Arcade Games For Learning: How Chicago Schools Are Integrating Gaming Into The Curriculum


arcade games for learning

Chicago has a history of games worth celebrating. Since the 1930s, the city has been a world-leading pinball manufacturer. It’s the city that birthed Mortal Kombat, the iconic fighting arcade game.

Local students have learned about games as part of our history. Now, educators forge new connections between gaming and learning. Chicago’s schoolchildren are rediscovering the power of gaming. Now, public educators are using arcade games to power up their futures. 

school arcade games

Wait—Arcade Games In School? What Are Arcade Games For Learning?

Innovative education projects are helping children learn the way they do naturally: through play. Some projects bring the immersive fun of arcade games into the classroom. Others encourage exploring the city outside school walls

Exciting partnerships spur many of these new tactics. Universities have partnered with K-12 schools to try extraordinary things. The University of Chicago has teamed up with Weston Game Lab. Why? To launch a course preparing public high school students for careers in gaming. 

What Types of Skills Are Games Equipped To Teach?

Using arcade games for learning takes advantage of their unique properties. 

Games draw players in with almost all of the five senses. Music, sound design, visual effects, and vibrations pull players through a scene. Players have to think fast, investigate surroundings, and experience a story. 

The unique mental and sensory experience makes a compelling classroom. This is true within a traditional classroom itself. It’s also true when teachers take advantage of unique field trip ideas games can inspire.

 Integrated school arcade games have a lot to offer.  Here’s what students are learning.

Students Say: With An Indoor Arcade Near Me, My Hand-Eye Coordination Is Stronger 

Hand-eye coordination is a key motor skill. Surgeons, carpenters, and pilots use honed motor skills every single day. 

Imagine I’m a typical kid. Sports like Little League and Frisbee build my skills in warmer weather. But once Winter hits? Having an indoor arcade near me keeps coordination on point. 

When students practice, arcades enhance hand-eye coordination by a large degree. 

Get Motivated

With school arcade games in the classroom, you can jumpstart motivation. 

When students have passion, that helps them retain information. Motivation also helps kids make connections. As of 2023, 90% of kids over age two play video games. Education motivation can draw on that passion. 

unique field trip ideas

Arcade Games Take Social-Emotional Learning To A Whole New Level  

Social-emotional learning teaches students how to regulate emotions. It’s a category of social skills we use in most relationships. Arcade games are a unique teaching tool in this regard.

Games are designed to get players excited and emotionally invested. But, keeping a cool head is often key to winning. The “amped” feeling of adrenaline can be channeled to move fast. But it takes skill to keep it in control.

Team games provide opportunities for students to practice social skills. JCFS Chicago reports multiplayer games foster positive teamwork. They also empower kids who struggle with loneliness to form connections. 

School Arcade Games Teach Collaborative Problem-Solving

In 2018, a psychological journal published a study on arcades. It discovered positive effects of arcade games for learning to solve problems as a group. It found playing strategy games enhances students’ group problem-solving skills. Moreover, playing these games in a physical space was better. 

Skills improved more quickly in arcades than when playing online. Students were more receptive to new concepts and strategies in the arcade. 

How Innovative Educators Use Arcade Games For Learning (And More!)

Arcade games can absolutely teach critical skills. Some Chicago schools take games’ potential one step further. 

One of the most unique field trip ideas pairs K-12 students with universities. Together, they game. These programs use custom games to teach core curricula content. What are students learning about? 


Next Gen Personal Finance (NGPF) is an award-winning nonprofit. NGPF teaches financial literacy skills to people from all walks of life. One of the group’s most popular innovations is the NGPF arcade. 

The virtual game room is filled with the brand’s completely original video games. Each game is designed to teach personal finance skills through hands-on experiments, puzzles, and practice. 

Different games are geared toward students in different grade levels, so students can build their skills as they go. 

The NGPF has volunteered with Chicago’s elementary school students since 2014. In 2016, the group launched PAYBACK, a new arcade game aimed at high school Seniors. Unlike their other games, PAYBACK has real-world rewards. 

Students who master the game are eligible to compete for a scholarship. In December 2023, thirty students won $1000 scholarships through the program, while two won the $2500 grand prize. 

Materials Science 

At Chicago’s Northwestern University, video games have triggered breakthrough “ah ha!” moments for students studying materials science. 

Professor David Dunand began using video games to teach key concepts in 2016. Since then, students in the department’s research group have expanded the approach. The game library now covers a wide range of material engineering subjects. 

One breakout success has been L.U.M.P.I Space Adventure. 

The 2D, Tetris-like game teaches players the principles of freeze-casting. Players build layers around vertical, growing towers, a simplified exploration of the method. In real life, freeze-casting is used to shape and develop synthetic foam. 

L.U.M.P.I Space Adventure won the bronze medal at the 2018 Serious Play Conference.

arcade games for learning

Expedition! Unique Field Trip Ideas Make Gaming Smart (And Learning Fun)

The educational benefit of games exists far beyond the classroom. Field trips of all kinds broaden students’ horizons. Many deepen students’ engagement in unique subjects. A field trip centering games is an exciting opportunity. It elevates the educational experience.

What type of gaming trips might be worth students’ while? An excursion to an arcade could:

  • Enhance skills
  • Strengthen bonds
  • Inspire future designers 

Educators could also plan a trip to a game studio. There are over fifteen studios based right here in Chicago!

Gaming To Learn, For The Win! 

Chicago public schools have the right idea. Integrating gaming into education is an A+ strategy!  

Maybe you’re intrigued by using arcade games for learning. Maybe you’re a stressed parent searching for an “indoor arcade near me” to help your kid thrive. Or, maybe you just want to game to relax. 

Either way, Wintrust has your back. 

If you’re interested in planning a field trip to the 4000 sq. ft. Redemption Arcade, call us! (708) 295-9500