Once the world recognized the addictive nature of video games and started investigating how play could be used for education, the serious games industry was born. In 2017, global revenue from game-based learning will exceed $3 billion, according to industry analyst firm Metaari.

Having game play introduced as an integral part of their education appeals especially to students, most of whom are already playing games in their leisure time. Today, games are used to teach all kinds of different subjects and for the new concepts of adaptive learning, where traditional areas of study like calculus can be introduced to students at any stage of a child’s readiness, instead of solely a subject for junior high. Multidisciplinary study using games that require students to integrate several knowledge areas at once has become a powerful new learning concept.

Students are themselves making learning games in high school, stimulating careers in science, technology, engineering and math. Learning to code games has even been successful at re-engaging students in at risk classes. Faculty are also using games to develop leadership skills.

Why are serious games effective for education? For a variety of reasons:

1. Game play is fun

If someone can be entertained as well as educated, that is motivating for the learner.

2. Serious games are interactive

Instead of listening and taking notes, the player must participate, and often in a far more realistic, lifelike situation. Often game play mimics workplace environments.

3. Learners get immediate feedback

They learn if they have successfully completed various tasks, if they are making progress. And often, if they struggle, they are routed to new tasks that help them conquer topics with which they had trouble.

4. Collaboration is a common outcome

Research is showing that students and workers develop skills that allow them to engage more productively with their peers.

With the use of serious games, learning of both hard and soft skills can be measured. Games can also collect data on a student’s approach to solving the task, such as how well the player does at critical thinking.