What are the benefits of game-based learning


Game-based learning meets students where they are and where they want to be. For example, educators can provide learners the opportunity to engage in play that challenges them, giving the students room to be creative and “fail forward,” as well as letting the learners take risks that iterate along the way.

Game-based learning is a teaching method that balances educational materials with the strategies, rules, and social aspects of playing a game. Many educational games expose learners to targeted content through real-world situations and help learners develop essential life skills.In partnership with the World Wildlife Fund, Minecraft: Education Edition brings immersive and relevant lessons to a teacher’s toolbox. These lessons, including Extinction! Orangutans Future, immerse learners in ecosystems where they have the opportunity to discuss and collaborate on conservation and biodiversity issues. This lesson is an example of how game-based learning introduces students to specific objectives challenges them to solve real-world problems within a game (possibly igniting a desire to do so outside of the game as well), assesses them throughout tasks, and can be adjusted for grade band or ability. The knowledge acquired through game-based learning is retained at a higher rate than other methods of learning. Game-based learning allows students to engage with standards-based concepts in a playful and dynamic way.

According to the article “Playing Games Can Build 21st-Century Skills. Research Explains How.” by Stephen Noonoo, “…games are an effective way to learn because they simulate adventure and keep our brains happily engaged. What exactly do we learn?" How do you know you are using game-based learning in your lesson vs. gamifying your lesson?

Watch (2 minutes 45 seconds)

What’s the difference between game-based learning and gamification? Watch the video, What is Game Based Learning?


Explore the infographic Gamification vs. Game-Based Learning to learn more about both approaches. Where does one stop and the other start?

Gamification versus games-based learning.

Graphic of game controller icon.

Gamification is adding game elements to a non-game scenario. You reinforce certain desired behaviors with benefits  by “unlocking” new features of services. Examples include adding game-like elements (badges, experience points, etc.) to a lesson.

Motivation: Likely extrinsically rewarding; for example, the reward is tied to grades. Assessment is not within the “game.” Game-like aspects are adjusted to fit the lesson content.

Game-based learning icon.

Game-based learning (GBL) flips gamification on its head. Rather than implement game-like tropes into lessons, GBL uses actual games to teach. Using games (such as Minecraft) to teach specific learning objectives. Motivation: Games are designed to be intrinsically rewarding. Assessment is in-game. Lesson content is adjusted to fit the game. Source: edsurge/imgix.net/static

There are many benefits which make game-based learning favorable for any classroom:

  • Low-risk competition
  • Social-emotional growth through development of "soft" skills
  • Student-centered learning
  • Increase a child's memory capacity
  • Computer and simulation fluency
  • Strategic thinking and problem-solving

The benefits of game-based learning coupled with the right mindset are essential for successful implementation of Minecraft: Education Edition. What conditions have to be in place to support a classroom implementation?

Watch (5 minutes 15 seconds)

You will now unpack the Minecraft: Education Edition six principles of game-based learning with a group of educators exploring the same concept. Under the right conditions, games simulate adventure and keep our brains happily engaged.


Read the document below on the principles of game-based learning.

Minecraft six principles of game-based learning:

  • The failure dynamic, fail early, fail often. Teach students to take risks in a safe environment- a game. 
  • The flexibility dynamic. Provide multiple paths to success. Old school video games had one way to win. Newer “sandbox” games are more open.   
  • The construction dynamic. Build something that matters. Students want to create things with a purpose. Minecraft lets them create something difficult and worthwhile.  
  • The situated meaning. Learn new ideas by experiencing them. Students learn vocabulary in real-time, as it pertains to playing with others in the game; or learn math as they understand construction.  
  • Systems thinking. Learn how all pieces can fit or be fitted. Games help players see how their actions fit into the bigger picture, not just the individual.  
  • Build empathy. Bring players together to learn a common goal. By communicating and working together, players build empathy through their avatars by raising awareness of local or global goals.


Reflect on what conditions need to be present in the classroom in order to support the principle.


Write your reflection on each principle.

Watch (1 minute 45 seconds)

 While you watch, compare your ideas with the educator's ideas in the next video.


From the perspective of your role, reflect on the following:

  • What are three ways that you can support the Minecraft philosophy – six principles of game-based learning?
  • What classroom conditions can be put in place that will support game-based learning?

Game-based learning is the future and can transform any learning experience. Academic content can be divided into levels through which students must progress. Ultimately, an educator's mission is to create student motivation and instill a love for learning that is fun and worthwhile.