Published on 24 Apr 2023

Gamifying life skills education

Young people can demonstrate critical thinking, empathy and multimodal literacy by playing games.

NIE's Asst Prof Victor Lim and Dr Toh Weimin looked into what youths learn when playing video games outside school.

A screenshot from a student's gameplay of The Walking Dead Season 1. Credit: Skybound Entertainment.

Playing video games is a common pastime for many young people and educators have been keen to understand how games can be used for teaching and learning because games can offer immediate feedback and provide a safe space for students to try again after failing.

But there are gaps in understanding what youths learn when playing video games outside school.

A qualitative case study led by Assoc Prof Victor Lim and Dr Toh Weimin, education researchers at the National Institute of Education, NTU’s teacher training institute, looked into this by exploring the way two male university students in their early 20s played two commercial video games – one played The Walking Dead Season 1, while the other played The Last Of Us.

The researchers found that the students displayed skills useful in school and the workplace. Both students showed critical thinking skills, such as coming up with step-by-step plans to solve challenges in-game, as well as empathy by understanding the perspectives of different playable game characters.

One student also demonstrated multimodal literacy – he was able to combine and process different cues in the game, like verbal, visual and action cues, to reach an objective.

Based on the findings, the researchers say teachers can use games to design learning activities for students and help them learn from their gameplay, such as prompting them to reflect and discuss their experiences.


The study “Learning in digital play: a dual case study of video gamers’ independent play” was published in Research and Practice in Technology Enhanced Learning (2022). DOI: 10.1186/s41039-022-00182-2.

The article appeared first in NTU's research & innovation magazine Pushing Frontiers (issue #21, December 2022).