Games for Learning

Games for Learning

Games are a ubiquitous part of life in our culture, and experts suggest they will become even more deeply embedded in the coming years. Games help people develop a disposition toward collaboration, problem-solving, communication, experimentation, and exploration of identities, all attributes that promote success in a rapidly-changing, information-based culture. Research into the cognitive and socio-cultural aspects of gaming has exploded in the last decade as people have begun to realize the potential for game-based learning (Gee, 2003; Salen, 2007).

Some games aim to increase content knowledge by letting the players "live" the scenario. They may also create a sort of apprenticeship model in which players identify with experts and take on those roles as they move deeper into the game. Participation in so-called "serious games" has been shown to help change attitudes and affect players' actions in the real-world (TED Talk by Jane McGonigal). Games seem to be particularly successful in helping people develop problem-solving and decision-making skills and encouraging innovation. Without a doubt, gaming prompts people to do a tremendous amount of research and inspires participants to spend an extraordinary amount of time on task.

Using Games in a Class

  • Consider using single- or multi-player serious games (see as a warm-up for an in-class or online discussion.
  • Have students play and critique a video game for content accuracy (Civilization series).
  • Design roller coasters and other amusement park rides to explore forces and motion in physics (Roller Coaster Tycoon series).
  • Have students build and run their own amusement parks (Roller Coaster Tycoon) or cities (SimCity series).
  • Explore global issues and learn to take on differing identities in conflicts (Games for Change).
  • Learn team-building and collaboration in multiplayer games.
  • Have your students design a game. It doesn’t have to be a video game.

Who Is Teaching with Games on the IUB Campus?

  • Anne Massey, Lee Sheldon, and Jeanne Johnston ran an Alternate Reality Game (ARG) called The Skeleton Chase during 2008-2009 to encourage a more active lifestyle.
  • Ed Castronova does research on the economies of virtual worlds and massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs). He calls them "petri dishes" for economics and other social sciences research.
  • Keith Dayton uses simulations in his business classes.


Gee, J.P., 2003. What video games have to teach us about learning and literacy. Macmillan, pp. 225.

Groundbreaking book on learning in games. Gee believes that good games embody good learning theory.

Salen, K. ed. 2008. The ecology of games: Connecting youth, games, and learning. MIT Press, pp. 278.

Eye-opening book with chapters from some of the giants in the field. Available free for download.

For More Help or Information contact CITL.