Let The Pigs Teach

The goal of most educators is to make learning fun and effective for their students. This goal can be accomplished in many different ways, with most teachers open to trying new methods of creating fun in the classroom. One such method utilizes video games as a means of education. These games are usually created by companies specifically for educational purposes and blend simple game structures with material being taught in the classroom.  Not surprisingly, these games are called “educational games” and are sold with children as the primary audience.

Determining what other games fall into this “educational” subset of gaming is difficult due to the way that games can teach. In Debugging Game History, Anastasia Salter, an author and professor at UCF,  examines the differences in gameplay between games that fall into the educational games category. Salter mentions Math Blaster, an educational math game popular in the 90s, and World of Warcraft, an MMORPG that is one of the most popular games of all-time since its release 2004. Her comparison focuses primarily on the difference between games that are intentionally educational and those that are not. The difference of intent can make classifying and producing these educational games very difficult.

Bad Piggies Gameplay Screenshot

Salter notes that there are many games, such as Math Blaster, who embed educational content into their game by making educational questions or routines an integral part of their game. Games adding education in such a manner are clearly games that are intended to teach, however, there are plenty of games that follow drastically different gameplay patterns but still teach plenty of material. World of Warcraft is a great example because the gameplay is not intended to be educational, however, skills such as language acquisition and literacy are improved through playing the game. This education goes relatively unnoticed by players of the game, and is something that many educational games seek to emulate.

Bad Piggies has many elements that can make playing an educational experience.  The different qualities present in building and using the vehicles can help teach kids about physics and also about the different materials they encounter in the game.  Math skills are also improved by time challenges and other number based achievements that progress the player through the game. For this reason Bad Piggies inadvertently teaches players skills that will come in handy outside of the game world. How people choose to implement  cooperation between gaming and education going forward will surely change as technology advances and it will be exciting to see what these “educational games” look like.

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