Ideas for Educational Mobile Games

By Tyler Damon

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Video games have a wonderful way of helping to teach us mental skills without making us feel like we’re working. And when you think about it, you’ve probably learned a bit from some of your favorite games without even realizing it! Series like Assassin’s Creed and Civilization can teach you real things about world history and geography; quiz games across all mediums can help you hone your general knowledge; and mobile games like 2048 and Words With Friends can help you to work on your numerical skills and vocabulary, respectively. Even the popular and influential Minecraft can be looked at as having an educational component — teaching creativity, architecture, and urban planning.

Looking at games this way makes you realize how much more you might get out of some of your favorite titles than you think. But it also made us wonder what else we could learn from video games. So we gave some thought to a few ideas that might be both fun and helpful, specifically in mobile gaming.

Language-Learning RPG

Games are often cited as helpful tools in teaching languages. But usually we think of this with regard to miniature, quiz-like games that you find in language-learning programs like Duolingo or Babbel. This idea is a little bit bigger. We envision RPG-style, story-driven games in which you could play your way through various adventures, but would be required to communicate in a foreign language to do so.

The idea is based on what actually makes it easier to learn a language. Per Time’s exploration of language education, people beyond a very young age do best with immersion (as opposed to ordinary classroom techniques). But because most of us can’t pick up and move abroad to learn a new language, a game could be the next best thing. Immersing yourself in a foreign environment within a game can give you an effective experience and lead you through a fun adventure at the same time.

World Ruler Strategy Game

Here we actually have a specific mobile game in mind: Reigns. The Guardian’s review of this strategy game did the best job of explaining its stating simply that it’s based on Tinder. This is effectively an either/or text-based adventure in which you swipe one way or the other to make a decision based on a prompt. Those decisions determine how you manage your kingdom — which you basically do until your reign comes to a (usually nasty) end.

There have actually been spinoffs of Reigns already, including one based on Game Of Thrones. But versions of the game grounded in real world history could be a lot of fun, and could teach people quite a lot too. Granted, you’d have the power to alter history with your responses. But by positioning you as a real ruler and presenting you with actual circumstances and problems that ruler faced, the game would still have a lot to teach.

PCB Design Puzzles

Foreign languages and history are subjects most everyone has at least some familiarity with. PCB design — the creation of the printed circuit boards that make electronic devices work the way they do — is a bit more niche. And yet, it’s an incredibly useful and fun skill. It will help you to understand electronic devices better, and it may even enable you to create or customize your own. You just have to learn how it works.

The process of PCB design can actually be vaguely like a digital puzzle already, given that most of it occurs through intuitive software. Altium’s post on the evolution of protel PCB — a standard in PCB design since the ‘80s — reveals that it’s basically been absorbed into more modern programs. It’s now fairly easy for amateurs to access software and start working through designs and learning how it all works. But a video game version of this same process, with escalating difficulty, specific challenges, rewards, and the like, would arguably do a better job of actually teaching the skill. Think of it as a typical mobile puzzle game that’s actually training you in a real-world skill.

Current Events Trivia

Above we’ve covered languages, history, and practical, tech-related skills. But mobile games could also be used to keep us up to speed on the news of the day — without the all-too-common questions about partisanship, sourcing, etc. Quiz-style games based on indisputable facts from news and events of late would double as fun tests of knowledge and awareness, and educational tools for players.

Right now, some quiz apps will dabble partially in recent events. But the closest thing we really have to day-to-day quiz material tends to come in the form of crossword puzzles by major publications like The Atlantic and The New York Times. Something similar structured as a game, and with more material to go through, would be enjoyable and helpful to a lot of people.

These might not seem at first like they’re likely to be added to app stores. Then again, with how many mobile games there are out there today, who knows? We hope to see something like these games in the future, as well as other fun but educational games for adults.