Games in Education

This summer I attended not only LINC (as mentioned on Wednesday) but also the AAPT/PERC conference in Portland, OR. I could spend quite a while talking about things that I saw there, but I want to focus on one particular item: games in education.

The last session, on the last day, included a roundtable discussion entitled “Learning in computer games, learning in the classroom: Making important connections.” David Brookes of FIU and Ian Beatty of UNCG were the moderators.

The discussion was primarily focused on the question, “What can we learn about learning from the way that video games teach people to play?” Imagine that we had all taken the standard teacher complaint about “If only I could get my students to spend as much time on their homework as on video games” and followed it up with, “No, seriously, how do I actually go about doing that?” Topics ranged from the way Super Metroid teaches you how to play, to the nature of flow, to why Diablo III is less addictive than Diablo II, to the need for immediate feedback and failure tolerance. Beatty shared a framework for describing games and other phenomena, which he also discussed at his MIT talk earlier this year.

Gamification in online courses is often extremely shallow. You can get badges for doing certain things – big deal. Gold stars are nice, but they’re not serious motivation for me. I care much more about the approval from my teacher than about the gold star that signifies it. That’s gamification on the same level as Achievement Unlocked. It’s not even on the same level as Math Blaster (gah – what happened to Math Blaster?), though I suppose I do prefer it to “edutainment.” What about gamification on the same level as Magicians, a roleplaying game that helps you learn Korean – because the magical language in the game is actually Korean? What about Rocky’s Boots, which was a coding exercise disguised as a kid’s game? Where are the attempts at the Mind Game? Where are there some really deep uses of games in education, or games that teach real-world skills?

In the same spirit as the original roundtable, I’m not just making conversation here. I’d love to get a big pile of links from my readers.

I love these kinds of discussions. Cross-pollination is good for every academic discipline.


About Colin Fredericks

By day I help to create online courses at HarvardX. By night I write roleplaying games.

Posted on August 23, 2013, in Uncategorized and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. I’ll start with this: – it’s an annual conference run by the folks at 1st Playable Productions ( Lots of solid examples of teachers who are actually doing it in their classrooms – everything from simple math games through entire courses taught in Second Life.

  2. One of the most obvious is the most problematic: competition.

    Leaderboards. Top Ten Lists. High score.

    Of course, that wouldn’t fly with parents. At all. Ever.

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