All Work and No Play Makes Jack a Dull Student

The development and deployment of digital game based learning centered initially around widespread adoption of personal computers. Game based learning, despite its benefits, still requires training instructors to run the simulations (in a non-digital context)- which Spierre, et al (2012) points out can be a major cost and impediment to scalability.  With the availability of computers however, digital game based learning became a low-cost educational option that has only flourished under the distribution and cooperation afforded by the internet. The first to develop and explore digital game based learning were those in the military, particularly those in aviation.

Since these early efforts a lot of the work in game based learning has been for public education. From the 1970s to 90s a lot of this work, mostly from Universities, went unnoticed but as Van Eck (2006) said:

After years of research and proselytizing, the proponents of digital game-based learning (DGBL) have been caught unaware. …But now, unexpectedly, we have everyone’s attention. (p. 1)

A recent boom in support for digital game based learning has led to school districts like the local Kyrene School District, who have invested large sums of money to build some of the first public digital classrooms, what a recent New York Times article stated was “an educational Utopia” (Ricthel, 2011). In addition to the growing advocacy for game based learning from exalted institutions (TED, MIT, Carnegie Mellon), this movement has been aided by recent legislation. No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top have put increased pressure on schools to perform. Movements towards low-cost standardized education have made the easily distributable game based learning an ideal candidate for mass development and adoption.

The feverish spread of game based learning, however, has had drawbacks. In 1997 a science and technology committee assembled by President Clinton issued an urgent call about the need to equip schools with technology. Members including educators like Charles M. Vest, then president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and business executives like John A. Young, the former chief executive of Hewlett-Packard stated that if  “spending was not increased by billions of dollars, American competitiveness could suffer.” Their report’s final sentence read however, “The panel does not, however, recommend that the deployment of technology within America’s schools be deferred pending the completion of such research,” referring to research on digital game based learning’s effectiveness.

This has led to issues with the Kyrene School District, for example, whose test scores have stagnated since 2005 despite rising scores across the state. Additionally, in controlled experiments by those like Carr (2012), who explored the use of iPads to teach mathematics to fifth-graders, found no significant effect (Kiger et al, 2012). Bill Gates ( Kiger et al, 2012) and other prominent persons have called for technology and games in schools, a call echoed by a system and government in need of cheap, scalable interventions.  However, these forces may be calling for a revolution that looks remarkably like more of the same.

Carr, J. M. (2012). Does Math Achievement h’APP’en when iPads and Game-Based Learning are Incorporated into Fifth-Grade Mathematics Instruction?.Journal of Information Technology Education: Research11, 269-286.

Kiger, D., Herro, D., & Prunty, D. (2012). Examining the Influence of a Mobile Learning Intervention on Third Grade Math Achievement. Journal of Research on Technology in Education45(1), 61-82.

Pivec, P. (2009). Game-based learning or game-based teaching?

“Report to the President on the Use of Technology to Strengthen K-12 Education in the United States” (March 1997)

Richtel, M. (2011) NYTimes.

Spierre S, Sadowski J, Berardy A, McClintock S, Augustin S-A, Hohman N, Banna J. 2012. An Instructor’s Guide to Teaching the Pisces Game for Sustainability Ethics. School of Sustainable Engineering & The Built Environment, Arizona State University: Tempe AZ

Van Eck, R. (2006). Digital game-based learning: It’s not just the digital natives who are restless. EDUCAUSE review41(2), 16.

Social Problems and Challenges

A major problem in the development of game based learning has been the conflict between games for entertainment and games in education. A great example of this interaction is the story of SimCalc.


SimCalc is program developed and robustly tested by multiple universities (Kaput & Schorr, 2008). The goal of SimCalc is not only to increase calculus understanding through a kinesthetic and game-based approach but to change how teachers and students approach calculus. SimCalc advocates calculus as “the math of change and the math of nature,” rather than an educational infrastructure that often portrays different types of math as iterative- with calculus at the pinnacle of k-12 education. Though SimCalc has had some success, SimCalc is not just a computer program that utilizes game based learning. Simcalc is Academia’s standard-bearer in an effort to change math education, an effort that has required a large investment by the NSF and public institutions. Part of the reason that SimCalc aims to do so much is that it cannot afford to do any less- this is the problem that has been important in game based learning.

Games require a lot of infrastructure- especially those aimed at the education sector. These games require manuals for teachers in how to use the games, incorporate the games into the classroom, these games often need support textbooks, liaisons with school districts to help incorporate games into current teaching expectations, and in addition, these games need ongoing technical support for bugs. This infrastructure does not exist in Academia nor is there cooperation between public and private game designers to create this infrastructure. This has two effects.


First, there is little room for incremental or experimental efforts in educational games. There are a few companies that buy game designs from universities and sell them to schools while retaining the game’s integrity- however most efforts coming from universities still die between development and implementation because of lack of support.


Second, because there is little room for small efforts, those who want to make educationally aimed games have to prepare for a large investment- and as this monetary need mounts- so do the expectations of how the money should be used. This is why SimCalc cannot afford to be anything other than revolutionary.


The effect of this problem in game based learning is the development of silos of game based design. Until recently (something we have addressed in earlier blogs and is discussed in several game based learning TED talks) game based learning was something used most often by public institutions like the military- without interaction between private and public, and without interaction with other powerful political domains who would benefit from cooperation. This has led to projects from Academia that fail on arrival, and games from industry that Prensky (2005) notes, are at the “bottom of the barrel.”



Kaput, J., & Schorr, R. (2008). The Case of SimCalc, Algebra, and Calculus.Research on Technology and the Teaching and Learning of Mathematics: Cases and perspectives, 211.


Prensky, M. (2005). ” Engage Me or Enrage Me”: What Today’s Learners Demand. Educause review40(5), 60.

Roschelle, J., & Kaput, J. (1996). SimCalc MathWorlds: Composable components for calculus learning. Communications of the ACM39(8), 97-99.

It’s a Small World After All: Game-Based Learning in the US and Abroad

Game-based learning is strongly rooted in the United States military as a leading developer and user.  However, non-defense funding has also been a source of exploration. One such example is a hybrid government-civilian foreign language learning game funded through multiple sources including defense.  Language is an excellent candidate for a game based approach because of the immersion required to grasp new modes of communication (Prensky, 2005). Currently, game based language applications are being used by the military to learn languages like Arabic and Pashto, and by civilians to learn a variety of languages from Spanish to German (Johnson et al., 2007; Prensky, 2005).  One example of a game-based approach to learning languages is the Tactical Language and Culture Training System (TLCTL) (Johnson et al., 2007).

400 × 268 –

The TLCTL is an interactive learning platform where learners alternate between working on interactive lessons that teach communication skills and interactive games that require learners to apply those skills.

Game-based learning continues to be prominently explored by the American military, including public-private research partnerships funded by DARPA and DOE through the Small Business Innovation Research grant program (Afkhami, 2012).  This American leadership in game-based learning influences examples of game-based learning abroad.

Game-based learning experiences abroad are often part of cooperative efforts between US institutions and others.  For example, Jamaica’s Ministry of Education partnered with Harvard’s International Education Policy Program. In 2012, 14 Harvard graduate students created a mass review of game-based educational strategies before traveling to Kingston, Jamaica, to observe and research examples of games in Jamaican education. The group presented their work to the Ministry’s Monitoring and Evaluation, Core Curriculum, and Guidance Counseling department, anticipating future work with Jamaica’s ministry and groups like the Inter-American Development Bank (Silva & Awofisayo, 2005).

Another cooperative education-based example is Quest Atlantis (Barab et al., 2005), an interactive and immersive platform for students aged 9-12. Quest Atlantis is an example of a game created by those in academia and industry to bring knowledge from both groups in the creation of learning games. Quest Atlantis has been used in classrooms in Australia, Denmark, Singapore, Malaysia, and the United States.

676 × 382 –

It is valuable to note that many of the countries other than the United States who are using game based learning are also predominantly English speaking (Prensky , 2005). This is part of two trends we have seen since game-based approaches were beginning to be used by the US military and those in medicine. First, the entertainment gaming industry is beginning to take a greater role in developing effective learning platforms, as opposed to educational organizations developing gaming platforms (Prensky, 2005, and others).  Second, other countries getting involved in game-based learning approaches often have high English literacy and a large public investment in education (e.g. Singapore, Sweden, and Norway).

Afkhami, Sadaf. Small Business Innovation Research Program (SBIR) – Phase I Games 2013 Presolicitation. US Department of Education, December 3, 2012.

Barab, S., Thomas, M., Dodge, T., Carteaux, R., & Tuzun, H. (2005). Making learning fun: Quest Atlantis, a game without guns. Educational Technology Research and Development, 53(1), 86-107.
Johnson, W. Lewis, Ning Wang, and Shumin Wu. “Experience with serious games for learning foreign languages and cultures.” Proceedings of the SimTecT Conference. 2007.
McGrath, D., & McGrath, S. P. (2005, November). Simulation and network-centric emergency response. In The Interservice/Industry Training, Simulation & Education Conference (I/ITSEC) (Vol. 2005, No. -1). National Training Systems Association.

Prensky, M. (2005). Computer games and learning: Digital game-based learning. In Handbook of computer game studies, 97-122.

Silva, Colleen, and Addy Awofisayo. “Game-based learning explored in Jamaica.” Headlines: Harvard Graduate School of Education, May 16, 2012.

Opposites Attract: Government and Gaming

Since antiquity, game-based learning has been an integral part of military training with colored stones on a game board (McLeroy, 2008).  Military gaming has persisted through the milennia with war games consisting of teams from 5 to thousands of soldiers engaging in simulated wartime environments to the present day (Erwin, 2012).  Digital game-based learning (DGBL) has deep roots in the government as the military approaches its 80th year of digital simulation.  The history of DGBL started in 1934, when Edwin Link approached the Army Air Corps with his “Blue Box” flight simulator, which he originally designed as an entertainment technology (Prensky, 2001).  DGBL has gained favor with military leaders, for its lower risk and favorable economic profiles compared to more traditional live gaming.  Indeed, in the present era of budget consciousness, DGBL has gained increased favor with increased costs of fuel and personnel transport to facilitate live games.  As a result, military leaders are rethinking the role of live war games in favor of virtual games for personnel learning and training (Erwin, 2012).

At present, the U.S. Military is estimated to spend $5 billion annually on virtual training and simulation technologies, and an additional $6 billion annually on training services apart from technology (Erwin, 2012).  In the context of the $10.5 billion video gaming industry in the US, the military is the most significant user of digital gaming, and thus DGBL (Video Game Industry Statistics, 2013).

Indeed, the US military has cultivated a close relationship with the digital gaming industry.  In 1996, a joint military-civilian conference was convened in Irvine, California, home of World of Warcraft (Blizzard Entertainment).  The conference, Modeling and Simulation: Linking Entertainment and Defense, established an explicit link between the government and the civilian gaming world (Committee on Modeling and Simulation, 1997).  As the digital gaming market has grown, extensive collaboration between the military and civilian continues to lead developments in DGBL technology.

Currently, the military branches maintain a collaborative system, Games for Training, establishing an inter-branch learning system.  This inter-service effort makes explicit the military’s commitment to game-based learning as a critical collaborative learning tool.


In addition to the $5 billion annual military investment in DGBL technologies, private industry contributes $10.5 million annually to the digital gaming market with significant collaboration via public-private partnerships.  As the private video gaming industry grew through the 1970s and 1980s with the advent of the personal computer and digital gaming consoles, the civilian population grew a new generation of video gamers and programmers to develop new games for civilian and military learning.

As digital gaming grew in experience, the military drew on educational research suggesting the value of experiential fidelity through digital gaming applications to provide applied learning opportunities (Clark, 2004).  In this way, the military and civilian communities provided mutual growth opportunities, that have been particularly reinforced as youth gamers have aged into military service.  Indeed, present American drone-based military strategy draws deeply on video gaming technology and youth gamers who have matured into military service (Clark, 2004).  In addition, remote gaming approaches have led to the development of military robots currently in testing (Weiss, 2011).  These learning-to-service applications of digital gaming technologies have continued to reduce human risk, furthering the legacy of game-based learning.


Military contributions have, in turn, advanced the civilian gaming industry with commercial blockbusters like Worlds of Warcraft (Blizzard Entertainment).  The military influence on civilian gaming has also been leveraged through civilian games designed to recruit young people to military service.  The Virtual Army Experience (U.S. Army) represents a $9 million development investment over 8 years from 1999-2008 by the U.S. Army to boost recruiting efforts in an era of reduced military enlistment (De Avila, 2008).  Similar efforts targeting young “gamers” for military service have been undertaken by the Israeli Air Force in its pilot recruiting programs (Clark, 2004).


As remote technologies continue to develop in military applications and educational environments, it is likely that the military and civilian gaming environments will continue to be mutually reinforcing with strong American roots and expanding international experiences.



Clark, C. D. (2004). The Principles of Game Based Learning. Presented at the NETC/LSC Conference, Crystal City, VA. Retrieved from
Committee on Modeling and Simulation: Opportunities for Collaboration Between the Defense and Entertainment Research Communities. (1997). Modeling and Simulation: Linking Entertainment and Defense. Washington, D.C.: National Academies Press. Retrieved from
De Avila, J. (2008, July 28). War Games: Army Lures Civilians  By Letting Them Play Soldier. Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from

Erwin, S. I. (2012, December). Budget Cuts, Fuels Costs Could Spur Military Spending on Virtual Training. National Defense: NDIA’s Business and Technology Magazine. Retrieved from,FuelsCostsCouldSpurMilitarySpendingonVirtualTraining.aspx

McLeroy, C. (2008, August 27). History of Military gaming | Article | The United States Army. Soldiers Magazine. Retrieved from
Prensky, M. (2001). Digital Game-Based Learning. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill. Retrieved from
Video Game Industry Statistics. (2013). Entertainment Software Rating Board. Retrieved from
Weiss, L. G. (2011, August). Autonomous Robots in the Fog of War. IEEE Spectrum: Inside Technology. Retrieved from

A Strange Game: Game-Based Learning in the Movies

War Games (MGM/UA, 1983) told the story of a young computer enthusiast who hacked into U.S. Military systems to play a game.

War Games is a 1983 film about a super computer ‘Joshua’ who uses war simulations to build profiles of various conflicts. Much like The Matrix, these two films place games and essentially game-based learning as a central component to the future of society and the pinnacle of learning. Both of these cultural representations of game-based learning have a lot in common. First, both place game-based learning in a digital setting where it is used primarily by computers to find optimal strategies. Also, even though War Games is set during the Cold War- both are about futuristic, semi-dystopian societies where people are placed under technology in a hierarchy. The only exception to this is Neo and his friends- who in The Matrix harness game-based learning like the computers to gain skills like Kung-Fu. Both of these films set game-based learning and its ability to make commonplace, scenarios that might otherwise rarely happen as a source of danger, however, both recognize it power as a form of learning.

War Games envisioned a future where entertainment-hungry tech-savvy youth hunger for interactive video gaming experiences with the proliferation of personal computers.  This has proved accurate.

War Games also portrayed the learning environment of choice of computers, games and simulations that might also be referred to as genetic algorithms- or a process by which computers use a natural selection like process to evolve novel strategies and solutions.

War Games also predicted serious risk that gamers could conflate the seriousness of war with the leisure of video games, resulting in ultimate destruction.  Unfortunately, in a way, this has happened in some isolated cases, including the use of Microsoft Flight Simulator as a training tool for Al Qaeda terrorists who attacked on September 11, 2001.

War Games also predicted that government system hackers may act with benevolent intentions.  Fortunately (depending on your perspective), this transpired in the (presumed Israeli) hack that destroyed Iranian uranium centrifuges.

The Matrix predicted a world where people could become so engrossed in simulated environments that they shun the real world. Unfortunately, this has happened. In games like World of Warcraft, users have found the competition, measurable accomplishments, and other game mechanics of the MMORPG to be more a inviting universe. The ability to create simplified environments that do  not lack the social elements of real life, games have found users who have chosen simulated environments over real life.

However, a closer look at War Games and The Matrix reveals a recognition of the power of game-based learning to accomplish deeper understanding of complexity and ambiguity than can be accomplished by more didactic learning, or in risk-free experiences.   In War Games, this occurred through engagement with the childhood game Tic-Tac-Toe.  This understanding of the ability to learn through games, fortunately, has developed as a social benefit of game-based learning for software like Budget Hero (Public Insight Network).

Contrary to the predictions in War Games and The Matrix, society has found ways of using games without being overtaken by them. However, to understand the complex interactions of the world we need to see the world from more than just our eyes. Games afford us the opportunity to live other lives- and this is what is required to rise to the needs of our modern world.

Game Changers

wooden pointer

“If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”

–Wayne Dyer

Game-based learning (GBL) is based in simulation.  A small girl feeding her baby doll is engaging in GBL as she simulates the traditional female societal role of caregiver.  Similarly, a boy playing with his G.I. Joe is simulating the traditional male societal role of warrior.  A student pilot using a flight simulator is engaged in an experiential learning environment to build skills for coping with future events.  GBL can be understood first as pedagogy and second as an application of this pedagogy within a digital environment. With these two understandings, it is possible to better understand the shifting paradigms that have influenced the development of GBL.


As a pedagogy, the shift to understand children not as less intelligent adults, but rather as learners with a unique set of needs and learning stages (Piaget, 1952) created the intellectual framework for the study of learning as a science.  This paradigm shift in education led to the formal understanding of simulation as an educational tool in academic environments, moving simulation beyond industrial applications, and advancing the concepts of gaming along with simulation.  Moreover, the move toward inclusion of andragogy in formal education (Knowles, 1998) for adults and children supported the growth of GBL as an educational platform.


As an educational tool, GBL has benefited from the development of personal computers like the Apple II and the Commodore (1977) that were integral to personal digital learning environments. The personal computer made GBL accessible to the masses beyond the well-funded and highly specialized military and aviation environments.  Marc Prensky’s (2001) work to define the digital native helped to validate digital technologies as a meaningful learning environment, therefore providing a lexicon for developing the digital GBL culture.  More recently, the development of “serious games” has led to game developers informing learning theory and the use of “gamification,” or the structuring of learning environments to imitate video games (Zyda, 2005).


Jane McGonigal – TED talk on GBL


Historically, aviation, military, and health care industries have been major proponents for – and beneficiaries of – GBL  Similarly, airline passengers, civilians, and patients have benefited from improved learning at lower economic and social costs.  Other major beneficiaries of GBL are the digital gaming industry, personal computer manufacturers, and students who individually excel in experiential, as opposed to purely receptive, learning environments.

Conversely, proponents of “traditional” classroom education have opposed GBL as a threat to the status quo and a challenge to the entire system of education, including teacher training programs.  Implementing GBL into existing educational infrastructures requires significant expenditure of time and money for teachers to learn how to incorporate GBL into the curriculum.  The textbook industry and its associated product suppliers and manufacturers are included in this category of GBL opponents, as the increase of GBL threatens to erode the role of the textbook in formal education.


Knowles, M. (1998). The adult learner: The definitive classic in adult education and human resource development. Houston, TX: Gulf Publishing.

Piaget, J. (1952). The origins of intelligence in children.

Prensky, M. (2001). Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants. On the Horizon, 9(5), 1–2.

Zyda, M. (2005). From visual simulation to virtual reality to games. Computer,38(9), 25-32.

You’ve Got to Start Somewhere: Early Influences on Game-Based Learning

Early Cultural and Institutional Influences (prior to 1945)
In the Ancient Near East, the word “play” was used in the Hebrew Bible in the context of combat, establishing an early connection between war and games (2 Samuel 2: 14-16; Cornell, p. 42).  In Sparta, experiential learning and games were employed in warfare as boys were taken into compulsory military training and service when they were placed in a series of simulated wartime environments to teach a variety of survival skills.  As boys grew to soldiers, they engaged in organized war games to teach military strategy through experiential learning.
From these early experiences with organized military activities, experiential learning evolved into an integral part of the cultural and economic structures of societies in Europe, as the military apprenticeship model migrated to the guild structure of artisans and craftsmen in the Renaissance.  Entry into the socio-economic sphere required an education based on experiential learning in order to demonstrate knowledge and proficiency sufficient to earn a recognized role in the organized community.
This type of guild structure persisted into the healing professions and early modern medicine.  Medical and nursing education prior to the 20th century relied heavily on the apprenticeship model of learning, prior to the organization of medical and nursing schools that began to integrate classroom pedagogy into the experiential practice of patient care.  As scientific knowledge evolved, the use of simulation began to enter medical education, giving students an opportunity to learn and practice potentially risky skills without fear of causing harm in an exercise of Hippocratic and Maimonidean ideals.  An early example is the use of obstetrical mannequins for childbirth training in the early 16th century to reduce risks to mothers and babies (Ziv, Wolpe, Small, & Glick, 2003).
From ancient Greek and Roman roots, the military has continued to be a leader in using experiential learning and simulation to afford low-risk opportunities to learn high-risk skills.  Beyond organized war games, the US military was also an early adopter of digital simulation technologies beginning in 1930 with aviation simulation in the Army Air Corps.  The US military continues to be the largest user of game-based learning in the modern era (Prensky, 2001).

Timeline of Major Events and Advances Related to Game-Based Learning

1916 – John Dewey describes experiential education

1930 – Edwin Link designs the “Blue Box” flight simulator

1934 – Link meets with the Army Air Corps for flight simulation training

1967 – Logo programming language was created

1978 – Atari adapts Battlezone for ARPA’s (now DARPA) use

1979 – Military development of the geometry engine, used in commercial video gaming systems

1996 – 2-day workshop convened by the National Research Council at the request of the DOD Defense Modeling and Simulation Office – Modeling and Simulation: Linking Entertainment and Defense (Irvine, CA: home of Blizzard Entertainment)

1996 – USMC allows Marines to play commercial war games on military computers during duty hours

1997 – A.D.A.M. software began appearing in medical schools to supplement anatomy education

1997 – All military equipment simulators designed with High Level Architecture (HLA) that allows for inter-simulator communication and collaboration

1999 – US medical schools began offering digital simulation to replace the use of “dog lab” to teach cardiac physiology, in response to improving digital technology and escalating student concern about sacrificing dogs for medical education

2008 – Case Western Reserve University became the last medical school to end its use of “dog lab” in favor of digital simulation

Cornell, T. J. (2002). On War and Games in the Ancient World. War and Games, 37-72.
Prensky, M. (2001). Digital Game-Based Learning. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill. Retrieved from
Ziv, A., Wolpe, P. R., Small, S. D., & Glick, S. (2003). Simulation-Based Medical Education: An Ethical Imperative : Academic Medicine. Academic Medicine, 78(8), 783–788.

Historical and Cultural Origins

“You find the fun and snap…the job’s a game!” –Mary Poppins

Game-Based Learning (GBL) has been incorporated as a teaching strategy since antiquity, when slaves used the “cover” of spinning a top to disguise prohibited religious study.  From its subversive origins, GBL moved through the apprenticeship model of the Renaissaince and evolved to a modern teaching and learning strategy.  GBL provides low-risk opportunities for experiential learning.  The risk assessment applies here to teaching organizations and learners alike.  More broadly, GBL provides a platform for engaging individuals with multiple learning styles.

The early cultural and political influences of GBL derive primarily from  and constructivism (Dewey, 1938; Piaget, 1952).  The roots of these theories are that humans learn through sequential development where they (1) possess some heuristic or abstract representation about an idea, (2) they have some experience related to this idea, (3) they reflect on this experience, (4) and they update that original heuristic based on the reflection of their experience. These stages necessitate a first-hand learning environment where lecture is a component in a system rather than the sole form of learning. Additionally, this theory informs the learning environment design. In the digital age, Papert (1980) added to constructivism with his theory of constructionism that computer technology allowed the perfect environment for this sequential learning process, “one that helps us…learn about learning,” where personal relationships with knowledge can be created (Papert, 1980, p. 177).

GBL uses a game to facilitate experiential or hands-on learning through a narrative environment that is interactive, engaging, and reactive to the roles and decisions made by learners (Clark, 2004).  Thus, the problem that game-based learning was originally designed to solve was the lack of low-risk experiential learning opportunities for inherently high-risk enterprises. GBL, whether in-person (often led by a facilitator) or through a digital interface, are scalable, reproducible, and personalizable.

Early adoption of GBL included military and aviation industries where custom-built simulator programs created low-risk environments for people to train, capitalizing on available digital technologies to reduce risk and investment, compared to apprenticeship models.  As digital technology became less expensive and increasingly reproducible, industrial application expanded to health care practice and medical education via low-fidelity and high-fidelity simulation (Trybus, 2012).

Following industrial successes, other early examples of digital GBL like “Oregon Trail” were prevalent in schools and coincided with the rise of the video game industry in the 1970s and 1980s. The success of the video game industry was source of both support and conflict as GBL and the emergence of a critical population of “digital natives” (Prensky, 2001), has created a more accepting environment for technology and games in schools.  The “digital native” community has supported expansion of GBL throughout the workforce that they now populate.  However, early in the evolution of GBL, the perception of  a game as frivolous entertainment, and concern bred from unfamiliarity among “digital immigrants”, led to conflict with increased adoption efforts.

The decreased costs of increased digital processing power, along with the development of stable, flexible game architectures, and the development of a critical base of knowledge among game designers has supported the contemporary climate of widespread adoption and acceptance of GBL.  GBL exists as a technologically viable solution for a broad spectrum of learning applications in education and a industrial settings.  This has been accompanied by expanded understanding of varied learning styles and needs in the education community and attendant recognition that the experiential nature of GBL is ideally suited to allow a single platform to effectively serve a wide spectrum of learners (Trybus, 2012).  Perhaps because of these convergent educational and technological influences, GBL technology in schools is emerging as a metric of educational quality.

Clark, C. D. (2004). The Principles of Game Based Learning. Presented at the NETC/LSC Conference, Crystal City, VA. Retrieved from

Dewey, J. (1938). Experience and education. Kappa Delta Pi.

Papert, S. (1980). Mindstorms: Children, computers, and powerful ideas. Basic Books, Inc..

Piaget, J. (1952). The origins of intelligence in children.

Prensky, M. (2001). Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants. On the Horizon, 9(5), 1–2.

Trybus, J. (2012). Game-Based Learning: What it is, Why it works, and Where it’s going (White Paper). New Media Institute. Retrieved from–what-it-is-why-it-works-and-where-its-going.html