From the perspective of educators, games are viewed as a medium in which the younger generation both thrive and excel. Students navigate game environments with ease and regularly solve problems, engage in advanced collaborative efforts, and communicate complex concepts and strategies to one another during their private gaming sessions at home. Games invite the player to form an understanding of intricate systems and mechanics based on participation and experimentation rather than mere observation, and on these merits games are often prophesized as a medium that will significantly change the face of education as we know it. However, while teacher interest in using games is increasing, wide-spread and successful examples of games being implemented in formal educational contexts (e.g. schools and university courses) remain rare. This thesis aims to examine why this is the case and identifies some of the more prevalent obstacles educators and developers both face when embarking on learning game projects as users and creators. In order to examine the situation from both of these perspectives, the research takes a mixed-method approach that entails extensive literature studies coupled with several studies with both educators and developers. Interviews were conducted in order to investigate attitudes and experiences, and more direct researcher participation and case studies were used to examine the processes of implementing and developing learning games as they were carried out. The studied cases and literature have revealed obstacles that indicate that “traditional” entertainment game development is incommensurable with learning game development, and that the use of games in formal educational settings introduces heavy demands on the recipient organization’s infrastructure, culture, and working processes. The conclusions of this research is that learning games embody a unique mixture of utility and game experience, and the formal context which they are to be used in significantly influence the process of developing and using them. Learning games can’t be understood if they’re solely seen as a teaching utility or solely as a game experience and to make them viable both educators and developers need to change their internal processes, their own perceptions of games and teaching, as well as the way they collaborate and communicate with each other. There are also several obstacles that are outside individual institutions and developers’ control, for example the practicalities of the economic constraints that both developers and educators work under that put the sustainability of pursuing learning games for formal education as a business into question. However, the continuous incremental improvements on the infrastructure of educational institutions (e.g. availability of technology and teachers’ familiarity with technology) can likely alleviate many of the obstacles currently inhibiting the impact learning games can potentially have in formal education.
Djaouti, D., Alvarez, J., Jessel, J.-P., & Rampnoux, O. (2011). Origins of serious games. In M. Ma, A. Oikonomou & L. C. Jain (Eds.), Serious games and edutainment applications (pp. 25-43): Springer London.