Good Video Games, the Human Mind, and Good Learning

Good Video Games, the Human Mind, and Good Learning
[James Paul Gee, 2007]

Gee analyzes in his book "Good Games and Good Learning" different topics related to videogames, learning and literacy, such as motivations for players to keep playing and reasons why videogames are good learning tools.

In this chapter, Gee gives a series of principles that can be found in good learning practices that can be implemented in videogames. Gee states that we can make school and workplace learning better if we play attention to good videogames (which does not necessarily mean using videogames in school but he highly recommends it anyway). The principles suggested by Gee are the following:

1 - Co-design

Good learning reuires that learners feel like active agents, not just passive recipients.

In videogames, players make things happen. This kind of interactivity encourages the player to care about what's happening.

2 - Customize

Different sytles of learning work better for different people.

In videogames, players are able to customize the gameplay to fit their learning and playing styles.

3 - Identity

Deep learning requires an extended commitment and such commitment is powerfully recruited when people take on a new identity they value.

In videogames, players often assume other identities. Players can experiment with taking actions they normally wouldn't take or experience a completely different lifestyle.

4 - Manipulation and Distributed Knowledge

Humans feel expanded and empowered when they can manipulate powerful tools in intricate ways tha extend their area of effectiveness.

In videogames, the more a player can manipulate a character, the more involved the player will become.

5 - Well-Ordered Problems

The problems learners face early on are crucial and should be well-designed to lead them to hypothses that work well later.

In videogames, problems are usually presented in an increasing difficulty order which lets players form a good guess on how to proceed when they face harder problems.

6- Pleasantly Frustrating

Learning works best when new challenges are at the outer edge of, but within their competence.

Good videogames adjust challenges and give feedback so that different players feel the game is challenging but doable.

7 - Cycles of Expertise

Expertise is formed in any area by repeatd cycles of learners practicing skills until they are automatic, then having those skills challenged, point in which the cycle starts again.

Good games will create situations that allow extended practice and then tests of mastery of that practice, then a new challenge, etc. When a game does this well, it's considered to have a good pacing.

8- Information "On Demand" and "Just in Time"

Humans can use verbal information better when it is given just when they can put it to use ad when they feel they need it.

In a good game, players will not need the manual to play, but can use it as reference. After the player has played for a while, the game has already made much of the verbal information in the manal concrete.

9 - Fish Tanks

Fish tanks are simplified eco-systems that display some critical variables and their interactions that are otherwise obscured in the complex eco-system in the real world.

In videogames, fish tanks can be found in the form of tutorial levels, which generally are stripped down versions of the game.

10 - Sandboxes

Sandboxes are situations in which learners feel like the they are experiencing the real thing but with the risks and dangers greatly reduced.

In games, sandboxes are parts of the game where things cannot go too wrong too quickly. Many games offer the tutorial levels or first levels as sandboxes.

11 - Skills as Strategies

People don't like practicing skills out of context over and over again, but without lots of skill practice, they cannot get good at what they're trying to learn.

In videogames, players learn and practice the skills they need and want, because as a result, they will accomplish a goal thus, they can be perce

12 - System Thinking

People learn skills, strategies and ideas best when they see how they fit into an overall larger system.

Good games help players understand how each of the elements in the game fit into the general system of the game and its genre.

13 - Meaning as Action Image

Humans think through experiences hey have had and imginative reconstructions of experience.

This is the basis of videogames. They make the meanigs of words and concepts clear through experiences the players have and the activities they carry out.

With this principles, it's easy to see how videogames can teach us a lot about the learning environment, but also, they prove that videogames can be really good learning platforms. Serious Game designers must consider these principles when designing their next game, as they will greately improve the player's experience.

This information can be found in the book "Good Video Games and Good Learning".

Gee, P (2007). Good Video Games, the Human Mind, and Good Learning. In C. Lankshear and M. Knobel (Eds.) Good Video Games and Good Learning (pp 22 -44). Peter Lang

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