Meta-Analysis Summary: Video Games


Video Games Meta-AnalysisVideo games are very popular and often sell millions of copies on their opening weekend. For years, the aviation industry (McClernon, McCauley, O'Connor, & Warm, 2011) and military (Prensky, 2003) have used games to help prepare both pilots and combat troops. Educational games have been around for a while, but it was not until recently that researchers, educators, and corporations began to explore their educational potential (Gee, 2003; Prensky, 2007; Steinkuehler, Alagoz, King, & Martin, in press). Provided the right planning and environment (Gee, 2005; Squire, 2006), video games appear to have a positive impact on learning (Connolly, Boyle, MacArthur, Hainey, & Boyle, 2012; Ke, 2009; Randel, Morris, Wetzel, & Whitehill, 1992; Wouters, van Nimwegen, van Oostendorp, van der Spek, 2013; Vogel et al., 2006; Yong et al., 2012). However, much of the data on games and education are self-report and case studies. Therefore, while overall the literature supports the use of video games for educational purposes, there is very little experimental research that is supportive. For example, a New York school's (Quest to Learn) entire curricula is centered on gaming (Corbett, 2010). While, both teachers and students report that they enjoy using games to learn (self-reported and case study), the test data (i.e., standardized test scores) suggest that students are struggling to keep up with traditional schools in some subjects (New York City Department of Education, 2013; Sutter, 2012). Nonetheless, some of the most promising video game research is from intelligent tutoring games/programs, which are being studied experimentally and show promising results (Aleven & Koedinger, 2002; Rutherford et al., 2010).


  1. Do not use video games that lack experimental data supporting their effectiveness.
  2. Generally, intelligent tutoring games/programs have a positive impact on learning and can easily be integrated into the curriculum.


  1. ST Math (Jiji):
  2. Cognitive Tutors:
  3. Teachable Agents:

Additional Reading

Bainbridge, W. S. (2007). The scientific research potential of virtual worlds. Science, 317(5837), 472-476.

Barab, S., Scott, B., Siyahhan, S., Goldstone, R., Ingram-Goble, A., Zuiker, S., et al. (2009). Transformational play as a curricular scaffold: Using videogames to support science education. Journal of Science Education and Technology, 18(4), 305-320.

Delwiche, A. (2006). Massively multiplayer online games (MMOs) in the new media classroom. Educational Technology & Society, 9 (3), 160-172.

Gaudiosi, J. (2009). Video games take bigger role in education. Reuters News. Retrieved from

Gee, J. (2008). Games for learning institute [Vimeo video]. Retrieved from:

Lenhart, A., Kahne, J., Middaugh, E., Macgill, A., Evans, C., Vitak, J., et al. (2008). Teens, video games and civics. Washington, DC: Pew Research Center.

Mitchell, A., & Savill-smith, C. (2004). The use of computer and video games for learning: A review of the literature (pp. 1-93). London, UK: Learning and Skills Development Agency.

Nardi, B., & Harris, J. (2006). Strangers and friends: Collaborative play in World of Warcraft. Paper presented at the Proceedings of the 2006 20th anniversary conference on Computer supported cooperative work, Banff, Alberta, Canada.

Oliver, M., & Carr, D. (2009). Learning in virtual worlds: Using communities of practice to explain how people learn from play.British Journal of Educational Technology40(3), 444-457.

Squire, K., Barnett, M., Grant, J., & Higginbotham, T. (2004). Electromagnetism supercharged!: Learning physics with digital simulation games. Proceedings of the 6th international conference on learning sciences (pp. 513-520). Santa Monica, California: International Society of the Learning Sciences.

Steinkuehler, C. (2004). Learning in massively multiplayer online games. Proceedings of the 6th international conference on learning sciences (pp. 521-528). Santa Monica, California: International Society of the Learning Sciences.


Aleven, V. A. W. M. M., & Koedinger, K. R. (2002). An effective metacognitive strategy: learning by doing and explaining with a computer-based Cognitive Tutor. Cognitive Science, 26(2), 147-179.

Connolly, T. M., Boyle, E. a., MacArthur, E., Hainey, T., & Boyle, J. M. (2012). A systematic literature review of empirical evidence on computer games and serious games. Computers & Education59(2), 661-686.

Corbett, S. (2010). Learning by playing: Video games in the classroom. The New York Times. New York, NY. Retrieved from

Gee, J. P. (2003). What video games have to teach us about learning and literacy. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.

Gee, J. P. (2005). Learning by design: Good video games as learning machines. E-Learning2(1), 5-16.

Ke, F. (2009). A qualitative meta-analysis of computer games as learning tools. In R. E. Ferdig (Ed.), Handbook of research on effective electronic gaming in education (pp. 1-32). Hershey, PA: IGI Global.

McClernon, C. K., McCauley, M. E., O’Connor, P. E., & Warm, J. S. (2011). Stress training improves performance during a stressful flight. Human Factors: The Journal of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society53(3), 207-218.

New York City Department of Education (2013). Quest to learn [data file]. Retrieved from

Prensky, M. (2003). Digital game-based learning. Computers in Entertainment (CIE) - Theoretical and Practical Computer Applications in Entertainment1(1), 1-4.

Prensky, M. (2007). Digital game-based learning. St. Paul, MN: Paragon House.

Randel, J. M., Morris, B. A., Wetzel, C. D., & Whitehill, B. V. (1992). The effectiveness of games for educational purposes: A review of recent research. Simulation & Gaming23(3), 261-276.

Rutherford, T., Kibrick, M., Burchinal, M., Richland, L., Conley, A., Osborne, K., … Martinez, M. E. (2010). Spatial temporal mathematics at scale: An innovative and fully developed paradigm to boost math achievement among all learners. Paper presented at American Educational Research Association (AERA), Denver, CO.

Squire, K. (2006). From content to context: Videogames as designed experience. Educational Researcher, 35(8), 19-29.

Steinkuehler, C., Alagoz, E., King, E., & Martin, C. (in press). A cross case analysis of two out of school programs based on virtual worlds. To appear in the International Journal of Gaming and Computer Mediated Simulations (IJGCMS).

Sutter, J. (2012). The school where learning is a game. Cable News Network. Retrieved from

Vogel, J. J., Vogel, D. S., Cannon-Bowers, J., Bowers, C. A., Muse, K., & Wright, M. (2006). Computer gaming and interactive simulations for learning: A meta-analysis. Journal of Educational Computing Research34(3), 229-243.

Wouters, P., van Nimwegen, C., van Oostendorp, H., & van der Spek, E. D. (2013). A meta-analysis of the cognitive and motivational effects of serious games. Journal of Educational Psychology105(2), 249-265.

Young, M. F., Slota, S., Cutter, a. B., Jalette, G., Mullin, G., Lai, B., … Yukhymenko, M. (2012). Our Princess Is in Another Castle: A Review of Trends in Serious Gaming for Education. Review of Educational Research82(1), 61-89.