Commercial Games in Schools

Title : Integrating Commercial Off-the-Shelf Video Games into School Curriculums (Charsky & Mims, 2008)

Summary : This one was just too much fun not to write about. They take off-the-shelf games (e.g., Civilization III, SimCity) and bring them into real classrooms. Note that this isn’t really a research study (although off-the-shelf games have been studied in this context), it’s just describing how to do this effectively.


The big contribution that they make is three guidelines for introducing games. These guidelines act as a sequence.

  1. Learn the Game: The reverse of gamification. For a given game, you analyze and report on the components. For instance, in a history game you create a timeline, or in a simulation game like Rollercoaster Tycoon, you make a budget. This gives students the chance to get used to the game, while still retaining the fun context.
  2. Cross-over: Use the games as a comparison tool to teach misconceptions by explicitly pointing out where the game falls short. Their example is that in the game SimCity, your mayor avatar has absolute control to raise and lower taxes. Obviously, real mayors don’t have this ability, but it’s an opportunity to discuss the problems that mayors do have.
  3. Game as a Theory of the Content: This goes beyond teaching misconceptions by asking students to propose changes that make the game more realistic.

My Thoughts

Weaknesses :

  • Not a rigorous study, just a series of guidelines.
  • They chose games that were easier to educationalize; how could other games be used for educational purposes, e.g., Final Fantasy or Call of Duty?

The biggest take-away : Just because a game wasn’t built with education in mind, doesn’t mean it won’t have potential to teach!


  1. Charsky, D., & Mims, C. (2008). Integrating commercial off-the-shelf video games into school curriculums. TechTrends, 52(5), 38-44.