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Ten Tips for Selecting the Best Educational Games

For parents and teachers looking for ways to determine the relative quality of educational video games, Common Sense Media has released a list of 10 suggestions to help you sort out the best from the rest.

Demonstrating agency, or a freedom of choice, and in the process showing critical thinking skills is a common theme, according to the review. Whether that's in allowing players to choose one of several options available to beat a stage or level, giving them the freedom to take chances through a game structure that doesn't make a player retreat all the way to the beginning when he or she fails, or actually creating elements of the game, games that encourage players to demonstrate agency almost always have more educational value, the review finds.

The review comes on the heels of Common Sense Media, a nonprofit youth media watchdog group based in San Francisco, launching its new educational ratings program for video games and other digital media consumed by kids. Common Sense Media had previously rated movies, games, apps, and other media for age appropriateness, but not educational content.

Other notable suggestions for selecting the best educational video games include choosing games that are more social in nature, align more closely to the in-class work a student is doing, have content that matches the aptitude level of the player, and include an element of style pleasing to the target demographic.

The review is presented as tips that parents or teachers may find surprising, but for many more experienced educational gamers, they will make a lot of sense and reaffirm many already-held beliefs. That said, for novices, it's not a bad place to start.

Check out the entire review, which also includes examples of video games that best exhibit each of the 10 suggestions. And be sure to look out for our upcoming Spring/Summer Issue of Digital Directions, which includes an in-depth look at a few programs that are pushing students to design their own video games.

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