For Teachers

Model for Success Condition and Guidelines for teachers on the use of digital games in geography classes.

Model for the success conditions for the use of digital games on complex geographic topics in the classroom

Lux, Joelle-Denise and Budke, Alexandra

Based on our research on commercial digital strategy and simulation games on social issues, as well as interviews with their developers and young players, we derived guidelines for the use of these games in geography classrooms. The following model summarizes these recommendations.

  • Step 1 – Game selection in relation to curricular guidelines and competency goals:

When selecting games, we recommend, among other things, that attention be paid to sufficient (but grade-level appropriate) complexity (see geographic complexity in Lux & Budke 2020a) as well as appropriate controversy in the presentation of geographic topics. In addition, the games should include conflicting goals within the societal issues (e.g., environmental goals versus economical ones) to promote judgment and evaluation skills. Therefore, we particularly recommend games that present multiple societal challenges in an interconnected manner, for example green city development for the protection of the climate (such as in Civilization VI: Gathering Storm).

  • Step 2 – Thorough preparation:

In preparation, the content of the game should be intensively studied (by playing and reading articles) so that no particularly instructive aspects are overlooked and so that possible problems can be identified and included in the reflection. Prior to use in geography classes, learning objectives should be set, a lesson outline with links to the curriculum should be created, and materials, especially for reflection, should be prepared or obtained.

  • Step 3 – Meaningful integration into the lesson:

The use of the game should always contribute to answering the overarching question of the lesson; therefor, an observation task linked to the question or a creative task during the game is useful. Playing can be didactically located in the introduction as well as in the development phase. We only advise against using it for learning control in order to maintain the explorative character of playing; using it in the end of a lesson for summing it all up can also be difficult, as games usually show only parts of the relevant aspects of a topic. In any case, the gaming experience should be appreciated in class, for example via screenshots. If a live game is not possible, a joint play via beamer or game videos are also an option.

  • Step 4 – Debriefing with reflection:

As important for learning as the individual experience in the virtual world is the reflective debriefing. We recommend starting with a reflection on the game world and the actions in it. Building on this, materials can be used to reflect on similarities with and differences from reality in the context of the geographical topic. To promote reflexivity and personality development, self-reflection should also be part of the debriefing, as well as a reflection on the medium itself to promote media literacy.


All steps should take into account the target group (grade level and prior knowledge of the students), the given technical requirements, the curriculum and the geographical topic.

Further reading:

See tab „Publications“.

Model for the success conditions for the use of digital games on complex geographic topics in the classroom (Lux & Budke 2021).

Fig. 1: Model for the success conditions for the use of digital games on complex geographic topics in the classroom (Lux & Budke 2021).