Profit and loss ... PowerPoint ... spreadsheets ... typing practice: This junior high school business class could have given a case of the yawns to a buttoned-down executive, not to mention the kids.

To University of Wyoming professor Liz Simpson, what the students needed was something many teachers wouldn't even whisper about: a computer game--and not one designed for education, but solely for self-indulgent, time-consuming entertainment at home.

Simpson and a growing number of educators say that such games--"Restaurant Empire," in this case--can make school more engaging for today's "digital...

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