Learning with Games

I have been a gamer since I was 5 years old when I began to play the Nintendo NES. There were games like Super Mario Bros and Donkey Kong. The games did not have the most in depth story line, but I remember them all. I remember every time I failed a level and how it created this drive to do it over and over until I succeeded and could move on to the next level. I would sit there and to the best of my 5-year-old ability, analyze what I had done wrong and fix it for the next try. Or as it more often was, I could not figure out how to fix what I had done wrong so I would try random things until I found something that worked. Games are creative, fun, engaging.

As part of my undergrad program this spring semester I enrolled in a directed study course with assistant professor, Ekin Pehlivan. We gamified her Principles of Marketing course. If you are interested in what we did or what gamification is in more depth, read “How do I Reach These Kids?”: An Experiment in Gamification.

Now as an adult I play MMORPGs (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game) which is incredibly different. There is the same basic idea that you play a character and complete quests to meet an objective. You can still do content over and over, but with these types of games there is so much more variety and involvement. You are playing with people in real time. There are different types of content all in the same game. To meet certain objectives, you have to play with other players. You have to know what each other can and cannot do. You cannot specialize in everything, so you have to make connections with players that have things you need and either trade with them or pay them. Then there are groups of people from all over the world that come together to challenge themselves with the most difficult content. Much like a job, you spend much of your time with these people so the leaders interview everyone to find out anything from how well your personality will mesh with the group to why they should choose you over all other candidates. These games are entertainment based but there are so many real-life situations that exist and are regularly practiced in these games. This is where game based learning differs from gamifications in that “gamification is turning the learning process as a whole into a game, while GBL is using a game as part of the learning process” (Al-Azawi, Al-Faliti, & Al-Blushi, 2016). There is so much creativity, problem solving, engagement, competition and collaboration in these games and these are such great qualities.


Sketch Notes on Game based learning

Game Based Learning

After this semester working on gamifying a course, and researching game based design, there are four points that are recurring that I believe are what make this such a fascinating subject. I have become an advocate for this type of teaching method because of my own use of game based learning products and research over this last semester. There are four important arguments for this type of game based learning: motivation, player engagement, adaptivity and graceful failure (Plass, Homer, & Kinzer, 2015).

Motivation is one of the most used reasons for supporters of game based learning and the argument here is gaming for entertainment has been successful in engaging users for long periods of time. They use a wide variety of features including points, leaderboards, game mechanics and activities that students like. The goal is to make the mechanics of the game interesting.

Second, is player engagement which is connected to motivation. The end goal is to foster cognitive development within the user. There are collaborative, social playing environments that create social and socio-cultural engagement, game characters for emotional engagement and behavioral learning with game content and what actions players must take.

Third, is the adaptivity of the game, meaning how it is customizable by the user. Also, how the games themselves can adapt to the level of each individual using it. There must be some measurable variable that can then be adapted in response to the users.

Finally, with games, there is this concept of graceful failure. Failure is in of itself sometimes a necessary way to learn. With games the consequences of failure are lower which encourages the learners to take more risks, explore other options, come up with creative strategies to implement to reach their goal.

Game based learning has been and continues to be a very hot topic. It has inspired numerous research papers and I could go on and on about this subject. From these arguments models and theories have been further developed that show how effective game based learning can be used and are worth time exploring.

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