Learning should be designed around video games


Bowen (2012, p. 71) suggests that adult learning should be designed around a customizable, graduated series of challenges that are pleasantly frustrating, similar to many video games. The video game industry has exploded in recent years with 59% of Canadians playing video games and the average age of a Canadian gamer being 33 years old (Entertainment Software Association of Canada, 2011). Technologies such as social networking and digital media have entered higher education and we are now starting to see video game concepts entering it as well. Student levels of attention are on the decline and they are acquiring valuable skills and knowledge through gaming instead of in the classroom. Research by Sheldon (2011) who redesigned his course around massively multiplayer online games and Broussard (2011) who introduced controllable avatars for online discussion are just two examples demonstrating the success of introducing gaming concepts to the classroom.


I had no idea that educators were implementing video game concepts into their courses and this notion excites me greatly. I am an avid gamer and have played video games from the Nintendo Entertainment System era up until the current generation of video game consoles. In the classroom I seldom make video game references because I do not want students to feel excluded if they are not gamers. There was one situation in my class where students had to name a character in a database after their favourite video game character and one student told me that they do not play such games. This made for an embarrassing moment for the student and I do not want my students to feel uncomfortable in class. However, based on what other instructors have experimented with and the large percentage of Canadians who play video games, perhaps I have been taking the wrong approach to showing my passion for gaming to the class.


My methods for using videos games to improve my students’ learning was not very effective. I was mainly using gaming information for entertainment value. Instead of making comments during class or creating humorous examples for evaluations, I could be integrating the concept of video games into my classes. The students do not even need to be aware that I have done this. As mentioned in the opening section of this journal entry, learning can be designed around a customizable, graduated series of challenges. The video game franchise Mega Man is an excellent analogy to use for a set of evaluations a student may complete. In Mega Man games, you are presented with eight levels that can be completed in any order. Each level completed gives Mega Man a new skill that can be used to complete the next chosen level more effectively. After completing these eight levels the player is presented with a challenging level that requires the use of all the skills learned in the game. This would be a very interesting idea to implement in one of my courses and would give students a lot of customization and freedom in how they complete the course.


As a computer business systems instructor, the content of my courses are divided up into roughly independent modules. These modules are taught in a sequential order because the students are taught face-to-face in the classroom. My department is currently developing online versions of our courses and the online environment would give students the freedom to complete course modules in any order. The visual style of Mega Man games could be easily implemented for the course websites. The level selection in Mega Man games consist of a 3 x 3 grid with the middle cell blacked out. When players work through the eight available levels, the middle cell becomes available. In a course that I teach, the eight levels could correspond to eight modules consisting of readings, a quiz, and an assignment. The centre cell could represent the final exam or a final project in the course. I am very excited to hear that instructors are applying gaming concepts in their classes and I plan to do more research to discover more methods that instructors have used with their students.


Bowen, J. A. (2012). Teaching Naked. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Broussard, J. E. (2011). Playing class: A case study of ludic pedagogy. Doctoral dissertation, Louisiana State University. Retrieved from http://etd.lsu.edu/docs/available/etd-11092011-154402/unrestricted/jbroussard_dissertation.pdf

Entertainment Software Association of Canada. (2011). 2011 essential facts about the Canadian computer and video game industry. Toronto: Entertainment Software Association of Canada.

Sheldon, L. (2011). The multiplayer classroom, designing coursework as a game. Boston: Course Technology PTR, Centage Learning.



About simoncrothers

I am an Australian who moved to British Columbia, Canada with my family in 1998. After completing my undergraduate degree in mathematics and computing science at Simon Fraser University, I moved back to Australia for several years. During this time I completed a Masters in Computational Mathematics and began my teaching career in mathematics at the University of New South Wales. In 2010, I moved back to Canada and taught computer science at Douglas College for three years. I am currently regular faculty in the Computer Business Systems department at KPU. I have also taught some courses in the Business and Quantitative Methods department at KPU. In my spare time I like to spend time with my wife Jami, who I met in Australia, our three year old daughter Lillian, and our newly born son Aiden. I also like to indulge in the occasional video game and I am involved in various self-employed web development projects.
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