Relative Advantages of Digital Games

Game based learning has proven to be a useful learning tool in military training and in specific areas of career training (Squire, 127). However, it has not taken off in the educational sector. The core of game based learning is about “designing experiences that stimulate new ways of thinking, acting, and being in the world” (Squire, 108-109). Studies conducted about game based learning are in their infancy. As well, those who develop games for learning rarely take into account learning theory. Therefore, it is difficult to gauge the learning that results from these games beyond the fact that learner engagement and motivation increase. Much of elearning to date has championed the ability to layer in all sorts of content for the learner to choose from. However, those interested in bringing game based learning into schools are more interested in situated learning. This means that rather than content being king, “it is the context in which learners develop knowledge that is king” (Squire, 110).

According to Root Learning, these are embedded components within digital games:

Creating context- Good games connect with the player emotionally and are an invitation into the world that is to be learned.

Intellectual and Emotional Engagement- Critical to most games is that they both establish challenges and goals for learners to meet. The learner is invited to construct the learning environment.

Problem Driven Activity– Game-based approaches are organized around situations, roles, activities, and practice. Learners are tasked with solving problems.

Challenges that Confront and Build on User’s Preexisting Knowledge and Belief- Good games should give you contexts to practice failure while recovering safely. They are environments where learners can and do take risks, trying on different learning strategies which has the potential for learners to question their old schema and alter it.

Knowing through Practice- Players must combine and use knowledge in a variety of settings which is the kind of practice that is useful in generating transferable knowledge and skills.

In summary, one of the biggest advantages of digital game based learning is in the “shift from caring what the person knows or can store in the head toward a concern for what the person can do, given access to a full set of tools, resources, and social networks that is consistent with the situated view of knowledge (Squire, 114).

So, how do we get educators to care about the relative advantages of game based learning? I read an article titled, Integrating Game-Based Learning Initiative: Increasing the Usage of Game-Based Learning Within K-12 Classrooms Through Professional Learning Groups, by Denham, et. al. This study proposed that in order to get teachers to see the value of game based learning in the classroom then involve them in trying out thinking like a game designer in this way:

Session 1Repurpose commercial-off-the-shelf games for learning

Participants were divided into groups in which they were tasked to locate a commercial, non-educational game, map the game to state and/or national standards, and develop a lesson around the game. Then they were asked to try out the lesson based on the game in class.

Session 2 & 3Teacher as Game Designer

Teachers were placed in groups and they were asked to modify one part of the analog game that they had chosen in session 1. The expectation was to continue to tie the game to a learning standard. The game was then tested within the group and later with the classroom. Teachers learned that game design is an iterative process.

Session 4Learner as Game Designer

Teachers were asked to take what they learned about game design and teach the process to their students. This requires the learner to think critically about the concepts being taught and provides them with an opportunity to construct their own knowledge (Denham et. al, pp 72-74).

It is the authors’ hope that this type of professional development structure will equip teachers with the pedagogical, content, and technical knowledge necessary to effectively integrate games within the classroom.

I like this non-tech approach since many teachers have yet to learn how to effectively use technology in the classroom. This game based learning without technology connects teachers with a positive experience, playing board games, to learning. From this starting point we can build the bridge to helping teachers embrace the advantages of game based learning in all its forms.

My content area covers sixth grade writing, but I am also responsible for providing professional development for teachers in all content areas. The advantages listed above are mentioned to help others tackle how to create an adult learning environment conducive to digital games and the same advantages are present within the health simulation that my opinion writing unit revolves around.


Denham, A. R., Mayben, R., & Boman, T. (2016). Integrating game-based learning initiative: Increasing the usage of game-based learning within K-12 classrooms through professional learning groups. TechTrends, 60(1), 70-76. doi:http://dx.doi.org.libproxy.boisestate.edu/10.1007/s11528-015-0019-y

Squire, K. D. (2013). Video Game-Based Learning: An Emerging Paradigm for Instruction. Performance Improvement Quarterly, 26(1), 101-130. doi:10.1002/piq