Games and STEAM

January 1st, 2016

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The inclusion of the arts and humanities in STEM based-research and publications has slowly transformed how informal science education has discussed and implemented the “arts” in education. Science leaders and practitioners have jumped at the chance to implement STEAM in their work, recognizing “the skills required by innovative STEM professionals include arts and crafts thinking.” This includes the capacity to visually think; recognize and form patterns; model; get the “feel” for system; and manipulate skills learned by using tools, pens, and brushes (Root-Bernstein and Root-Bernstein, 2011). See “Integrating the arts and humanities into STEM learning.”

It is argued that STEAM provides a bridge between the artistic process and the scientific method with the outcome resulting in the exploration of ideas and possibilities, which can be complementary to the learning framework of the “4 Cs” of creativity, collaboration, critical thinking, and communication (Saraniero, 2014). The incorporation of game-based learning, which has grown across both formal and informal learning spaces, also provides the ability to engage and educate youth. According the IMLS STEAM Video Game Challenge, video games have becomes tools of engagement and relevance. Citing Pew Research, 97% of teens and tweens regularly play computer and video games and playing and designing games provides a unique avenue of learning. Focusing on games design, tween and teens utilize both problem-solving skills while employing artistic concepts to produce a product.

The ability for games to engage its audiences while teaching them problem-solving skills among others becomes of great interest (See “Benefits of Game based learning ISE”). Learning Science Through Computer Games and Simulations claimed that games “motivate learning with challenges and rapid feedback and tailor instruction to individual learners’ needs and interests” (2011, p. 21).

However, while discourse in this topic has circulated amongst ISE practitioners and has attracted the attention of the National Science Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the U.S. Department of Education, as well as various game learning centers, this topic has been less discussed in ISE publications and in peer reviewed scholarship and research. Combined with the use and implementation of STEAM in digital games, even less published material is available.

Findings from Research and Evaluation 

Research and Evaluation

Seminal Work in Video Game Studies

  • What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy by James P. Gee

  • Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World by Jane McGonigal

  • How to Do Things with Videogames by Ian Bogost

Emerging Works in Museums

  • Susan Edwards and Rebecca Edwards, Getty Museum working on Getty Games


American Museum of Natural History – worked with E-Line Media to integrate their Hall of Ocean Life into a game design workshop. Participants learned about game design principles, toured the exhibit for inspiration, then created games with Gamestar Mechanic based on their inspiration.

Children’s Museum of Science and Technology – The Power of Play camp program for children ages 5-14 engages participants through a variety of different activities including creating video games, going on an insect patrol, and experimenting with animation.

National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian – The Tuskegee Airmen Flight Leader game designed by Eduweb allows participants to become immersed in a 3D role-playing game where the player must escort B-24 bombers over Germany confronting the challenges, decisions, and dangers of high-altitude combat.

The Getty Museum – Getty Game Jam. The museum invited USC students to participate in a 30 hour marathon of designing and building games, utilizing the museum’s collection as inspiration.


Education Closet – 3 tools for Weaving (Digital) Stories

IMLS – STEM Video Game Challenge

Virginia Commonwealth University – Current Lab: Introduction to Digital Game Design as Art

Communities of Practice

The Kennedy Center Arts Edge – Growing form STEM to STEAM

STEAM Art Educators, Facebook Page


Learning Science Through Computer Games and Simulations. (2011). In National Research Council.

Root-Bernstein, R., & Root-Bernstein, M. (2011, March 16). Turning STEM into STREAM: Writing as an Essential Component of Science Education. In National Writing Project.

Saraniero, P. (2014). Growing from STEM to STEAM: Tips to team up the arts and sciences in your classroom . In The Kennedy Center: ARTSEDGE.