Video games have reached into every aspect of our lives, and educators are seeing a growth in games being used to teach. Research published by Online College Courses reveal that 95 percent of educators use video games designed specifically for education. Getting started creating and implementing educational video games in the classroom and online requires several key components, and here’s what you need to know to develop and release an educational game:
Many different people are involved in the creation of a video game, and not all of them are programmers. There is software, such as ClassTools, that allows educators to develop educational games on their own, but many larger or unique projects require a team working in concert to develop. Game development requires the creation of resources such as graphics and sound, and while many game development suites have free resources available, any unique game will require the creation of the resources in-house. Additionally, the educational nature of the game will require educators themselves to contribute content — for example, a game meant to teach medical or anatomical lessons will require a professional in the field to contribute information as well as fact check.
Choosing the demographic your game targets will help you develop a game that is appropriate for its audience. Video games meant to target reading skills work best for younger audiences; Research published by Edudemic suggests that video games can improve early literacy skills in players aged 4 to 5, especially when the focus is on letter recognition and story comprehension. Games meant to focus on complex problem solving should contain a tone and mood that is more appropriate to older audiences.
Reaching a demographic is another important aspect of game development. If a game is meant for a specific class, simply allowing them to download should suffice. If the intention is to reach a broad demographic of players, sites that provide free game access, like iWin, are an excellent choice. While console gaming systems do have downloadable games, the console market for educational games has been relatively weak compared to the personal computer and smartphone app market.
Educational games can create profit for their developers if they are well-built and parents approve. The 2012 Essential Facts About the Computer and Video Game Industry report shows that 66 percent of parents believe playing video games can provide education and positive mental stimulation.
Funding can come from many sources. The U.S Department of Education awards funds to small businesses dedicated to the creation of commercial technologies designed to educate and, according to its official blog, more than half of the recipients of these grants in 2013 were educational game developers.
These sorts of grants are not limited to games for children, and developers working to create adult education games are also viable for these grants. Despite this, most commercially successful educational games tend to target children; The Guardian reports that the children’s smartphone app Toca Boca has generated more than more than 30 million paid and free downloads, and that Duck Duck Moose has reported well over 2 million downloads. Currently, the market seems to best support educational games for children, and developers looking to create a profitable educational game should bear this fact in mind when designing and developing their titles.