By Tanner Higgin, Graphite

When I was in school, game-based learning was a novelty. This was the era of Math Blaster!, Lemonade Stand and Oregon Trail, when game-based learning meant digitized practice problems or clunky, paper-thin simulations. Still, my classmates and I liked these games. For many of us, this was the only exposure we got to video games outside of arcades. Even as consoles increasingly took up residence in living rooms, computer games still felt special–just a bit more advanced and interesting.

But when my family got a computer, something changed. The edutainment we’d play in computer labs were still a nice spark in a typical school day, but the games felt different. What we were playing at school felt out of touch and out of step, not just in style and polish, but also in what they asked the player to do. While Oregon Trail might offer the appearance of a history lesson, it’s hard to convince a kid of that when she’s going home and designing a metropolis in SimCity, or adding another page to her notebook full of hand-drawn Metroid maps.

Game-based learning, and the developers who identify with it today, have come a long way since then and gotten much closer to closing the gap. And there’s still a need to communicate core content through games, a need that the consumer market just doesn’t have incentive to fill. Yet at Common Sense Graphite, when we evaluate games for learning, what we find is that many of the highest scoring ‘learning’ games aren’t aimed at the educational market. They’re more at-home, consumer-oriented games. Because these games are free from the constraints of school standards and traditional curriculum, they flourish, featuring rich cross-disciplinary and truly 21st century learning experiences.

Here are just a few favorites that reviewed well on Graphite this year:

Never Alone

There’s little debate that games have not represented indigenous cultures well. As a result, it’s been best for students to learn about topics like Native America via traditional means. Never Alone, however, sets a precedent for respectful representation of indigenous people. It was co-developed with native Alaskans, and it illuminates Inupiat stories, themes and values, weaving into play important concepts like interconnectedness and valuable skills like cooperation. Best of all, it features documentary-style videos of the Inupiat people who provide first person context for the conceptual and cultural learning embedded in the game.

Valiant Hearts

Look no further than the aforementioned Oregon Trail for an example of how tough it’s been to teach history well through games. That’s because it’s next to impossible to beat a good book or primary source material when digging into the details of the past. Valiant Hearts doesn’t try to simulate World War I or overwhelm the player with facts; instead, it tells a deeply affecting story that builds empathy, contextualizes the war, and, most importantly, offers a thought-provoking critique of war itself. And when it does offer facts and primary materials, they’re extensions–collectibles, really–that end up being far more palatable to players given the story-first approach that invests player’s in finding out more.

My intention here isn’t to argue that games have learning value. Educators don’t need convincing of this. Rather, what these three ostensibly ‘non-educational’ games show us is that there are many more options out there than we realize; we just need to shift out perspectives on what learning looks like. Our students already have, we just need to catch up.

Tanner Higgin is Senior Manager, Education Content at Common Sense Education, a nonprofit organization and creator of Graphite ™, a free service that helps educators find the best edtech tools, learn best practices for teaching with edtech, and connect with expert educators.  This post is part of a series featuring highly rated games on Graphite. Go to Graphite to read the full reviews of games and find out how teachers use them for learning in class.



04/22/2015 4:11am

Absolutely nice blog I like it Definitely this blog have this quality big cost, special effects, thank for sharing nice post.

07/06/2015 10:44pm

So its nice writing service company to hope for the essay to order. We live in a good professional out of ideas.

12/30/2015 9:54pm

I go with the author's view. Educational games play a vital role in giving lesson to gamers. They learn by playing the game.

01/25/2016 12:53am

Highly appreciable post. I really like your astonishing thoughts & ideas.


Great blog. I like reading it. Can i share it on my social media pages?

03/03/2016 10:47pm

Thanks for sharing such a great post. I am very much impressed by it.

03/14/2016 12:28pm

A must read post. Not all games are bad for children. I must say that games play important part in kids training. They seek many informative things from games. . Your knowledge and experience about the game based learning is fantastic. You have done really remarkable job.

03/15/2016 11:53am

Some games are teaching the rule of education and this article one of that. People are really like such type of article and gain much information on it about the games based and rules and also follow it.


Some education goals and standards are implemented and advanced. The skills and abilities of the students in this realm and orbit are induced and managed. It is the ascertained and introduced forum of the learning and acquisition of the knowledge.

04/09/2016 5:46am

Sports and games are necessary for balanced life but games with educational learning are best for all aspects.

04/09/2016 5:57am

These are all my favorite games and the official trailer of the game Never Alone is also very classic.

04/12/2016 3:22am

Nice post. Thanks for sharing. Commitment is to offering our students opportunities and experiences to understand, contribute to and excel in a rapidly changing society. Social engagement to complement our students’ academic experience is an integral component in yatra’s mission, to support them as they grow up to be critically engaged citizens dedicated to solving problems and contributing to the public good. We are devoted to enabling our students develop skills and competencies essential for emerging as successful leaders with an aptitude for creativity and innovation and an aspiration to challenge the status quo.

07/05/2016 12:26am

Swift ProSys has high expertise in Newspaper Digitization. We have a specialised software tools to convert a current online Newspaper or Historical Newspapers into ePaper.

07/13/2016 6:04am

At present I was so drained, and now this time I have some unwind by watching this interesting YouTube video, much obliged, keep it up.On consistently, we as a whole mates mutually used to watch motion picture, since satisfaction is additionally fundamental in life.


I would like to praise efforts of this blog author to post such a wonderful article. I really enjoyed this blog and its post. I liked not the current post as well as the other previous posts. Keep it up.

08/23/2016 3:20am

Excellent read, I just passed this onto a colleague who was doing a little research on that.

08/31/2016 12:01am

Thanks for sharing this really informative article. This way every individual has a chance to enhance the education and also their extra curricular activities.

02/07/2017 1:28am

I am glad that I saw this post. It is informative blog for us and we need this type of blog thanks for share this blog, Keep posting such instructional blogs and I am looking forward for your future posts.

02/07/2017 5:17am

I welcome all the suggestion mentioned in this blog related to new learning skills. It is definitely going to help me to adopt new exited way of learning. I think, others will also feel helpful this blog for their needs.



Leave a Reply