What digital games and literacy have in common: a heuristic for understanding pupils’ gaming literacy

Apperley, Thomas and Walsh, Christopher (2012). What digital games and literacy have in common: a heuristic for understanding pupils’ gaming literacy. Literacy, 46(3) pp. 115–122.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1741-4369.2012.00668.x


This article argues that digital games and school-based literacy practices have much more in common than is reported in the research literature. We describe the role digital game paratexts – ancillary print and multimodal texts about digital games – can play in connecting pupils’ gaming literacy practices to ‘traditional’ school-based literacies still needed for academic success. By including the reading, writing and design of digital game paratexts in the literacy curriculum, teachers can actively and legitimately include digital games in their literacy instruction. To help teachers understand pupils’ gaming literacy practices in relation to other forms of literacy practices, we present a heuristic for understanding gaming (HUG) literacy. We argue our heuristic can be used for effective teacher professional development because it assists teachers in identifying the elements of gameplay that would be appropriate for the demands of the literacy curriculum. The heuristic traces gaming literacy across the quadrants of actions, designs, situations and systems to provide teachers and practitioners with a knowledge of gameplay and a metalanguage for talking about digital games. We argue this knowledge will assist them in capitalising on pupils’ existing gaming literacy by connecting their out-of-school gaming literacy practices to the literacy and English curriculum.

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