5 Factors Behind Successful Educational Video Games

by Game Marketing Genie, on 13-Oct-2021 10:29:09

Video games can create an engaging learning environment, encourage problem-solving, and promote learning through playing. This is true for high-school students as well as seasoned corporate executives. eLearning experts believe that playing games needs to be included in courses for adults to learn effectively. As a result, game-based learning has increased, and users can now play, explore, and experiment with video games! 

However, using games for learning requires complex structures to support and evaluate learners, a host of technological integrations, and a new model for ownership of tasks. If you are developing a learning game for commercial purposes, you should include game mechanics that are fun and intriguing. The game elements should also complement the learning goals to ensure users gain maximum value from the game. 

So, how do you create a powerful learning game?

This article shares the game mechanics that you can use to create effective learning games. 

The five things that successful educational video games have in common

Here are the five most crucial components education video games that work. 

Clear game objectives/goals

Games help reinforce learning objectives through playing. When players navigate through the challenges in the game, they gain valuable skills and knowledge on a particular topic. For this reason, you need to specify what you expect users to learn from playing the game to ensure your gaming elements are based on your set objectives. This could be a set of skills, knowledge, or attitudes that users learn from the game. 

When you finally set your learning objectives, you should come up with relevant elements to motivate players to achieve the goals. This could be items such as badges or collectibles that players earn for completing a challenge or a level. You can also set up a leaderboard that ranks all the top performers in your game. Such elements will motivate players to spend more time learning all the objectives you set for them. 

Pink notebook goals

Some source of conflict or problem solving required

The next issue you need to tackle when designing a learning game is how to make your game challenging enough to avoid boredom. Ideally, your game should have some conflict or present users with a challenge to overcome to be effective. The conflict can be an obstacle in the game’s course, combat with another game character, or a puzzle to be solved. 

Developers can incorporate a crisis within the game that pits players against each other. Players will have to use their problem-solving skills to solve the challenge and emerge victorious. Alternatively, you can create a challenge that requires players to work together to solve the problem. This creates a sense of collaborative learning by encouraging players to work together to solve a common problem. 

You can also choose to create a conflict that pits players against the game. Players will have to achieve specific milestones to progress to the next stage. Such kinds of challenges represent the conflicts that people experience in the real world. By playing such games, players get to improve the skills needed in everyday life. 

Person holding rubik-1

Strategy and chance

Strategy-based games give players a lot of control when playing a game. It's up to them to make the best decisions that affect the gameplay positively and improve their chances of achieving the desired goal. On the other hand, video games based on chance put players in a reactive mode where they have very little control over the outcome. 

But, if you want to encourage learning through games, you should combine both strategy and chance when designing your game to make it more interesting. Most problems in the real world are multi-layered and involve both strategy and chance. A problem could arise as a matter of chance, but the solution may involve top-level strategy to bring things under control. Combining strategy and chance in your game design offers the best learning delivery by giving players something interesting to do and providing relief. 

You can also add the element of risk to motivate players and encourage learning. Humans love risks and enjoy taking them. Provide players with high-stake scenarios where they can win big (badges, collectibles, more lives, or points) or lose it to add the element of chance to your game. 

X and zero

Theme and story

A theme will add interest and create engagement within your game. You can convey the theme with creative visuals and a back story that you will include in the rules. Often, when introducing themes into a video game, there’s no accompanying narrative running through the game. Instead, thematic elements are used to tell the story of your game and engage players. 

However, you can still insert a storyline into your game to make it enjoyable. Players find it easier to remember facts when presented in the form of a narrative than simply providing facts devoid of any context around them. To create a storyline for successful learning based games, you should include four essential elements to make your story strong and appealing. The four critical elements of a good story are:

  • Characters – The people or any other being present in the game
  • Plot – The main events in a game
  • Tension – The conflict that exists in the story
  • Resolution – The solution to the conflict

Knight on horse

Rewards/outcome/feedback

The last major component of educational games is the outcome for successfully navigating the game. You can choose to give players a reward when they achieve certain targets or hit certain milestones. But don’t just offer rewards for the successful completion of a level. You can decide to reward players when they finish a section to motivate them to push through the whole level. 

Also, make sure to install a feedback mechanism to help users improve their performance. The score within a game is a useful feedback tool that will encourage players to perform their best. Players should understand how to earn points or other incentives in the game since this will motivate them to play longer and learn better. 

Successful examples of game based learning

Looking for inspiration for your educational game? 

Here are three game based learning examples to help you get started. 

Prodigy

Prodigy game

Figure 1: Prodigy. Source: Prodigy

Prodigy is an adaptive math game for students and schools. The game helps students take their math skills to the next level and build learning habits that stick. Kids get to explore the Prodigy math world and answer questions to earn in-game rewards. Educators and parents can also visualize student progress, align the questions, and motivate the kids with powerful tools. 

All of Prodigy’s content is free, but one can upgrade to premium membership to unlock more gear, exclusive gaming areas, and in-game rewards that motivate kids to spend more time learning math. Kids can also access personalized 1-on-1 tutoring from a certified tutor. 

Plantville

Plantville game

Figure 2: Plantville: Source: XL Pro

Plantville is an innovative learning-based game developed by Siemens to showcase its products and solutions for industry and construction. The game simulates the experience of being a plant manager. Players are faced with the challenge of maintaining operations on their plant while trying to improve the plant's productivity, efficiency, and health.

Siemens developed the game to drive awareness about its technologies and brand. The game enables users to improve the performance of their plants by applying the infrastructure products from Siemens. Player performance is measured using several KPIs such as safety, quality, on-time delivery, employee satisfaction, and employee management. 

Nine Gaps

Nine gaps game

Figure 3: NineGaps. Source: Apple

NineGaps is a tricky puzzle game that Apple has featured as the "Best Puzzle Game”. The game's goal is to use wits to place numbers (1 to 9) in the missing gaps while matching the operations displayed in the puzzle. The game has simple gameplay and five difficulty levels to stimulate brain exercises. It can be played by adults and children looking for a fun and challenging puzzle game with a clever twist. 

The game has a global and friend leaderboard to encourage players to play longer to earn more points. It's easy to pick up and difficult to put down once you get the hang of it. 

Get your game to the players!

Check out The Ultimate Guide to Game Marketing: Everything You Need to Know for the best game marketing tips.


Video games are not just for fun and entertainment. They can be used to support problem-solving and encourage learning through practice. The game mechanics used to create successful learning based games enhance the gaming experience and contribute to the learning environment. 

We have shared the gaming elements you should consider if you want your game to be a success. Your choice will depend on the nature of your game and objectives. Let us know in the comments section which of these factors you have added to your game and how they have helped you achieve your learning goals. 

Get in touch for expert advice on how to improve your game’s UX design to attract more players. 

Topics:Video Game Marketing StrategyVideo Game MarketingDigital Marketing

Book in a free consultation