Game-Based Learning

Time-to-Adoption: Two to Three Years

Game-based learning has gained considerable traction since 2003, when James Gee began to describe the impact of game play on cognitive development. Since then, research — and interest in — the potential of gaming on learning has exploded, as has the diversity of games themselves, with the emergence of serious games as a genre, the proliferation of gaming platforms, and the evolution of games on mobile devices. Developers and researchers are working in every area of game-based learning, including games that are goal-oriented; social game environments; non-digital games that are easy to construct and play; games developed expressly for education; and commercial games that lend themselves to refining team and group skills. Role-playing, collaborative problem solving, and other forms of simulated experiences constitute topics for further research, but are recognized for having broad applicability across a wide range of disciplines.

Relevance for Teaching, Learning, or Creative Inquiry

  • Educational games offer opportunities for both discovery-based and goal-oriented learning, and can be very effective ways to develop teambuilding skills.
  • Simulations and role-playing games allow students to re-enact difficult situations to try new responses or pose creative solutions.
  • Educational games can be used to teach cross-curricular concepts that touch on many subjects in an engaging way.

In Practice

  • Virtual Battlespace II is a game-based operational simulation environment, developed with the Australian Defense Forces, that is used by militaries all over the world as an operational planning tool: http://www.bisimulations.com
  • Ghosts of a Chance allows visitors to the Smithsonian American Art Museum a chance to decipher codes, follow treasure maps, send text messages, and uncover hidden objects in this multimedia scavenger hunt: http://ghostsofachance.com/
  • World without Oil was a collaborative and social imagining of the first 32 weeks of a global oil crisis: http://worldwithoutoil.org/

For Further Reading

Deep Learning Properties of Good Digital Games: How Far Can They Go?
http://www.jamespaulgee.com/node/37
(James Paul Gee, Arizona State University, January 2009.) This study by noted games-based learning researcher James Paul Gee discusses the design and effects of digital games.

Moving Learning Games Forward (PDF)
http://education.mit.edu/papers/MovingLearningGamesForward_EdArcade.pdf
(E. Klopfer, S. Osterweil and K. Salen, The Education Arcade, 2009.) This white paper provides an overview of the field of game-based learning.

Reality is Broken, Game Designers Can Fix It (video)
http://www.avantgame.com/
(Jane McGonigal, Institute for the Future, 2010.) This TED talk advocates incorporating principles of game design into the real world to effect social change.