Games are motivating, aren´t they? Disputing the arguments for digital game-based learning

Wim Westera


The growing popularity of game-based learning reflects the burning desire for exploiting the involving and motivating characteristics of games for serious purposes. A wide range of arguments for using games for teaching and learning can be encountered in scientific papers, policy reports, game reviews and advertisements. With contagious enthusiasm, the proponents of game-based learning make their claims for using games to improve education. However, standing up for a good cause is easily replaced with the unconcerned promotion and spread of the word, which tends to make gaming an article of faith. This paper critically examines and re-establishes the argumentation used for game-based learning and identifies misconceptions that confuse the discussions. It reviews the following claims about game-based learning: 1) games foster motivation, 2) play is a natural mode of learning, 3) games induce cognitive flow, which is productive for learning, 4) games support learning-by-doing, 5) games allow for performance monitoring, 6) games offer freedom of movement and the associated problem ownership, 7) games support social learning, 8) games allow for safe experimentation, 9) games accommodate new generations of learners, who have grown up immersed in digital media, and 10) there are many successful games for learning. Assessing the validity of argumentation is considered essential for the credibility of game-based learning as a discipline.


Serious gaming; motivation; learning; cognitive flow; performance; NET generation

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