Learning from Video Games While Homeschooling During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Mission US Video Game-https://edsitement.neh.gov/student-activities/mission-us-crown-or-colony-game

By Dr. David Childs, Ph.D.
Northern Kentucky University

In many households young people all over the United States have suddenly been introduced to homeschooling due to self-quarantine and social distancing as result of the coronavirus. However, the idea of homeschooling can have some drawbacks if not planned properly. One possible drawback is that parents and guardians might struggle to keep their children on a productive routine. Another struggle with homeschooling is the many distractions that can present themselves while at home. Indeed it is often difficult to keep students motivated because there are competing interests going on as well and without strict enforcement of rules the work will not get done. Some of the major distractions are the Internet, social media, television and video games. I will admit, even in my own household my children have spent hours upon end playing video games. Furthermore, if I let them they would spend day after day alternating between navigating social media and playing video games or often doing both at the same time. In light of this, we thought it would be advantageous to republish an article on using video games as an educational resource.            

Originally published April 28, 2019
With the advancement of science in the twenty-first century there is an increasing push for the integration of technology in school curriculum and instruction. One area of technology that has seen much growth is the video game industry; it is a multi-billion dollar industry. Home gaming entertainment systems have evolved and changed since their debut in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. Systems like the Atari 2600 and ColecoVision had graphics that were so primitive that they are considered laughable in comparison to modern systems such as PlayStation, X-Box and Nintendo Switch.

Video games have other uses besides mere entertainment. For example, the military has long used gaming for combat training and simulation and for flight simulation. Another growing use of video games is in the realm of education. Using video games for educational purposes is nothing new, many people of a certain generation remember Oregon Trail and early math video games of the late twentieth century. However, many teachers do not realize the incredible role video games can play in the classroom today, especially in the area of social studies. This article will offer resources, lesson ideas and how video games may be used effectively and creatively in the classroom. There are also a few links to social studies themed video games that can be played online. At the end of the article are questions for discussion and reflection surrounding effective uses of video games in the classroom.

Lesson Ideas and Resources- Using Video Games to Teach Social Studies
Exactly How To Teach With Video Games In The Classroom
Six Video Games You Can Teach With Tomorrow
Here’s How Gamer-Teachers Use Video Games In The Classroom
How to Incorporate Popular Video Games into a Lesson Plan
Video Games as Historical Content

Videos showing Sample Social Studies Themed Games and How Games can be used In the Classroom
Video Games in the Social Studies
Assassin’s Creed Origins Cinematic Trailer (Julius Caesar & Cleopatra)
Total War: Three Kingdoms Announcement Cinematic Trailer
Assassin’s Creed III: E3 Cinematic Trailer
Assassin’s Creed 3 Gameplay Walkthrough Part 3 – Welcome to Boston
Valiant Hearts E3 Trailer [US]
Valiant Hearts: The Great War Walkthrough PART 1
King’s Quest

Social Studies Themed Video Games to Play
Airman’s Challenge- US Air force Game
Mission US
Arcane The Stone Circle – Episode 7
On the Trail of Captain John Smith
The Following Games Are Published By the History Channel
Meet the President
Social Studies Video Games
Oregon Trail

What are the world’s Top 5 video game markets? A Foolish Take
Global Games Market Value Rising to $134.9bn in 2018 
History of Video Games- National Geographic
History of Video Games
Video Game: The Ralph Baer Prototypes and Electronic Games
How Video Game Systems Work
How the US military is using ‘violent, chaotic, beautiful’ video games to train soldiers
Uncle Sam Wants You — To Play Video Games for the US Army
Exceptional Military Video Games Worth Binging This Holiday Season Gaming: The Air Force’s Newest Recruitment Tool 
Let the Games Begin: Entertainment Meets Education Video games, once confiscated in class, are now a key teaching tool — if they’re done right.
Teaching History With Digital Historical Games: An Introduction to the Field and Best Practice

Discussion Questions:
1. What are creative ways you can use video games as an educational tool while under self-quarantine?
2. What are your immediate reactions to the resources and articles?
3. What resources above stand out to you the most? What surprises you? What do you find interesting?
4. What resources or lessons might you like to see in a classroom? What would you implement/try out in your teaching?
5. What technology, gaming tools or media have you used in your classroom?
6. What kinds of technological resources do you find most helpful in your classroom?
7. What are some factors that make a video game an effective tool in teaching social studies?


  1. I think that using video games as a means of educating young people is a great idea. They already play games in their free time and I know that there are ways that an actually engaging and educational video game can be made. In the past I’ve played engaging games at school that were educational but still fun. Especially since the pandemic hit I know it has been a struggle to find more engaging ways for students to learn.

  2. We recently discussed the use of video games and videos in our social studies methods class and I think it is more relevant than ever. Games like Mission US and Oregon Trail as well as videos like the ones from Brain Pop, are interactive and make social studies topics more engaging and interactive to students. I was introduced to Mission Us in the 5th grade and my teacher allowed us to play for small periods at a time under her supervision during class. We then had to discuss what concepts and important talks that came up during our sessions as well as what choices we made and what effect that had in the story. Not only was my teacher having us discuss social studies concepts through this interactive and engaging game, but she also had us the cause and effect relationships that came from the choices we picked in the game. Mission Us covers a wide variety of events in history such as the American Revolution and World War II and it puts you in the shoes of characters living during that time and you have to make decisions that impact the story and ending. This game would be great to implement in my social studies teaching because the students are exploring events from a first-person point of view and learning vocabulary terms and concepts along the way. The site also offers teacher guides to expands the lessons as well. The students in my classroom only come in person two days a week still, so it would be a great resource for them to play at home and have some kind of question or learning guide alongside from them to fill out and follow as they play and we can discuss it when they come back. My classroom teacher has seen a drop in engagement when they are learning at home, so interactive and engaging games like these are a great way to try and fix this problem while also creating some great social studies discussions and lessons to teach.

  3. For this entry, I chose this article because I found the topic interesting and therefore though it would be interesting to my future students as well. For me, this was one of your shorter articles that I have read but also one of the ones with the most resources! Over quarantine I purchased a switch and thought this article was very interesting because other than math computer games I haven’t really thought about using video games for other areas of instruction in the classroom and I think this type of interactive learning would be very beneficial to many different students. I liked that not only was there resources explaining how to teach using video games there was also Social Studies themed games provided as well. So far in the classrooms I have been in, we have mostly used technology and games such as Kahoot and interactive PowerPoint tools. Through the resources I looked through I also liked that it mentioned to not only play the games but to also analyze them and reimagine them. Therefore, I am excited to look through more of the resources provided and use video games in my future classroom.

  4. In my clinical experience, my class is being taught virtual. I have observed students not logging onto calls and not turning in any of their work. I agree that parents must struggle with having their children getting distracted by their personal belongings and trying to keep them motivated while learning at home. Students who are learning from home can easily be distracted and pulled away from their studies from video games or the tv for example. I have witnessed over the years how the technology push has hit schools. Every child now has a chrome book or iPad. I like how you pointed out that educational video games can play a huge role in the modern day classroom, especially in social studies. Thank you again for sharing your resources at the end of your article, very helpful for future teachers to look back on!

  5. I never thought video games would become an essential to learning but I see how important it’s become during the pandemic. There are many ways you can include video games as an educational tool, but I think if you find a couple of games that go with your lesson let the children pick. If you let the children pick which game, then they will be more interested and will be likely to learn more on the game. I was surprised with how many resources they were because again, I never thought we would be using video games for education. I know younger children have learning apps and games they can play games to help them count or learn letters and animals but school agers playing video games to learn never occurred to me. I think more teachers can use this as a way to get their students involved with the lesson because children do love to play games.

  6. Given the current times with the pandemic I feel like considering the value video games could have on the education system would be an incredibly beneficial venture. There are plenty of games that, for example, take place in semi-realistic versions of our world where history is referenced that could be used as points of teaching. A game that comes to mind in particular is Assassin’s Creed. Though not faithful to history, it plays on many history elements. Taking a game like this and making it historically accurate could end up not only teaching kids about history but making them excited about it as well.

  7. After seeing simply the title of this article I was intrigued because when I think of video games, I think of games that don’t have any educational purpose, but rather enjoyment of racing cars, shooting zombies, or playing a sports game. As I began to read on, I liked the example of games such as the Oregon Trail, because that is something that I did in grade school on the computer. This article gives me a lot of resources and information on ways that video games can be beneficial for learning. I am glad I you have provided lots of ways to incorporate video games in the classroom, because if possible, when I become a teacher, I would like

  8. Growing up I beyond despised videogames. I thought of them as being a waste of time and money. However, as I grew up into my early twenties, I realized the bits of good that can come from playing them in moderation. I found this article interesting because of the list of games that can be used and outside references for teaching social studies. In the past the main game that I have referenced back to was Minecraft because of how some schools in Ireland use it to teach in every subject. I enjoy getting a chance to broaden my resources to use to help engage students in the subject of social studies that allows them to have a hands-on approach instead of just reading from a text.
    I also feel that this article can be truly relevant to the movement for online schools and homeschooling during the pandemic. From the list of resources I noticed a few games that are not just based on things such as history and events like Assassin’s Creed, however some of those games can be used to socially engage students as well since they are multiplayer, Kings Quest. This allows for students to be engaged with their classmates while learning at the same time. This is something I find to be important with todays current situation as students were forced to be separated from their friends and classmates, there is hope for them to still find that sense of connection in another way while being safely separated.

  9. Having grown up playing video games, I understand how it can suck kids into it for hours on end. But if those video games were altered to teach lessons much like the Oregon Trail game has, kids may be more motivated to learn because to them it is simply a game. It has been shown to work for the military when training recruits, so why couldn’t it work for this purpose too?

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