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Video Games that Support Collaboration and Growth Mindset

Many of us were children of the Nintendo age, and with that came a set of unique challenges. We made peace with the fragility of chip-based software and battle against the red blinking power light just to start a game. We bookmarked and annotated manuals and traded cheat codes as if they were state secrets. We held younger siblings accountable the moment they callously and recklessly tripped over a controller cable.

More than any other, we failed. Without the luxury of saving progress, most of our time was spent in lengthy sessions that featured DOZENS of fatal errors and miscalculations. Though not necessarily by design, in order to beat a game, we HAD to fail.

That's been lost in more recent generations, but a more refreshing trend has surfaced that many in teaching are unfamiliar with: collaboration and problem-solving. So much so that they seem designed as reflective experiences for STEM and Math-focused classrooms.

Minecraft is a popular game-based instructional tool, but if you are pressed for time to explore it's functions, here are some recommendations for games that can guide student in developing collaboration and problem-solving skills.


Portal 2 (PC, Xbox 360/One, PS3/PS4)

The original Portal put the player in the shoes of a product tester at the "forward thinking" Aperture Science, asked to put a new device, the Portal Gun, to the test. The device allows you to create doors along walls, ceilings, floors, or other surfaces that seem to defy dimensions. Portal required you to think differently about the space around you and use gravity and physics themselves as tools and, at times, constraints.

The sequel, Portal 2, added a co-operative layer to this model, where players NEED to communicate in order to clear levels and advance forward. There are no enemies, no blood, no death: just you, a partner, and a pair of best bud robots with Portal devices trying to make their way through a carefully crafted set of challenges. And they can fist bump.

Scribblenauts (Wii U, 3DS, PC, Android, iOS)

"I would love to put this fire out with a flying robot dragon that spits out jets of water, but there aren't any around."

In Scribblenauts, you will never need utter this sentence. The sheer beauty of this series is in the endless solutions. You navigate through worlds and interact with characters and their problems, which you can solve by literally summoning any item you have in mind (by simply typing in the name of the object) and deciding how that object interacts with the world. This allows kids to explre problem-solving with a design lens: by the very nature of the game, you have to design to be successful.

Snipperclips (Nintendo Switch)

Two players enter stages as U-shaped pieces of paper that can overlap and reshape. Doing so allows players to interact and solve puzzles. Elements of physics, geometry, and collaborative communication come into play, which allows players to generate plans and experiment with ideas. In Snipperclips, any and all ideas are powerful!


Video games are increasingly becoming as influential a medium as any other for the post-Millennial generation, as evidenced by the fact that major cable networks regularly program gaming tournaments head-to-head against live sporting events. If we, as educators, gain the most success by moving with currents instead of fighting against them, then understanding how our students can interact with video games to support their learning becomes a high-leverage strategy for building a meaningful classroom culture.

And have fun!


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