What do players have to say about informal learning through games?

Iacovides, Ioanna; Aczel, James; Scanlon, Eileen and Woods, Will (2011). What do players have to say about informal learning through games? In: EARLI Conference 2011: Education for a Global Networked Society, 30 Aug - 3 Sep 2011, Exeter, UK.


It has been suggested that digital games can be powerful learning environments that encourage active and critical learning, including participation within “affinity groups” and “semiotic domains” (Gee, 2004). However, there is still a need to provide further empirical evidence to substantiate these claims, especially if educators want to try to replicate people’s enthusiasm for games within a formal educational context. By addressing the question “How do players describe learning in the context of gaming?” this study seeks to further our understanding of how and what people learn informally through playing games by first examining the player perspective. A set of learning categories, based on a series of email interviews with a range of adult games players, is identified along with some themes to consider in relation to players’ views on learning within this context. The findings indicate the importance of considering more than just what occurs during play, because, for example, players often consult external resources for advice about what to do in the game world. It is also pertinent to note players’ ideas about value and transfer of learning across contexts. The research raises questions about the completeness and applicability of these learning categories, and about how these categories relate to motivations for playing games and engagement during play.

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