Simulations and Game-Based Learning

Several studies have shown that playing games can not only improve learning outcomes but also behavioral, physiological, perceptual, cognitive and soft and social skills (Backlund & Hendrix, 2013; Boyle et al, 2016).

About gamification

Gamification in education uses a number of common characteristics to improve intrinsic and extrinsic motivation and engagement for learners.

  • Learners are expected to make decisions and problem solve in increasingly difficult circumstances.
  • Experimentation and risk taking are encouraged by allowing learners to try out alternative courses of action and experience a range of different outcomes.
  • Narrative and thematic threads that encourage players to take on the identity of a range of characters in order to build a story around those characters and interact socially with other participants (Ferdig, 2008).

Simulations and games

The following simulations and games are organized by content area.

Business simulation games are a great way to bring active, applied learning into business courses.

  • Innov8 2.0: An IBM-developed business process management simulation game.
  • EIS Simulation: Helps develop competencies in change-, IT- and people-management.

There have been many economic simulations games developed for both the educational and casual gaming market.

  • The Economics Network has a curated list of online, offline and classroom games to teach different economics-based content.

Humanitarin and Environmental

  • 3rd World Farmer: Player get to manage an African farm and are soon confronted with the difficult choices that poverty and conflict can cause.
  • Stop Disasters!
  • A Tale in the Desert 4: Massively multiplayer online role-playing game that focuses on economic and community development.

Marketing lends itself well to simulation games.

  • Simbound: Digital marketing simulation games.
  • Great Ideas for Teaching Marketing has created a free marketing and positioning simulation game. This game can be adjusted to the needs of the instructor and includes videos for instructors (how to run the game) and students (how to play the game).

Simulations have been a significant teaching and learning tool in the medical field for many years. 


  • PhET Simulations: A variety of different science and math simulations to help students manipulate variables and visualize outcomes.

Political science

  • Democracy 2: Learn politics with this strategy game that has players making decisions such as implementing green policies, raising or lowering taxes, creating harmonious foreign relations and more.
  • President Forever 2016: Run for president in this game where you’ll learn about primaries, general elections and more. Play 2008 or one of the past elections, including Bush-Gore 2000, Regan-Carter 1980, Nixon-Kennedy 1960, US 2012 or US 2016.
  • Ars Regendi: Learn politics and economics in this multiplayer game. Reign over your own state, form alliances with other countries and more as you learn the intricacies of ruling a country.
  • The ReDistricting Game: This 3D game teaches about the impact of districting on politics. Redraw your districts,  see the impact, and learn how abuse happens.
  • Peacemaker: Play this game to see what the balance of power feels like. Choose the right path and you will bring peace to the Middle East, or make the wrong choices and create a violent disaster.
  • World Without Oil


  • Games for Change: The Games for Change People’s Choice awards honor games that have pushed for social impact in their design.