Thanks to everyone who participated in the Gaming Keywords GIG: PEDAGOGY this past Wednesday, April 20.  We had a great discussion that covered a range of topics related to games, education and learning.

The biggest questions threaded throughout our conversation dealt with the effectiveness of using games for learning and to what extent they can be designed to teach.  This lead to recognizing the distinction between using games to teach domain specific content versus studying and critiquing games in and of themselves as cultural artifacts, much like film or literature, as a worth while academic endeavor.

We played the 2010 Imagine Cup Game Design winners, Wildfire by Implication. This sparked discussion surrounding game mechanics, design intention and effective learning. On one hand the designers successfully matched learning objectives to game mechanic (gather and distribute volunteers). On the other hand, the game mechanics could be co-opted for anti-social values such as recruiting for hate groups.

Part of unpacking our understanding of games being used for learning was to consider which games are being used and under what circumstances do they successfully teach. We discussed Little Big Planet’s challenge to teach math and science, and watched a demonstration teaching differences in slope. This led to discussions on determining when it’s appropriate to use games for learning and when other methods might be more effective.

Gamification was another key topic discussed as assumptions about motivation and engagement are bound with game-like features.  Using game mechanics tied to learning objectives raises issues on the meaning and value gamified experiences have to the player.  Looking at the variety of mini-games on Super Me and the accrual of points towards abstracted skills such as ‘wisdom’ and ‘influence’.  These are used as quantified measures of the player, not a character (or even the player/character) raised issues of accuracy and misrepresentation of the concepts. It also raised issues of reducing all our daily activities to quantifiable measures (see Jesse Schell’s TED talk When games invade real life) potentially diluting the meaning and value of our actions.

We are looking forward to our final installation of this year’s Keywords for Video Game Studies programming–the “GAMER” Colloquium!  Please plan on joining us Saturday, May 21, 2011, 9:00 AM-3:00 PM in Communication 202 for discussion and conversation with gaming scholars, developers, and enthusiasts.  More information on the colloquium can be found here:

Theresa Horstman
I received my Ph.D. in Learning Sciences in 2013 from the College of Education at the University of Washington. My research focuses on games for learning, specifically how the design of educational games supports learning. The research projects I’ve been involved with include online induction support for teachers, math and science games, and achievement/badge systems. I have 15+ years experience as an instructional designer specializing in integrating new technologies and games for learning. I received my B.A. with a focus in philosophy from The Evergreen State College and my M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Washington.

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