Great to be apart of the community,
I'm interested in your other opinions and perspectives on Learning/Educational Games, whether there is a need or desire for games in the classroom or whether there's a market from your experiences.
I see purpose in games to teach, aid learning and self-motivation. With so many apps, technologies and devices in the hands of children and teachers alike, there's exposure for both groups.
But would those games be bought and desired by Academia? Maybe not to the extent as Angry Birds but it seems well worth developing though I'm having a hard time finding successful market examples.
Any insights and experiences from your perspectives on their usefulness, demand and marketability?
IMHO there is a use (not necessarily a need) for games as a supplement to assist the teaching and learning process, but not yet as part of regular classroom activities. My reasoning for this is that there is not enough money in education in most parts of the world to place a computing device onto the desk of every student in a school, pay for the maintenance of same, and to pay for new apps/programs on an ongoing basis.
However, I believe there is a market for educational games for home use. Many households have a computing device (smart phone/tablet/laptop/desktop/games console), which can be used for educational games if so desired. But the challenge is to make these games fun enough for students to play them while ensuring that the players are learning while using them.
For examples of successful games used for education, two major areas that come to mind are typing tutors, and language learning games. I am sure there are other areas, but I think there is a difficulty in making a game that illustrates a concept and teaches the underlying educational material. To use your Angry Birds example, players learn that the angle of launch and speed of launch are very important. However, there is no reinforcement of any math/physics material in this game, and there is no need for anyone playing the game to understand the underlying calculations. For an educational game to be successful I believe that it must have the fun/addictive nature of games like Angry Birds while incorporating the relevant underlying material. If this can be achieved then I think they are very useful and marketable.
I think there is appetite for learning games inside companies. Think of how companies used to do "Treasure Hunts" -- and still do -- in corporate learning programs. The challenge is how to make this real and flexible.
While vocational teachers have big funding available, the average academic teacher is faced with a continually shrinking budget (if any). We are always looking to get the biggest bang for our buck... The FREE options below allow a teacher to develop extensive units that have proven to be very engaging for kids.
As a game designer, there isn't much incentive to make a free game/tool for educators, HOWEVER, if you entice us with a substantial free mode and offer inexpensive options like Class Project tracking, lesson integration, etc. you'd catch our attention.
I have seen and discussed with other high school teachers the use of basic games for teaching. In my case most of them were chemistry ed programs, like playing Majong to memorize poly-atomic ions. I think teachers would gladly use these sorts of programs, but schools are poor, and administrators might be hard to convince its worth spending money on. If you're wondering if an educational game could become popular, I'd say it can. But if you're hoping to make lots of money off an educational game, I'd have some doubts.
My suggestions would be to either market to curricula which are being pitched and sold to schools already, and make your game part of a package that will get sales on its own, market to home-school programs that work in similar ways, or market as a tutoring program. This third option could work if you produce a limited free version to hook and popularize, and a purchasable richer program, which can be downloaded. College students and concerned parents of students of any age are willing to put money in if they can see results.