Sunday, June 24, 2012


Water shoot-out during rush hour in Amsterdam.

Does a conference on Games, Learning and Society sound counter-intuitive to you?  The negative stereotype of games is that they are the complete opposite of both learning AND society. However, since most children spend more time on games per day than any two academic subjects, it may be useful to find out what games have to teach us about learning. As keynote speaker Reed Stevens (who has worked with YouMedia in Chicago) says, “games are better designed than curricula”. 

  • Games can be mastered by anyone who wants to play, while some people feel that formal learning is only for “academic types”.

  • Failure is a part of games - the expectation is that you will fail over and over again. In academic and work settings, failure can be serious and shaming, even though it is a necessary part of learning.  As one presenter said, “failure needs a better publicist.”

  • Assessment is fun in games, but really boring in education or work

  • People play games for their own sake, not for an external reward. If you only play for a reward, it’s a bad game.

  • In games, you are the “hero” and are capable of heroic deeds. In life, you may feel unimportant. Some believe that we can help the world by harnessing the power of games to solve real-world problems.

  • Games reward kinesthetic learners -- those who learn by doing something physically. Educational institutions and libraries don’t always have outlets for them.

  • Games enforce positive social norms. Players who only think of themselves or who treat others badly are given negative labels like “munchkin” or “troll” and avoided.

  • Multi-player online games can actually make one civic-minded and more likely to vote or protest, creating social groups like the bowling teams of yore.

  • Games from World of Warcraft to European board games have rich, reliable sources of information on how to play games, with many players happy to help with useful information. Finding information for education or work can be intimidating. 

Like games, libraries at their best create a “magic circle”--  a safe space for learning and experimentation. Games aren’t just for teens -- games can help seniors learning computers and staff on Customer Service Improvement days. What would you “gamify?”


A curriculum for teaching kids how to make their own video games with the free software Kodu

A class combining computer programming and English by creating interactive fiction (similar to old-school text-based games like Adventure or Zork)

Motion capture games that teach chemistry and physics.


Homo ludens; a study of the play-element in culture.

“Jerked Around by the Magic Circle”                                    

The well-played game : a player's philosophy

Electronic literature : new horizons for the literary

What video games have to teach us about learning and literacy

“In-Game, In-Room, In-World: Reconnecting Video Game Play to the Rest
of Kids’ Lives”



Recordings of presentations from GLS 8.0

Blog post: Games + Learning + Society = Winning

GLS 8.0 Storify

--Andrea @Central

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