Video Games and Board Games in the Classroom

Video games have found their way into classrooms with games like Oregon Trail and more recently Minecraft—it looks like video games are here to stay.

Board games have many educational applications, as we wrote about when we discussed board games and parental involvement in education.

Both board games and video games have a place in the classroom. But what do the two types of games do differently, and what do they have to offer by comparison?

Engagement

Most kids love video games, and the idea of playing them in the classroom is an exciting prospect. Whether the games are played on a tablet, computer, console, or VR headset, they’re flashy, fun, and versatile.

When you’re lucky enough to have access to educational video games that grab students’ attention, as well as the technology to play these games, they can be a valuable classroom tool. But this isn’t always the case.

However, video games can be frustrating for some students, particularly when they involve reflexes or hand-eye coordination. They aren’t always customizable—students can’t always change the rules or play the way they want to. And of course, they mean more screen time, which many students already get enough of.

Board games are “analog”—no screens necessary. They’re also highly tactile, which engages students in a different way than a screen or a controller.

Most of all, board games are student-driven. If students want to change—or even break—the rules, they can. The game only continues if all players agree on a set of rules. In addition, teachers can make necessary changes to board games to include different content or modified rules that meet the needs of their students. This isn’t the case with video games.

Critical Thinking and Other Skills

When Psychology Today discussed the creative and cognitive benefits of video games, they noted the research that supports the ability of video games to improve memory and problem solving with regular play.

Video games can teach critical thinking by presenting players with problems that have specific or flexible solutions. The real-time nature of some games requires players to think quickly and react to their virtual environment. However, it can be difficult to work specific curriculum into video games without designing entire games around specific subjects.

While the skills taught by board games are somewhat related, there is an inherent social component to board games. Players must communicate and interact through the game, and they alone are responsible for enforcing the rules and ensuring that everyone plays fair.

Younger players can learn fine motor skills when moving pieces or dealing out cards. Competitive games can teach students about strategy and negotiation, while cooperative games emphasize communication and leadership.

There is a place for both video games and board games in the classroom, but not all classrooms have access to tablets or computers that can play video games. Board games are often inexpensive, and they reduce overall screen time.

Genius Adventures is striving to make educational board games that create meaningful experiences for students in all classrooms. We aim to teach a variety of social and problem solving skills through Adventures that put students in control.