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Learning by Design: Games as Learning Machines
Price $5.95
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SKU GDC-04-167
Learning by Design: Games as Learning Machines,

IGDA, Lecture

James Paul Gee
Tashia Morgridge Professor of Reading, University of Wisconsin
Good computer and video games are life-enhancing experiences. People enter new worlds and assume new identities. They become characters, rather than read about or watch them. They feel themselves extend into a virtual space where they can take personal risks beyond them in their daily lives. Computer and video games are more than entertainment in the modern world. They are a giant laboratory in which to discover new things about human motivation, emotions, values, and identity. In turn, such discoveries can lead to the design of deeper games. Good games are a laboratory, too, in which we can discover much about the nature of human learning and development. Whether they know it or not, the best game designers are also learning designers, designing spaces which entice people to think, feel, and learn in new ways. Good games are, in fact, “learning machines”, devices that get themselves learned and learned well. Games like Deus Ex, Metroid Prime, Rise of Nations, and many others, are long and challenging. If few players managed to learn them, the companies that make them would fail. By necessity, good game designers have become adept at getting diverse learners to master their games, not by dumbing their products down, but by making them complex, intriguing, and yet learnable. Good computer and video games incorporate powerful learning principles into their designs, whether designers or players are aware of this or not. Furthermore, these principles turn out to be well supported by cutting-edge research on human learning, though they are exemplified in games much more powerfully than they are in today’s schools and workplaces. At the same time, there are good reasons to believe that these learning principles are a large part of what makes people find good games “deep”. In fact, future enhancements of games as learning machines can bring wider audiences to games and spread game technologies to wider uses in society. My talk will discuss some of the learning principles good games incorporate and the ways in which this makes games life-enhancing for many players and can for many more. I will also discuss the ways in which game designers and educators can work together to make game design an essential technology for thinking, feeling, and learning in modern life without killing games by making them “educational”.

Good computer and video games are learning machines. Much of what makes them deep are powerful learning principles they surreptitiously use to get themselves mastered. Game technologies have the potential to transform learning and development in schools, communities, and workplaces.

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