Video games for the most part are seen as a hobby, a way to unwind, or even a career, for some lucky few. But even if we’re not playing games to learn astrophysics, there’s evidence that it’s easier to learn certain things through interactive means.
Here’s a list of the best games out there to teach you skills that translate to real life, from interior decorating to dancing and beyond.
‘THE TYPING OF THE DEAD: OVERKILL’
Skill learned: typing
If you weren’t an avid arcade-goer in Japan 15 years ago and you didn’t collect obscure Dreamcast games, you probably missed out on playing the original The Typing of the Dead. It was a modified remake of House of the Dead, a popular Sega arcade game where players use gun-shaped controllers to shoot zombies. In Typing, your words-per-minute speed gets put to the test instead.
Lucky for you, the game is available on Steam as The Typing of The Dead: Overkill, with funny downloadable expansions adding lexicon from the works of Shakespeare and popular movies. There’s even a multiplayer mode where you can tag-team zombies.
Typing of the Dead will improve your typing, yes, but it’s also a blast. If at any point you get bored of typing words like “Sexual Tyrannosaur,” you might have bigger problems.
Skills learned: concentration and spatial understanding
If you’ve played a lot of Tetris, you’re probably great at packing a car for road trips. Aside from patience, this game teaches you pre-emptive planning and organizational skills, specifically to the tune of Russian folk music.
In 2009, Richard J. Haier did a study on the effect Tetris has on people. Apparently those who played the game had thicker cerebral cortexes than those who didn’t, and various studies have shown a correlation between a thick cerebral cortex and intelligence—although nothing’s been proven outright.
Regardless, Tetris is gangbusters for making your neurons go nuts. Just beware of the Tetris Effect.
Skills learned: interior design and responsibility
If you’re like me, you’ve played every Animal Crossing title despite the premise being the same for every game. I’m not sure if that’s something to brag about, but you have to admit there’s something oddly alluring about starting fresh in a new town, working hard to pay off your loans, and meeting new, strange townsfolk.
To make you want to play the game daily, its internal clock runs on real time, and you have to tend to your friendships as well as your crops. These responsibilities may not have quite the weight of, for example, having to take care of a dog. But at least Animal Crossing teaches one additional skill: with hundreds and hundreds of different in-game bits and bobs and pieces of furniture available to buy, you’ll be a pro at interior design after a few dozen hours.
Skill learned: coding
It only seems logical to learn how to code a game by playing one. The majority of games that teach coding are meant for younger audiences, but CodeCombat takes it a step further.
Skill learned: shredding
Built on the same foundations as Guitar Hero and Rock Band, Ubisoft���s Rocksmith brings the rhythm genre to reality by allowing you to finally use your own guitar as a controller instead of plastic buttons that only mimic strings.
Technique Challenges are by far the best teaching tool within the game. Available for both guitar and bass guitar players, they teach you the basics of shredding, including tuning, slides, power chords, hammer-ons, and how to slappa-da-bass (naturally).
Another cool feature is freeplay mode, where you can mimic the original guitar’s sound from a famous song. Want to imitate the solo in Boston’s “More Than a Feeling”? Of course you do, and now you can.
'JUST DANCE’ AND 'DANCE CENTRAL’
Skill learned: looking like an idiot. Also, dancing
Anyone with mild to severe social anxiety will be either completely cured or reduced to a slobbering fetal puddle on the carpet after a single round of Ubisoft’s Just Dance or Harmonix’s Dance Central.
For other players, these games might also impart a few new dance moves. Either way, the most important aspect is having fun and realizing that you won’t be the next Katy Perry. That’s hard for some boys and girls to admit, but them’s the breaks.
Skills learned: languages
Last spring, an indie title called Influent premiered on Steam. The player must navigate through the house and learn the name of every object through audio and visual cues. Languages that use different characters in their alphabet, like Korean or Russian, are written in both English and the original script. There are 16 downloadable language are available now with more to come in the future.
It’s a perfect way for gamers to learn a new language, although another tactic is to simply change the default language in normal games, like the text-heavy Skyrim, from English to something else. Just don’t get lost when you can’t understand the directions.
Sara “Svenna” Ventura is a journalist/marketer cross-breed from New York now living in Seattle. When she’s not writing as her job, she also writes in her free time. She learned how to read from RPGs, considers Suikoden I & II the best games ever, and insists on Yelping everywhere she goes. Please tweet puns to her @SvennaCirclet.