8 Ways for Using Video Games to Teach High School Students

Video games, of course, are more popular than ever, with hundreds of millions of people playing them throughout the world on a daily basis. That being said, to some extent, they have a bad reputation, with far too many thinking that they are only good for wasting time and having fun. While this can certainly be true, video games have uses that go well beyond entertainment: They can be great for education and personal development, and particularly among high school students.

It can be difficult to use video games as a teaching tool without experience, and nonprofit organizations like Teach for America can help. But with the proper framing, video games are an incredible tool for high school students.


In a strange way, online play can truly incentivize teamwork. If you have ever listened to your high schooler play online, try not to pay too much attention to the trash talk. Instead, listen to them as they work with strangers to accomplish certain tasks. Proper teamwork requires understanding someone’s strengths and weaknesses, learning the rules of a game, strong communication skills, and practice. All of these skills can truly be taught via online play, even in action-oriented, first-person shooter games. Indeed, these games can be fantastic for teaching teamwork, as their fast-paced nature forces players to make quick decisions under pressure. All of these skills can be exceptionally useful in the real world.

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Understanding Roles & Responsibilities

One of the things that all of us learn in the real world is what we are good at, what we are bad at, and what our jobs need to be. Understanding these traits is vitally important for managing our own roles and responsibilities at group projects and efforts that require coordination between teams. Here is where video games come in. In team games, we have to learn what our job is and how to do it well. From there, we must learn when we have to stretch our traditional role, and when we have to let another teammate sink or swim on their own.

How to Win, and How To Lose

Some high school students may have a problem: They don’t know how to lose. Video games, thankfully, can be helpful here. No matter how good you are in a game, there is always someone better, someone with more experience, and someone who will beat you. With enough exposure, your high schooler will probably lose quite a bit.

However, here’s the catch: They have to be taught how to lose. Losing in a video game can easily turn into a session followed by cursing and taunting, and this, of course, is the wrong lesson. If you are an engaged parent, you have to pay attention and make sure your child learns that losing is okay and that when they lose in the real world, they have to act maturely and responsibly.

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Incentivizing Exploration

Many games are open-world, meaning that they encourage people to explore the entire universe. Doing so can ensure that a player unlocks all of the content, completes hidden objectives, and has an overall better experience.

This is a fantastic real-world lesson here. Video games incentivize exploration by giving players who fully explore a game a better experience, and this lesson can be transferred into the real world. When discussing video games with your high schooler, make sure to make the explicit connection between exploration in the real world and exploration in video games. The two have more in common than you may realize.


Video games can be tough. Really tough. As in, it takes dozens of hours to truly beat some games and unlock all the content. However, again, there’s a value that can be taught here: Anything worth doing is worth trying over and over again. Video games can create exceptionally hard challenges. If your high schooler has encountered one of these, make sure they know not to give up. Instead, encourage them to try repeatedly. They can also do research on the internet, find helpful YouTube videos, or engage in discussions on any number of forums. This is just like the real world: Persistence can absolutely pay off.

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Ethical and Moral Judgement

Some video games – like Fable, Dishonored, or Mass Effect – have developed surprisingly in-depth morality systems that can present players with some truly fascinating moral dilemmas and choices. These are not always as simple as picking the “good” decision vs. the “bad” one but may involve using some truly higher-level reasoning in order to make a decision that will be good for the highest number of people – even if it hurts the player’s own character or others within a game universe.

To be clear, most of us will never be asked to sacrifice our lives for an alien spaceship. However, the reasoning used within these games may test and strengthen a variety of moral and ethical muscles, helping high schoolers later down the line.

Creative Thinking & Spatial Relations

Many open-world games, such as Minecraft, can unquestionably encourage the development of creative thinking in order to construct massive and elaborate universes. Indeed, these open-world, sandbox games can actually help someone develop a variety of skills, including spatial relations. All of this is unquestionably transferable to the real world, meaning that a high school student who is good at video game building may find that they can use these skills for a future career path.

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Cultural Exposure

A former criticism of video games is that they were too oriented in Western societies. That is no longer the case, as video games can present individuals with exposure to a variety of cultures that are not simply located in one’s own backyard. To be clear, there are many stereotypes that are utilized in video games, and engaged parents have to monitor for this. However, many video games can help high schoolers learn about a variety of cultures other than their own, thus opening up their eyes to the riches of the real world.

Video games have helped many launch major careers and start down a path towards career success. This success can belong to anyone, and video games can help people become better at their chosen career path.