Gaming is a hobby enjoyed by many. In the United States alone, hundreds of millions of people play computer and video games every day. In fact, World of Warcraft alone had around 5.5 million subscribers during the third quarter of 2015. And the same factors that make games highly motivating make them ideal learning environments. The game-based approach to learning is focused on collaboration, allowing instructors and learners to work together to add depth and perspective. As proof of efficacy continues to be released, gamification is becoming accepted as a valuable learning tool, with the ability to achieve specific learning goals and engage a wide variety of audiences.

Of course, the idea of hands-on learning is far from cutting edge. For centuries, the apprenticeship model has been used to cultivate skills in fields ranging from blacksmithing to woodworking and more. But game-based learning has revolutionized the concept. This is because it is both cost-effective and low risk, and our culture is increasingly amenable to digital platforms. New Media points out that the generation that makes up a large part of today’s workforce is “notoriously unmoved” by lecture-based training approaches. Instead, students respond well to video games and game-based learning. Scores and evaluations highly motivate learners to practice in a compelling environment that allows them to learn at their own pace and continually progress to higher skill levels. Well-designed games engage the modern audience in a format that limits distractions. “As a result, increasingly organizations are seeing how funding highly engaging game-based approaches will bring significant returns,” New Media explains.

Why Games Work

There are several reasons digital learning tools are popular. They can run on standard computers, don’t require expensive hardware and can be downloaded in just minutes. While hardware and software have become increasingly accessible, the games themselves are more complex than ever before. Within digital environments, learning involves acquiring thought processes and skills to respond to real-world scenarios and situations that require quick thinking under pressure. As users progress through the game, they are learning and actively engaged in the process. Commercial game developers have been using the basic formula for years, producing highly motivating environments for players to explore for entertainment. Now, the concept is transitioning to the education landscape.

Game-based learning environments allow users to work toward a goal, self-correcting from mistakes along the way. Because it’s in a risk-free setting and the stakes are low, learners can try various approaches and find the strategy that works best. Then, they can transfer successful behaviors and thought processes from the simulated environment to real life, New Media says. Whereas traditional learning approaches focus on drilling and memorization in decidedly theoretical settings, game-based learning teaches the “hows and whys” of deeper, abstract principles. This enables users to perform consistently outside of the game environment. They focus on applying the ideal skills at the right time. Feedback, such as scores and post-game reports, encourages additional practice to get it right until mastery occurs.

Games for Coders

Programming is now experiencing the gamification of learning to code. In the past, practicing programming was often limited to basic text editors and books, but today’s programmers have a wealth of different tools and resources available to hone their craft. In fact, a growing group of developers and game experts have the specialized knowledge required to build sophisticated games focused on teaching enthusiasts the basics of coding. The following are just some of the programming game options out there.

Codewars

codewars.com

CoLoBoT

ceebot.com

CodeCombat

codecombat.com

Robocode

robocode.sourceforge.net

CodinGame

codingame.com

Coding Bootcamps from The Software Guild

While games like these serve as a valuable introduction to software development, coding bootcamps such as The Software Guild offer an outcomes-focused, intensive learning environment for those interested in programming careers. If you are ready to learn more, check out our guide to The Software Guild for an in-depth look at the curriculum, format, application process and everything else you need to know.