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:
  • 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:
  • World without Oil was a collaborative and social imagining of the first 32 weeks of a global oil crisis:

For Further Reading

Deep Learning Properties of Good Digital Games: How Far Can They Go?
(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)
(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)
(Jane McGonigal, Institute for the Future, 2010.) This TED talk advocates incorporating principles of game design into the real world to effect social change.