The BBC reports that West Nottinghamshire College has incorporated a modified version of Atari/Bioware’s Neverwinter Nights into classrooms as a teaching tool, and achievement scores have tripled (trebled if you’re a fussy Brit).

…before they set off in their galleon they have to fill it with the things they are going to need. This requires them to work out the area of the ship and how much they can manage to bring.

Some students managed it, others sank on the way and never progressed to the next level. They would come knocking on the staff room door and wouldn’t let us go until we had taught them how to calculate area.

Some analysis by Raph Koster:

“Games work best at teaching when the challenges are organic to the experience, rather than out of left field. This is why so many educational games suck — just strapping an incentive structure on rote practice doesn’t work very well, compared to instead building a long-term goal structure, and then presenting challenges on the way. The ‘fill the hold’ example works because the students have a goal that isn’t learning.