GIPI · Grupo Imágenes Palabras e Ideas

Simulation video games: Living in virtual worlds


In this project we analyze the possibilities offered in virtual environments such as the ones presented in the video games ‘SimsCity Creator’ and ‘The Sims 2:  Castaway, when working with Secondary Education students. On the basis of the video game and the reflection upon the experiences lived in the games, teenagers discovered internal video game strategies and rules, as well as the similarities and differences between the real world in which they live and the virtual world they are creating. 


  • To analyze how commercial video games can become educational tools with the teacher’s help.
  • To describe the process through which the video game becomes the link between the real and virtual worlds.

Project Development

For this research we worked throughout the 2008/2009 school year in a Secondary Education centre using simulation video games with Secondary Education and PCPI (Initial Vocational Training Program) students.

On the one hand, we used The Sims2: Castaway, which required the development of thinking strategies to enable the survival of its main characters following their sinking in an unknown island.  On the other, SimsCity Creator allows the player to become the designer and creator of a virtual city by controlling the elements that will contribute to the growth of the population and the happiness of its citizens.

Both games were at the centre of the experiences guided by the teachers, among which we can highlight the following:

  1. Making a first contact. The video game was introduced to students with the aim of generating interest and motivation around the topics that would be worked with it.
  2. The video game. Students, by groups, played with the video game, interacting and collaborating to find an answer to the dilemmas posed.
  3. Thinking and producing. Participants reflected over what they had lived through during the game to subsequently make audiovisual products in which to recount their experience.
  4. Sharing reflections. Once the products were created, Youtube was used to share the reflections reached and the conclusions derived, with a close and distant audience.



Creators of virtual worlds

Simulation video games attract the player because they provide different experiences to the ones lived in our real live, offering virtual settings in which one can construct, freely, one’s own story or universe.

The player’s motivation

The key for a video game to be attractive is not so much its visual design as the experiences it provides and which invite the player to participate. Simulation video games allow players to adopt an active role in the building of the video game by interacting with the screen through the console’s controllers or through the computer. 

Identifying with the virtual character

Becoming a video game character is another of the possibilities offered by simulation games. This feature is especially interesting when we are working with teenagers, since they find themselves at an important point within the process of shaping their identity.


Agreement of collaboration between the University of Alcalá and the video game company Electronic Arts (EA), within its Corporate Social Responsibility Plan. Date: June 2009.

Also participating

  • Students and teachers from the Secondary Education Institute Manuel de Falla (Coslada).

More information

Related publications

  • Lacasa, P.; Méndez, L.; Martínez, R. (2008). Aprender a contar historias y a reflexionar con videojuegos comerciales. In Gross, B. ‘Videojuegos y Aprendizaje’. Barcelona: Grao.
  • Lacasa, P., Méndez, L., & Martinez, R. (2008) ‘Bringing commercial games into the classrooms’ Computers and Composition, 25, pp. 331-358.
  • Lacasa, P.; Martínez-Borda, R.; Méndez, L. (2008) ‘Developing new literacies using commercial digital games as educational tools’. Linguistis & Education, 19 (2), pp. 85-106.
  • Lacasa, P.; Méndez, L.; Martínez, R. (2009). ‘Learning using videogames as educational tools: Building bridges between commercial and serious games’. In Marja Kankaanranta & Pekka Neittaanmäki (Eds) ‘Design and use of serious games’, (107-126). Milton Keynes, UK: Springer



Website Research Group Imágenes, Palabras e Ideas. Madrid. 2009.
Coordination: Pilar Lacasa. Editing and digital support: David Herrero Martínez. Web Master: Luis Briso de Montiano Aldecoa. Graphic Design: Rebeca Ochoa Bernabé

Website Research Group Imágenes, Palabras e Ideas. Madrid. 2009. All rights reserved | Credits - Last Update: 22/10/2011