What is Game-Based Learning?


The interest in game-based learning has accelerated considerably in recent years, driven by clear successes in military and industrial training. The US military, in particular, is using games and simulations to refine skills across the range of their training needs, from basic training to field medicine, to IED removal, to advanced operational strategies. Developers and researchers are working in every area of educational gaming, 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 them selves to refining team and group skills. At the low end of game technology, there are literally thousands of ways games can be applied in learning contexts. Role-playing and other forms of simulated experiences have broad applicability across a wide range of disciplines, and are another rich area for exploration.

Still a few years away, but increasingly interesting, is the notion of creating massively multiplayer online (MMO) games expressly for learning, along the lines of games created for entertainment (e.g. World of Warcraft) or for both training and entertainment, such as America’s Army, created by the US military. MMOs bring many players together in activities that require them to work together to solve problems; they can be collaborative or competitive. They are often goal-oriented in ways that tie to a storyline or theme, but high levels of play often require outside learning and discovery. What makes this category of games especially compelling and effective is the multiple ways participants can be engaged — with other players, with the “back story,” in social contexts, and more — and the time they are willing to spend on task pursing the goals of the games.

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(1) How might this technology be relevant to the educational sector you know best?

  • engage reluctant learners. I work in the adult and community education sector and polytechnic sector. Many of these learners were unsuccessful in their first attempts at learning and so might benefit from a learning approach that does not feel like learning, and where the emphasis is on learning rather than reading - terry.neal terry.neal Aug 27, 2010
  • Games genuinely motivate and engage. The average games gets the player to frequently make decisions and recieve feedback on a regualr basis, this is on the basis of multiple decisions per minute and regular feedback. This is a considerable change from the average classroom or lecture hall. There are some interesting examples available - http://www.globalconflicts.eu/ & http://www.seriousgames.org/ While I agree with the point below on games being difficult to make, the investment is well spent and the learning outcomes between a good game and a good curriculum will be marked. - andrew.churches andrew.churches Sep 1, 2010
  • Use of gaming to teach serious and difficult content can be very useful as it can facilitate students to learn from error in an engaging and meaningful way. I am a great fan of this approach (coming from someone who does not really play games!). - philip.poronnik philip.poronnik Sep 2, 2010

(2) What themes are missing from the above description that you think are important?

  • It's difficult to make good games, and it's difficult to prepare good curriculum. There's often a perception that making games for learning is easy, but the reality is that it's hard to do well. - ninmah ninmah Aug 24, 2010
  • There's a related theme that's also important: the idea of play as a broader activity and how it relates to learning. - ninmah ninmah Aug 24, 2010
  • Building on the first bullet point above about the difficulty of making good games, the up front cost along with the tendency for tertiary providers to value more clearly academic approaches (proven effective with those with whom they are successful) and to want to do their own thing rather than work together means that we have not yet developed a business model that works for educational games. - terry.neal terry.neal Aug 27, 2010
  • Putting the learning first and demonstrating learning outcomes. - philip.poronnik philip.poronnik Sep 2, 2010

(3) What do you see as the potential impact of this technology on teaching, learning, or creative expression?

  • Jane McGongial, who has designed a number of massively multiplayer games like Urgent EVOKE and I Love Bees, gave a TED talk on how games can change the world. Her point is that given the collective number of hours we spend playing games, if those games were designed to do real good or accomplish real work, we could really make some progress. - ninmah ninmah Aug 24, 2010
  • Mapping game theory onto learning theory is a very useful exercise. More teachers should be aware of the considerable funds and psychology that goes into developing successful games, and that we, as teachers, have much to learn from the design of games. Methods that are used to engage game players can be directly applied to engaging students in learning. Games are designed to be used with minimal prior knowledge, have levels of achievement and built in reward mechanisms that provide timely feedback, but more importantly, an opportunity to apply that feedbacjk almost instantly. Games have goals, they scaffold learning and they can be played as individuals or as groups. Games can be designed so that the objectives cannot be achiebed unless the group cooperates. - geoffrey.crisp geoffrey.crisp Aug 26, 2010
  • Just want to add to Geoff's comments which may reference assessment implicitly, but I believe that until we demonstrate how assessment of tasks in game playing can be linked to learning outcomes (and this shouldn't be too difficult - see this video which links employability skills to learner outcomes http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fTnr95vrzBI), then games may continue to be marginalised by the majority of educators. - garry.putland garry.putland Aug 30, 2010
  • Charles Leadbeater talks about innovative approaches to education, especially for those in slums - about 9 minutes in, he touches on the potential of games to engage learners for whom standard curricula are irrelevant and that rely on models that don't need the volume of teachers required by the dominant model http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/charles_leadbeater_on_education.html - terry.neal terry.neal Aug 27, 2010
  • Better student engagement, Improved engagement for students who are not read/write learners - particularly boys. the competive aspect appeals to students and games in an immersive and collaborative environment like WoW encourage team formation, collabortation and peer-support. - andrew.churches andrew.churches Sep 1, 2010
  • Giving students different frameworks in which to conceptualise and understand content - also to provide a platform for deliberate practice and integrating interdisciplinary content.

(4) Do you have or know of a project working in this area?


Shute, V. J., Ventura, M., Bauer, M. & Zapata-Rivera, D. (2009). Melding the Power of Serious Games and Embedded Assessment to Monitor and Foster Learning: Flow and Grow. In U. Ritterfeld, M. Cody & Vorderer, P. (Ed), Serious Games: Mechanisms and Effects. (pp 293-319). Taylor & Francis Group. Retrieved August 18, 2010, from http://21st-century-assessment.wikispaces.com/file/view/GAMES_Shute_FINAL.pdf - geoffrey.crisp geoffrey.crisp Aug 26, 2010
Life Game Project in New Zealand http://www.lgp.org.nz/ - terry.neal terry.neal Aug 27, 2010
Games development company working with a New Zealand Industry Training Organisation to develop a game for trainee truck drivers http://www.ingame.co.nz/2010/case-study-3d-industry-training/ - terry.neal terry.neal Aug 27, 2010
Portal for game based learning - number of example projects http://www.engagelearning.eu/ - terry.neal terry.neal Aug 27, 2010 Dean Groom - http://deangroom.wordpress.com/ - andrew.churches andrew.churches Sep 1, 2010Greenbush Labs (also 3d worlds using interactive whiteboards) - http://roots.greenbush.us/ - andrew.churches andrew.churches Sep 1, 2010
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