There's lots of talk these days about game-based learning. Schools and training companies are excitedly looking for ways to encorporate educational games into their curriculum.
Here are a couple of interesting examples:
Peace Corps Challenge
Ding Ding City
However, I think the current educational offerings miss the point. They erroneously focus on learning as the goal. You get an answer right, you get a point. Yay, you. But - and this might sound blasphemous coming from an educator - learning is not the goal for most students.
Okay, so if learning is not the goal, what is? A decent job, status, self confidence. Students intend to use what they learn as a tool to get other, more desirable things. It's the same with gaming.
What keeps people involved in games like World of Warcraft or even Plants vs. Zombies? It's not the opportunity to learn something. They may be required to learn something in order to complete a task, but learning is not the end point. Instead, the motivation is status, accomplishing a task, a sense of community.
We need to move away from the idea that students are interested in learning for learning's sake. In his TED Talk, Tom Chatfield outlines seven ways games reward the brain. These are the things we need to focus on when building - or selecting - educational games.