What Serious Games Exist for People Ages 13+?

As I began my search for serious games this week I first had to spend some time learning more about what serious games are.  The name “serious games” led me to believe that serious games are games focused on something serious or thought provoking.  Upon researching serious games I discovered that serious games are “computer or video games designed for a primary purpose other than pure entertainment,” (Ludus).  Serious games are often used in education, scientific exploration, health care, city planning, engineering, politics, and emergency management (Ludus).

As I continued to research serious games I kept coming across simulations, which I did not think were actually considered serious games.  According to Ludus, though, simulations can be linked to serious games.  “Simulations are representations of real or hypothetical processes, mechanisms or systems.  Simulations have been used in many different fields such as sales, health care and the military.  Games are different than simulations due to “randomness of potential situations and embedded prizes,” (Ludus).

Serious Games:

One serious game I came across during my research was ROBOLAB-on-line at


Students are given tasks, then they design programs and test programs.  ROBOLAB requires a subscription however there is a demonstration video to try.  When I tried it I was given a task to move a Lego vehicle 180 degrees and then 360 degrees.  I actually had my 11 year old help me out.  Certainly ROBOLAB can be used with students younger than 13, still I think older children would be interested in it as well.


Another serious game I came across during my research was PeaceMaker, this game can be accessed at: http://www.peacemakergame.com/press.php

In PeaceMaker you can explore your world, play the news, take control as the leader in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, give speeches, and solve problems.  This game is rated PG-13 for violence in some of the news clips.  This game is free and can be downloaded on Mac or PC’s.


A third serious game I came across is called Transcription Hero-Arcade Version for Mac and Windows. This is an educational game where the player gets to be a RNA Polymerase traveling down the rails of DNA, transcribing genes without causing mutations.  This game can be accessed by signing up for Spongelab.  Spongelab has many different serious games and simulations among other things.  Spongelab can be accessed at: www.spongelab.com

Once you set up a free account and log into Spongelab you can access the games by choosing ‘Explore’.  Then look at Games and Simulations.  There are some that require downloading while others can be played online.  Most of the games and simulations are for older students.    


Thoughts on serious games


The idea of spending any amount of time “gaming” does not in any way appeal to me.  However, I am not against the idea of using gaming to further our students understanding of different concepts.  I know my children enjoy playing video games, though my husband and I rarely allow them much time to play them.  Until recently I had not thought about using games such as Minecraft to help students solve problems.  I am excited to learn more about serious games and how I can use them to help my students learn.  According to Laura Kane, “Studies have shown that gaming improves cognitive abilities, spatial attention and information retention,” (July 2012).  Further, Jensen said, “Games are a medium that this generation of learners really understands,” she said. “I think (that’s) the primary reason we’re developing games for education,” (as cited by Kane, 2012).

Works Cited

Kane, Laura. (July 26, 2012). Toronto’s ‘serious games’ help kids learn while they play.

Chapter 1: What a Serious Game is? Definitions and theoretical frame work for Serious       Games. Ludus. South East Europe. Retrieved online January 17 from http://www.serious-gaming.info/@api/deki/files/57/=Chapter_1.pdf







6 thoughts on “What Serious Games Exist for People Ages 13+?

  1. Nicole Fuerst says:

    I agree that the application of gaming in education has to be deliberate but that when students are faced with practicing skills and knowledge in simulation situations it really deepens knowledge and skills. It’s an artful balance for sure.

  2. Sara I’m glad you’re checking into Minecraft. I think a couple easy ways to start using it in the classroom might be to have a project where you have students design / build something, be it a house, farm, a representation of historical architecture, etc., and they can use any medium they see fit, and mention perhaps making a screencast of Minecraft or any other digital world where you have freedom to design and build.

    • Forgot to tack on the last thing: using Minecraft in some sort of afterschool game club with some sort of focus or structure (student government of Minecraft world).

    • Colin,

      I have actually been playing Minecraft EDU quite a bit. I am really trying to become somewhat better at it so I am able to use it with students. I like the idea of having students create different structures on Minecraft, however sometimes downloading things on district computers is challenging. You have to go through quite a process to get new software approved and then downloaded. Then trying to get screencast on the computer may prove even more difficult. For my previous classes where we used ScreenCast-O-Matic, I had to do all my work on my home computer because I was not allowed to download it on my school computer. I definitely see how Minecraft can prove useful in the classroom setting; I am just not sure how it will work with all the restraints the district puts on technology use. Certainly it would be worth trying to get the use of Minecraft approved, though.
      Thanks for your helpful comments.

  3. Spongelab is a great resource that will be able to help me complete some of the standards in science that I have had difficulty teaching in the last few years. Since most of our school doesn’t use the computer lab this year I can really use some of the great resources that are out there!

    • Tomas,

      My daughter and I had a lot of fun doing a few of the medical simulations. My son also thought the bone simulation was cool because he has a bone test coming up. I am glad you found the site useful. There are certainly many resources available on SpongeLab.

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