there were the “Living Books”, interactive storybooks in many languages, good to teach little children how to read.

  13. avatar
    Prince du Sang

    It depends on the child, they are all different.

    For many young people, video games are an escape. Once developers research virtual reality. (This will be sooner than you think), Numerous people will choose to spend the majority of their time in a preferred reality, therefore completely alienating a significant portion of the population. Matter of fact, I believe this alienation is already happening, I think they have a specific name for it in Japan. Nonetheless, over time it will get worse.

  14. avatar

    well yes 1ST it makes u creative 2nd it removes stress 3rd kids will almost do anything for 1-2 hours of gaming 4th it encorages them 5th it will let them to have an open mind

  15. avatar
    Γιάννης Οικονομόπουλος

    Of course it is a valuable tool.The first example that comes to mind are the games of Paradox Interactive(Crusader Kings 2,Hearts of Iron Series,Europa Universalis Series).Although you can deviate from history it pinched my interest to find out about what really happened.

    • avatar

      I egree

  16. avatar
    Nando Aidos

    What kind of games? What kind of learning? Learning ought to be fun but does not have to be a game! Why does the “win or lose” concept have to be part of learning? Are educators involved in this discussion? If not, they should be!

  17. avatar
    Miguel Queiroz Martinho

    most strategy historic games gave me knowledge of battles of the past (Age of Empires II, Age of kings and conquers / empire earth / Europa Universalis) the advantage is to learn historic conflits trough immersion in a game play. if you “were there” you remember the facts better like what was the name of the general that lead man in the battle of xxx? what was the goal? what changed after this conquest?

  18. avatar
    Guillem Martí Bou

    We should not make central planning with education. Let the schools compete between themselfs. Then, from this “almost free market of education” will arise the better ways to educate our children.

  19. avatar
    Christos Mouzeviris

    If designed and used properly yes… Better than having to sit and listen for hours the warbling of a Middle aged, bored public sector teacher that counts the time to go home. Not that all teachers are like that of course, but a fresh outlook in our education system would work wonders!

  20. avatar
    Matej Zaggy Zagorc

    Sure. I’ve learned a lot of history and nearly perfected my English at an early age. It’s a matter of how the games are made and how an individual receives them.

  21. avatar
    Arlinnda Kastrati

    It would almost sound like a joke if debating Europe were to argue that video games are required to improve the linguistically durable fashion…

  22. avatar

    Sounds like a “game maker’s” question. A leading question to obtain a desired answer.
    But they can be. But video games have strong drawbacks too. A child interacting with a video screen is better for the child than interacting with a human being? I doubt it very much!
    Besides, we have in our history geniuses who never played with a video game.

  23. avatar
    Ana Mourato

    This is really an interesting theme. Recently I developed a study on this question that allowed me to have informal conversations with young children 6-12 aged and find that they recognize and identify exactly what they have to learn from them.
    Young children feel attracted mainly by complex games that teach them new skills and make them feel motivated and able to make decisions.
    Digital games are not merely entertainment, we may say that they provide the great opportunity to learn in an informal way contributing greatly to the acquisition of non-formal skills and cognitive skills, memory, establishment and interpretation of the hypotheses, anticipating situations and planning strategies.

  24. avatar
    Massimo Ortale

    As a passionate video games player I can answer with absolute certainty that videogames are able to help children to learn. Abviously the not violent ones.

  25. avatar
    Ishar Wyrm

    What sort of joke is this? Can? They do help learning more than some regular “indoctrination systems”

  26. avatar
    André Chercka

    I would always be cautious about saying that a game itself helps children learn. I think the teacher’s role in how the game is applied in a learning process, is decisive in whether learning will take place after playing a game.

  27. avatar
    Aleksandar Greguric

    I learned from Pacman that i should try and escape my ghosts and things that haunt me by gobbling as many coloured pills as i can and listening to repetitive electronic music.

  28. avatar
    Nando Aidos

    Just like anything else, video games can be great teaching tools.
    However, this does not mean all video games are teaching tools.
    In fact most of them are garbage and a great many reduce children’s motor agility by requiring broad finger sweeping motions only.
    So the answer is “can” but they are not any better than other tools.

  29. avatar

    I think some games can help develop your mind and your creativity skills for eg. Mine craft it can help you learn about architecture through building different structures

  30. avatar

    video games are educational cut it helps with people being social or read better

  31. avatar

    I think video games can help children learn as many games are aimed to help people learn. Take Minecraft as an example, many children play it and it helps them learn more about building things.

  32. avatar
    India Patel

    I think video games can help many children learn. Many children are different some may find it hard to learn at school but when they play video games it helps them . Some people think that video games are a waste of time and they cant help children learn but everyone has different opinions and we should all respect that .

  33. avatar

    Games hurt your brain sometimes??????

  34. avatar
    Danielle Machado

    Not all games of course, but most games I’ve played have made me research on my own accord about a lot of topics, such as history and geography. Also, I’ve learned 3 different languages fluently simply by playing with a translator and patiently picking up grammar and vocabulary. I truly do not understand why is this even in question.

  35. avatar
    Blah Blah

    I think that we should have video games as teaching tools………Especially because I remember when I was in school and all they did was give us a pencil and a paper with 8 pt. font on it, and it was very boring. If we could video games, or some sort of game/activity to teach kids, then that would be amazing!

  36. avatar

    Kids diagnosed with ADHD have a harder time learning in school but play games for hours

  37. avatar

    I wonder whether video games really are the cause of violence among young adolescents. Despite the fact, that many people are saying that video games are the primary cause of this behaviour, researchers have tested many students and say that it may be the game that they are playing. People who are more developed in the gaming world have more chance of being less aggressive than those who are new to the concept. Also, could someone please state why video games are educational. I honestly do not get the point of saying they are educational. How can something be educational if they are teaching children to use guns, take drugs and kill people? Could someone please explain how on earth video games can be even CALLED educational.

  38. avatar

    Yes, for example Minecraft helps children open their creativity because there are no limits in this game. You can build what ever you want.

  39. avatar

    Yes, I think developmental games like puzzle solving, strategy games or even quizzes help children improve their communication, problem solving, concentration and creativity skills and should be allowed in schools as long as their educational.

  40. avatar

    I think if your child is in a english school maybe u should let them play games thats in english I reccomend roblox u can change the language and join server with your friend GO HAVE FUN LEARNING AND PLAYING

  41. avatar

    I think that while learning through video games is very fun and can build great skills for life, it could be better used as out-of-school learning to build up these skills.

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