ACM - Computers in Entertainment

What video games have to teach us about learning and literacy

By James Paul Gee
Theoretical and Practical Computer Applications in Entertainment, [Vol. 1, No. 1]

DOI: 10.1145/950566.950595

Good computer and video games like System Shock 2, Deus Ex, Pikmin, Rise of Nations, Neverwinter Nights, and Xenosaga: Episode 1 are learning machines. They get themselves learned and learned well, so that they get played long and hard by a great many people. This is how they and their designers survive and perpetuate themselves. If a game cannot be learned and even mastered at a certain level, it won't get played by enough people, and the company that makes it will go broke. Good learning in games is a capitalist-driven Darwinian process of selection of the fittest. Of course, game designers could have solved their learning problems by making games shorter and easier, by dumbing them down, so to speak. But most gamers don't want short and easy games. Thus, designers face and largely solve an intriguing educational dilemma, one also faced by schools and workplaces: how to get people, often young people, to learn and master something that is long and challenging--and enjoy it, to boot.

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