License:  Creative Commons Attribution license (reuse allowed)   Attribution: Games and the Future of Education | ABUNDANCEby XPRIZE

Instructional designers may during their career be involved in the identification, recommendation, or selection of the inclusion of gaming into courses. This section introduces this topic and considers what makes learning games effective.

Learning Objectives

  • Define game, simulation and simulation games and give examples of each.
  • Describe features of computer-based games for learning that contribute to their effectiveness.
  • Describe possible approaches to implementing computer-based games for learning in your context.
  • Describe possible approaches to creating your own games for learning.
  • List the twelve elements that make learning games engaging.

Introduction to Computer-based Games for Learning

“Our students have changed radically. Today’s
students are not the people our educational system
was designed to teach … Our Digital Immigrant
instructors … are struggling to teach a population
that speaks an entirely new language”. – Prensky

Computer-based games are a major entertainment and cultural force (Gamasutra, 2006). Creative ideas using sophisticated graphics and communication technologies are changing the way we spend our leisure time, build friendships and communities, try out new identities, and practice new skills. Whether or not computer-based games are part of your daily life, they offer opportunities to engage and challenge your students. You may be a gamer, familiar with the Xbox, Grand Theft Auto, and EverQuest,, and wondering why school isn’t as absorbing as your late night game sessions. You may be a boomer professor, curious but not sure how games could be relevant to your teaching. Or you may be somewhere in between. This section of the chapter gives you a broad introduction to the use of computer based games for learning. We start with basic terms and move on to look at why these activities can be powerful learning tools, drawing on current learning theory, game research, and recent experience. After presenting examples to spark your own learning game ideas, we discuss factors that make learning games effective. The chapter closes with tips for successfully getting started using games in your learning context.

Because the word “game” can describe many different activities and varieties of play, we start with a few definitions. Speaking very generally,

A game is a set of activities with goals, rules, and competition (possibly with oneself) that involve one or more players in an artificial situation (Dempsey et al., 1996; Sauvé et al., under review). Games such as tennis, basketball, Tic Tac Toe, chess, checkers, and Monopoly have been around much longer than computers. Since personal game machines and computers have become widely available, a wide variety of dynamic, interactive electronic games have appeared in many genres. Some familiar titles are the Carmen Sandiego series, Myst, Doom, various sports games, and EverQuest.  Many computer-based games are based on simulations, for example: The Sims, Roller Coaster Tycoon, or MBA management training games.

A simulation is a dynamic, simplified but accurate systems model of aspects of reality (Sauve’ et al., under review).  Simulations in which learners have defined roles, with responsibilities, constraints, and feedback in complex data-rich environments, allow them to develop problem-solving skills and experience the effects of their decisions (Gredler, 2004). Simulations are often useful because they let players learn from their mistakes without, for example, crashing planes, killing patients, or sending companies into bankruptcy.

Adding performance goals, scoring, and competition among players or with oneself can turn a simulation into a game (Sauvé et al., under review; Sauvé et al., 2005a). The term simulation game refers to these hybrids and includes a wide variety of commercial games that simulate real-world activities. The distinction among games, simulations, and simulation games is important as a foundation for studies relating learning outcome effectiveness to characteristics of the learning activity (Sauvé et al., under review).

Games can use a variety of technologies including boards and tokens, fields and balls, dedicated game machines (PlayStation, Xbox, Nintendo DS), personal computers, and handheld devices (cell phones, personal digital assistants [PDAs]). In this chapter we focus on games for computers and handhelds.

An Internet search will lead you to games for learning in practically any discipline. Some examples, found on the Social Impact Games site (http://www.socialimpact games.com), include:

  • education games covering school subjects such as algebra, history, chemistry, computer software, and criminology;
  • public policy games designed to educate the public on citizenship, democratic participation, and policy issues,
    such as Cyberbudget France on the French national budget, and several US election-related games;
  • political and social games designed to stimulate discussion or promote views on world issues (e.g., world agriculture, drug dealing, human rights);
  • health and wellness games teaching about health issues and management (e.g., for asthma, cancer, heart health, child predators, and self-esteem); and
  • learning applications of commercial games: job simulations (e.g., emergency room), resource management (SimCity, Railroad Tycoon), history (e.g., Oregon Trail, Rise of Nations).

Similarly, simulation applications are many and varied, including:

  • business: Computational models that generate business results and provide feedback for practising planning and decision-making for simulated periods (e.g., months, years). Goals are often profit-related. Areas include strategic management, marketing, finance, operations, investments; specific industry simulations, e.g., the Cornell Management Game (http://www.cms-training.com/);
  • public policy: Simulations of government, educational, or international organizations or scenarios, e.g., Virtual U university management simulation (http://www.virtual-u.org/);
  • military training: War strategy, equipment, battle, support scenarios, e.g., America’s Army, a virtual online army simulation (aimed at recruiting) produced by the US government (http://www.americasarmy.com/);
  • flight: Simulations of specific aircraft controls, airports, flight paths, e.g., CAE commercial training simulators (http://www.cae.com); PC-based flight simulators (http://www.pcaviator.com or http://www.microsoft.com/games/flightsimulator/);
  • medicine: Physical or computer-based models of medical processes and problems for developing and testing clinical skills, e.g., patient simulators, surgical simulators (http://www.msr.org.il/About_MSR/Medical
  • emergency response: Immersive emergency scenarios and environments for testing systems and decisions, e.g., Unreal Triage (http://www.ists.dartmouth.edu/projects/seers/utriage.php); and leadership development: Simulated scenarios for practicing interpersonal and leadership skills, such as Virtual Leader (http://www.simulearn.net/leadershiptraining.html), Change Game (http://www.vanderbilt.edu/lead/simulations.html).

For the rest of this chapter, we will be concerned with games, simulation games and game-like simulated environments that involve play, exploration, and problem solving but may or may not required explicit scoring and competition. In common with the popular use of the term, we will use “games” to refer to them collectively. Training simulations that are specifically oriented towards technical skills development, e.g., flight simulators and medical patient simulators are beyond the scope of this discussion. Computer-based games are played by individuals and groups in many configurations. They can be single- or multi-player, played on a single computer, or multiple networked machines, in classrooms, or online. Handheld games can also support individual learning or collaborative learning with teams and groups, and particularly lend themselves to games involving player movement around physical settings. Internet-based massively multiplayer online games (MMOGs) attract thousands of players in complex, evolving interactions and scenarios, including ones created by players themselves. Computers and especially handhelds can also be used to support blended learning situations in which game play happens through face-to-face interactions and activities rather than on screens.


Why Use Computer-based Games for Learning

Popularity and access is the first factor propelling learning applications to computer-based games.  Games are widely popular and accessible as entertainment.  Projections were made for the years 2005 and 2010 regarding the Canadian video game market, which indicated that the market would increase from $732 million in 2005 to $1.3 billion in 2010, and global video game spending was expected to rise from $27.1 billion in 2005 to $46.5 billion in 2010 (Forest, 2006). A 2002 US survey found that 92 percent of children and adolescents ages 2 to 17 played video games, and more than two-thirds of all children ages 2 to 18 lived in a home with a video game system (Kaiser Family Foundation 2002). As well, 61 percent of Canadian households and 75 percent of US households used mobile phones in 2005 (Wright, 2006). Using games for learning builds on their familiarity and relatively easy access.

Player engagement is another factor to consider. Computer games are highly engaging. Today’s games offer motivating, absorbing, interactive, collaborative experiences that draw in players and keep them playing for many hours, often developing complex social networks in the process. A growing body of literature analyzes aspects of games that foster player engagement and motivation. Asgari and Kaufman (2004) cite three categories of factors that sustain a game’s intrinsic motivation so that a player will play for his/ her own interest and enjoyment, even in the absence of external rewards:

Feature Category Examples
Psychological: those that meet individual needs. Features that meet needs for competence, self-determination, interest-excitement, enjoyment.
Structural: related to the inner structure of a game. Complexity, novelty, unpredictability, uncertain outcomes, challenge, feedback, fantasy, curiosity, control, interactivity,
Implementation: related to the way a game is implemented
and presented to the player.
Graphics and sound, having multiple players, using well-known characters or settings, high speed, useful interface, “save game” capability.

Prensky (2001a) lists twelve elements that make computer games engaging:

Game Characteristic Contribution to Players’ Engagement
Fun Enjoyment and pleasure
Play Intense and passionate involvement
Rules Structure
Goals Motivation
Interaction Doing the activity
Outcomes and feedback Learning
Adaptive “Flow” state
Winning Ego gratification
Conflict/competition/challenge and opposition Adrenaline
Problem solving Sparks creativity
Social interaction Social groups
Representation and a story Emotion

Another analysis of games’ engaging quality focuses on players’ experience of “flow”, a state of intense concentration and focus in which they have a balance between ability level and challenge, a sense of personal control over the situation, and a sense of intrinsic reward from the play (Csikszentmihalyi, 1990). Well designed games do this by,  among other things, having multiple skills levels so that players face new but achievable challenges as they develop mastery of lower levels.  Gee (2003) explains player engagement in terms of semiotic domains (worlds of symbols, meanings, practices, and experiences). He points out that games can be very challenging and time-consuming, yet young players who might spend little time on schoolwork become absorbed in games and learn complex knowledge, responses, and behaviors in order to win.  Gee suggests that players take on and master lengthy, complex games because they become involved in new semiotic domains and affinity groups, resulting in new identities (e.g., a game character with abilities, faults, and decisions to be made) and situated learning that can be transferred to other domains. Squire (2005) suggests that this focus on new identities is leading to new computer-based games that build new attitudes and behaviors for players in simulated management and advertising settings.


Theory-based Support

Computer-based games embody current learning theories. For example,

  • Constructivist learning (Boethel & Dimock, 1999; Vygotsky, 1978): When requiring exploration, collaboration, and complex problem-solving, games can help players to explore, discover, articulate, and create their own understanding of complex phenomena;
  • Situated cognition, cognitive apprenticeship, and experiential learning (Kolb, 1984; Schank & Neaman, 2001): When they create simulated authentic contexts and activities that involve social interaction, games can support both understanding and skill development. Also, skill development increases with learning by doing, and feedback in a safe environment;
  • Self-efficacy (Bandura, 1986; Kaufman et al., 2000): Through learner control and increasing achievement levels, games can provide opportunities for successful experiences to help develop self-efficacy and positive attitudes concurrently with knowledge and skills.
  • Learner-centredness (McCombs and Whistler, 1997): Games can transform traditional teacher and learner roles so that learners shift from a passive to an active role, and from learner to teacher through active exploration, experimentation, discovery, and collaboration with peers.


Evidence of Learning Outcomes

A number of studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of games for cognitive, emotional and psychomotor learning. For examples, see Baranowski et al. (2003), Kirriemuir & McFarlane (2004), Lieberman (2001), Roubidoux (2002), Sauvé et al. (2005b), and Steinman & Blastos (2002). According to these, games motivate learning, offer immediate feedback, consolidate knowledge, support skills development and application, aid learning transfer, and influence changes in behavior and attitudes, all pointing to greater learning effectiveness with simulations and games.


New Generation Learning Model

Finally, some observers argue that new generations of learners are developing new cognitive processes and a culture that is changing the nature of learning. Learning may be evolving into a much more “unruly,” less controlled process than we have been accustomed to in our classrooms (Seely Brown, 2002). Prensky (2001a) and others suggest that the “game generation” has developed a new cognitive style characterized by multitasking, a short attention span, and learning through exploration and discovery; today’s games provide their ideal learning environment.

Game-based Learning Examples

To move from theory into practice, some concrete examples show how games are being used for learning from K–12 through university and professional training levels.

  • Educational Games Central: A pioneer in the use of computer-based games for learning. provides “frame games”—generic frameworks for well-known board games and game-show contests (e.g., Tic Tac Toe, Trivial Pursuit, Concentration, Snakes and Ladders) into which questions, problems, answers, and feedback can be entered to create specific games in any content area. Because each game shell is designed to let a teacher produce a game in an hour or two (once the content is developed), EGC can be used in the classroom or in a training context without extensive training or infrastructure.Performance and research statistics can be collected for each play session. Although EGC games are based on more traditional question-and-answer exercises, they have proved very successful in using play and competition to engage learners from young children to adults. EGC games have recently been used for several health-related applications as part of the SAGE for Learning research project (http://www.sageforlearning.ca) on games and simulations for learning.
  • COTS games in the schools: Commercial off-theshelf (referred to as COTS) games have being applied in many learning contexts. In one example, a school in the US reports using Roller Coaster Tycoon projects to teach momentum, speed, mass, and other concepts in junior-high physics classes (Kirremuir, 2006a). In another case, SimCity is being used for a complex Grade 6 to 8 project to create and manage a small city’s infrastructure and environmental impact (Kirriemuir, 2006b). In a third example, the Education Arcade project at MIT used Civilization III to teach high school and middle school social studies. The researchers found that students used much more complex concepts than expected. One student commented, “What I learned is that you can’t separate economics from politics or geography. What natural resources I have or where I’m located affects how I can negotiate with other civilizations.” (Jenkins & Squire, 2003).
  • University, adult and professional learning: A project at Purdue University is building the Critical Mass video game to teach university chemistry through an adventure mission that requires solving chemistry problems (http://web.ics.purdue.edu/~kmartine/). Virtual-U (http://www.virtual-u.org/) lets players experience the intricacies of university management. Public Health Games (http://www.publichealthgames.com/), a centre at the University of Illinois at Chicago, is creating “state of the art games for public health workers and emergency responders for a multitude of catastrophic scenarios,” including an anthrax attack response simulation. The Objection! simulation (http://www.objection.com/), customizable for any state’s legal system, is used in US law schools to teach trial skills and is approved for continuing legal education.
  • Mobile games: Naismith et al. (2004) use case studies to review how a number of mobile games implement current learning theories. One example is Environmental Detectives (http://education.mit.edu/ar/ed.html), an augmented reality game, in which Grade 5 to 8 students use a constructivist approach, playing the role of environmental engineers searching for data to solve problems related to a toxic chemical spill. Simulation events are triggered by real-world locations as players navigate through a physical space.

What Makes a Learning Game Effective?

As with other new learning technologies, it is important to separate hype from reality. Not all game-based learning trials are successful, for reasons related to a game’s design, fit with learning objectives, role within the larger learning context, technology support, and other factors. However, experience and research are developing a growing body of knowledge about features and practices that contribute to game-based learning success.


Game Design

Well-designed learning games aim to achieve engagement levels similar to entertainment games, which keep players involved for many hours of increasingly complex exploration and step-by-step achievement. Gee (2003, pp. 62–63) argues that “learners must be enticed to try even if afraid, must be enticed to put in lots of effort even if initially not motivated to do so, and must achieve some meaningful success when he or she has expended this effort”. He suggests that good video games do this by incorporating the following principles (pp. 137–138):

Learning Principle Explanation
Subset principle Learning even at its start takes place in a (simplified) subset of the real domain.
Incremental principle Learning situations are ordered in the early stages so that earlier cases lead to generalizations that are fruitful for later cases. Choices in later complex cases are constrained by what the player has found earlier.
Concentrated sample principle The learner sees and can practice and learn (especially early in the game) many instances of fundamental signs (meanings) and actions.
Bottom-up basic skills principle Basic skills are discovered bottom up by engaging more and more in the game.
Explicit information on demand and just-in time The learner is given explicit information what is needed just at the point where it can best be understood and used in practice.
Discovery principle Most learning happens through experimentation and discovery rather than through telling
Transfer principle Learners are given ample opportunity to practice, as well as support for transferring what they have learned earlier to later problems

The flow concept offers additional game design help. According to Malone (1980), flow happens in activities in which players can increase or decrease the level of challenge to exactly match their skill levels; they can obtain increasingly complex information through a broad range of challenges, some qualitatively different; they have clear performance criteria and feedback so that they can always tell how well or poorly they are doing; and the activity is free from distracting stimuli that might interfere with their involvement. Evaluating games in terms of flow naturally leads us to look for games with:

  • multiple challenge levels that adapt as players learn;
  • clear goals and easily interpreted, frequent feedback; and
  • a variety of game tasks and activities to avoid the boredom we frequently associate with more traditional learning technologies.

Other features that help to make games engaging (Becta, 2001; Dickey, 2005; Fabricatore, 2000; Mitchell & Savill-Smith, 2004; Prensky, 2001a) include:

  • dynamic visuals, interaction, rules and goals (although games can be successful without highly complex virtual reality graphics);
  • naturally embedded (rather than external) learning content with contextual relevance;
  • simple startup and rules to provide early success and minimize frustration;
  • game pace and length matched to the target audience;
  • opportunities to exercise the arcade game skills of the “gaming generation”;
  • opportunities to make many decisions and correct and learn from errors;
  • use of first-person point of view, i.e., making the player part of the gaming environment;
  • use of narrative (story) to provoke curiosity and give opportunities for creativity, choice and control;
  • using physical, temporal, environmental, emotional and ethical dimensions to provide players with a sense of immersion; and
  • using compelling characters (or let players create their own) with which players empathize and identify.

Beyond analyzing a game’s features, Prensky (2001a) suggests that observing players can help us identify an engaging game:

  • Is the game fun enough that someone who is not in its target audience would want to play and learn from it?
  • Do people using it think of themselves as “players” rather than “students’ or trainees”?
  • Do people using it think of themselves as “players” rather than “students’ or trainees”?
  • Is the experience addictive? Do users want to play again and again until they win, and possibly after?
  • Are the players’ skills in the subject matter and learning content of the game improving at a rapid rate, and getting better the longer he or she plays?
  • Does the game encourage reflection about what has been learned?


Fit With Learning Objectives

Games can be used to support a variety of learning objectives. Garris et al. (2006) provide a useful review of possible game learning outcomes.

Outcome Type/Description

  • Cognitive
    • Declarative Knowledge of the facts and data required for task performance
    • Procedural Knowledge about how to perform a task
    • Strategic Ability to apply rules and strategies to general or novel cases
  • Affective
    • Beliefs or attitudes regarding an object or activity, e.g., feelings of confidence, self-efficacy, attitudes, preferences, and dispositions
  • Skill-based
    • Performance of technical or motor skills

Clearly a key question in selecting or designing a game is how well it fits with the objectives you have in mind. Here are some factors to keep in mind when relating a game to your learning objectives:

  • Cognitive objectives: Factual knowledge can be readily learned through frame games (e.g., questionand-answer-based Jeopardy, or a Concentration-style matching game) or through solving puzzles (possible with external searching for information) as part of quest games. Simulations or adventure games can require factual knowledge to solve problems or make decisions; procedural and strategic knowledge related to system interactions, as well as problem-solving skills, can also be major simulation game outcomes. In these situations it is important to see that simulation models are realistic and match (or do not conflict with) your objectives in using the game.
  • Affective objectives: Games are often promoted as vehicles for changing attitudes and beliefs, e.g., when used to teach the importance of diet management for diabetes. How appropriate are the attitudes and beliefs embedded in a game? How appropriate are the implied social attitudes and beliefs, e.g., about violence, gender, race? What attitudes, beliefs, and actions are rewarded?
  • Skill-based objectives: If your objectives include technical or psychomotor skills (e.g., typing, driving, flying, equipment disassembly and repair), it will be important for you to review any evidence available about how well the skills taught in the game transfer to the real world.
  • Role within the larger learning context: A game is only one activity in the total learning system. How the game activity is assigned, supported, and debriefed is extremely important in making sure that its full learning potential is realized. Two key ways in which you as an educator can improve the success of your games are through collaboration and reflection.

Finding ways to make game play a collaborative rather than an individual activity adds the impetus of collaborative learning to the activity. In our experience, even simple traditional games such as question-based Tic Tac Toe can become lively shouting matches when teams compete to win. Collaborating on designing a city or roller coaster can lead a group to find and share ideas and knowledge far beyond the capabilities of one individual. Playing an MMOG leads a learner to collaborate spontaneously with others in order to progress in the game (Galarneau, 2005).  Many experts note the importance of reflection—encouraging students to think deeply about, and articulate, the learning that they experience in playing a game. Gee (2003) states the importance of incorporating active and critical thinking about how the learning relates to other semiotic domains. Commercial learning games, particularly for the K–12 age group, are beginning to appear with support materials to help teachers position and facilitate their use and to guide learners in reflecting on what they have learned and how it can be applied outside the game.


Tech Support

As with other learning technologies, technical infrastructure and support can make or break a game-based learning exercise. For an effective experience with your learners, you will need:

  • computer and network configurations to support your play plan (individual PCs or handhelds for all, for small groups, or at the front of the classroom; if networked, stable online access with good response times;
  • readily available technical support staff if something goes wrong;
  • knowledge and experience with the game to answer questions and help learners who run into problems;
  • clear navigation and help in the game software; and
  • good security (e.g., anti-hacker and privacy guards, particularly when games are used with young children online).

Often educators and trainers face obstacles to using computer-based games, including:

  • lack of experience and long learning curves;
  • time and costs required for custom game development and implementation; poor technology support for classroom-based game use; and
  • institutional constraints (learning objective mismatches, standardized fact-based testing, class time constraints, lack of peer acceptance, etc.).

Prensky (2006) notes that curriculum requirements, especially when mandated through legislation, can pose a major obstacle, although “curricular” games are starting to be produced commercially. To overcome this and other obstacles, he suggests the following approaches to beginning to use games in class that ease games into your learning situation without major course restructuring:

  • Bring games played outside class into the classroom through questions, discussions, etc. This can encourage  students to reflect on how a game is relevant to a topic and what they are learning from the game. Make game play an assignment for individuals or small groups.
  • Use the principles behind good, complex games to make some or all of your teaching more game-like, and therefore more interesting and engaging to students. One of Prensky’s suggestions for keeping students
    engaged is to have them vote each time you ask a question.
  • Play a game specifically designed for education in class, such as one of the examples cited above. To do this, you need to become quite familiar with the game in order to handle questions and technical problems.
  • Play a commercial, off-the-shelf game not specifically designed for education, in class, either as a whole class (projected in the front) or as individual students playing separately. Have a student present the game, play the game yourself in front of the class as a springboard to discussion, or divide the students into small groups.


Creating Your Own Games

If you decide to go beyond these options to create your own game, here are some possible approaches:

  • Use a frame game: Frame games, such as the Educational Games Central ones described above, lend themselves to use, even for complex subjects, without a long learning curve if you can structure your learning in a question-and-answer format. To give an example, the EGC Snakes and Ladders frame game has been used to reinforce introductory social psychology concepts.
  • Do a COTS game modification: Some commercial games, especially first-person shooters, real-time strategy games, and MMOGs, provide toolkits that let you create “mods” including your own graphics, game scenarios and characters.
  • Get help to custom-build a learning game: Many universities and technical schools have game studies programs with students who are looking for projects or work designing and building games using current tools and techniques. You may also be able to find funding for research or learning object development. For example, computer science students at Dalhousie University are working with physicians to build handheld and cell phone game prototypes to help local children learn about and manage chronic diseases (Watters et al., 2006).
  • Create a blended game with computer support: If building a full-scale computer-based game seems too daunting, you can consider a game that uses computers or handhelds to support a game that also involves offline activities. The MobileGame, for instance, uses task instructions and clues delivered by cell phone to run an orientation game introducing new students to a university campus (Schwabe and Göth, 2005).
Match your first project with your experience, learner characteristics, and available technology, technology support, and development resources. To build institutional support, aim for early successes before embarking on a large, longer-term project.

The Millennial and “Z” generations are a generation inundated with technology and are very familiar with gaming. Instruction must be very engaging to spark and hold their interests.  Prensky addressed this several years ago that students have changed drastically from previous generations in his statement “Our students have changed radically. Today’s students are not the people our educational system was designed to teach … Our Digital Immigrant instructors … are struggling to teach a population that speaks an entirely new language”. – Prensky (2001b). In the spirit of introducing the new language of games for learning, this section has reviewed basic terms, the motivation to use games for learning, examples to fire your own imagination, factors that make learning games effective, and guidelines for getting started successfully. Hopefully this brief introduction has sparked your ideas and your desire to learn more about using computer-based games for learning in your context. This is an intriguing and promising area to enhance the engagement through active learning.


Key Terms

  • A Game is a set of activities with goals, rules, and competition (possibly with oneself) that involve one or more players in an artificial situation (Dempsey et al., 1996; Sauvé et al., under review).
  • Simulation is a dynamic, simplified but accurate systems model of aspects of reality (Sauve’ et al., under review).
  • Simulation Game refers to these hybrids and includes a wide variety of commercial games that simulate real-world activities.
  • COTS Games: Commercial off-the-shelf games.

Key Takeaways

  • The challenges that educators face today is teaching to a new generation of students who learn much differently from students of the past.
  • Computer-based instructional games offer opportunities to engage and challenge your students.
  • The definition of and examples of games, simulation, and simulation games.
  • How computer-based games embody learning theory.
  • How gaming in education can be the ideal learning environment for the newer generation’s learning model and how it meets their unique new cognitive style characterized by multitasking, short attention spans, and learning through exploration and discovery.
  • How well designed instructional games can inspire students to learn.
  • Well-designed learning games aim to achieve engagement levels similar to entertainment games, which keep players involved for many hours of increasingly complex exploration and step-by-step achievement.
  • Games can be used to support a variety of learning objectives.
  • Finding ways to make game play a collaborative rather than an individual activity adds the impetus of collaborative learning to the activity.
  • Technical infrastructure and support can make or break a game-based learning exercise.


  1. You are working as an instructional designer in the civil service area supporting military.  Your newest project is to work along side a team of military computer experts to create an instructional flight simulator that will be used to train helicopter pilots on the instrument panel of the newest Apache model.  You and the team have agreed that designing this training as an instructional video game may be the best option on teaching the pilots how to use the instrument panel.  Discuss the feature category and game characteristics that may best apply in designing a learning game.

OER Derivative Licenses and Attributions


Experiential Learning in Instructional Design and Technology, Chapter 6.2 Games for Learning. Provided by: the authors under an Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) license.

This chapter contains an adaptation of Teaching in a Digital Age  by Bates, A. W., and is used under a CC-BY-NC 4.0 International license.

This chapter also contains an adaptation of Education for a Digital World: Advice, Guidelines and Effective Practice from Around the Globe  by BCcampus and the Commonwealth of Learning, and is used under a CC-BY-SA 3.0 International license.


License:  Creative Commons Attribution license (reuse allowed)  Attribution: Games and the Future of Education | ABUNDANCEby XPRIZE




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