Good Video Games and Good Learning

Collected Essays on Video Games, Learning and Literacy, 2nd Edition

by James Paul Gee (Author)
©2007 Textbook 167 Pages


Good Video Games and Good Learning presents the most important essays by James Paul Gee devoted to the ways in which good video games create good learning. The chapters in this book argue that good games teach through well-designed problem-solving experiences. They also prove that game-based learning must involve more than software and technology and engage with the design of passionate-affinity spaces where people mentor each other’s learning and engagement. In the end, the book offers a model of collaborative, interactive, and embodied learning centered on problem solving, a model that can be enhanced by games, but which can be accomplished in many different ways with or without games.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Chapter 1 Games and Learning: An Interview Overview (with Elisabeth Hayes and Henry Jenkins)
  • Chapter 2 Good Video Games, the Human Mind, and Good Learning
  • Introduction
  • Video games and the mind
  • Good Video Games and Good Learning
  • I. Empowered Learners
  • 1. Co-design
  • 2. Customize
  • 3. Identity
  • 4. Manipulation and Distributed Knowledge
  • II. Problem Solving
  • 5. Well-Ordered Problems
  • 6. Pleasantly Frustrating
  • 7. Cycles of Expertise
  • 8. Information “On Demand” and “Just in Time”
  • 9. Fish Tanks
  • 10. Sandboxes
  • 11. Skills as Strategies
  • III. Understanding
  • 12. System Thinking
  • 13. Meaning as Action Image
  • Conclusion
  • Chapter 3 Pleasure and Being a Professional: Learning and Video Games
  • Introduction
  • The Projective Stance
  • The Professional Projective Stance and Ways of Seeing
  • Learning
  • Chapter 4 Stories, Probes, and Games
  • Chapter 5 The Old and the New in the New Digital Literacies
  • Chapter 6 Can Technology-rich Learning Close the Digital Participation Gap?
  • Endnote
  • Chapter 7 Looking Where the Light Is Bad: Video Games and the Future of Assessment (with David Williamson Shaffer)
  • Beside the Point
  • The Answer Is the Test
  • The Wheel
  • What We Assess
  • How We Assess
  • Why We Assess
  • What We Need
  • Oh Brave New (Virtual) World!
  • Take One: Build Them Like the Pros
  • Take Two: Use What the Pros Have Already Built
  • Take Three: Build Your Own Pros
  • A Journey of A Thousand Miles
  • Acknowledgments
  • Join the Conversation
  • Chapter 8 Affinity Spaces: From Age of Mythology to Today’s Schools
  • Introduction: from Groups to Spaces
  • Social Spaces: AoM
  • Affinity Spaces
  • Chapter 9 Nurturing Affinity Spaces and Game-Based Learning (with Elisabeth Hayes)
  • Games and Learning
  • Affinity Spaces
  • Features of Affinity Spaces
  • Content, Knowledge, and Choice
  • The Pareto Principle
  • Chapter 10 Our New Out-of-School “Schools of Choice and Passion”
  • The Problems with School
  • A New Formation for Learning
  • Passionate Affinity Spaces
  • Features of Passionate Affinity Spaces
  • The Future of Schools and Colleges
  • Chapter 11 “Surmise the Possibilities”: Portal to a Game-Based Theory of Learning for the 21st Century
  • Introduction
  • Games and Learning
  • What to Learn, Not Just How to Learn
  • Back to Portal
  • Words and Symbols as Knowledge Tools
  • Teaching
  • References
  • Index

| 1 →

 Chapter 1

Games and Learning

An Interview Overview


HENRY JENKINS: We’ve been involved in thinking about games and learning for the better part of a decade. What do you see as the most significant breakthroughs that have occurred over this time?

JAMES GEE: The breakthroughs have been slower in coming than I had hoped. Like many new ideas, the idea of games for learning (better, “games as learning”) has been often co-opted by entrenched paradigms and interests, rather than truly transforming them. We see now a great many skill-and-drill games, games that do in a more entertaining fashion what we already do in school. We see games being recruited in workplaces—and lots of other instances of “gamification”—simply to make the current structures of exploitation and traditional relationships of power more palatable. We will see the data-mining capacities of games and digital media in general recruited for supervision, rather than development. The purpose of games as learning (and other game-like forms of learning) should be to make every learner a proactive, collaborative, reflective, critical, creative, and innovative problem solver; a producer with technology and not just a consumer; and a fully engaged participant and not just a spectator in civic life and the public sphere.

In general there are two “great divides” in the games and learning arena. The two divides are based on the learning theories underlying proposals about games ← 1 | 2 → for learning. The first divide is this: On the one hand, there are games based on a “break everything into bits and practice each bit in its proper sequence” theory of learning, a theory long popular in instructional technology. Let’s call this the “drill and practice theory.” On the other hand, there are games based on a “practice the bits inside larger and motivating goal-based activities of which they are integral parts” theory. Let’s call this the “problem-and-goals-centered theory.” I espouse one version of this theory, but, unfortunately, there are two versions of it. And this is the second divide: On the one hand, there is a “mindless progressive theory” that says just turn learners loose to immerse themselves in rich activities under the steam of their own goals. This version of progressivism (and progressivism in Dewey’s hands was not “mindless”) has been around a great many years and is popular among “mindless” educational liberals. On the other hand, the other version of the “problem-and-goals-centered theory” claims that deep learning is achieved when learners are focused on well-designed, well-ordered, and well-mentored problem solving with shared goals, that is, goals shared with mentors and a learning community.

Like so many other areas of our lives today, the conservative version (drill and practice) and the liberal version (mindless progressivism) are both wrong. The real solution does not lie in the middle but outside the space carved up by political debates.

HENRY JENKINS: What do you think remain the biggest misunderstandings or disagreements in this space?

JAMES GEE: Much of what I discussed above is really not about misunderstandings, but about disagreements and different beliefs and value systems, or, in some cases, different political, economic, or cultural vested interests. The biggest misunderstanding in the case of my own work has been people saying that my work espouses games for learning. It does not and never has. It espouses “situated embodied learning,” that is, learning by participation in well-designed and well-mentored experiences with clear goals; lots of formative feedback; performance before competence; language and texts “just in time” and “on demand”; and lots of talk and interaction around strategies, critique, planning, and production within a “passionate affinity space” (a type of interest-driven group) built to sustain and extend the game or other curriculum. Games are one good way to do this. There are many others.


ISBN (Softcover)
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2013 (October)
software technology design Videospiel Aufsatzsammlung Video Game Computer Game Learning Literacy Lernen
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, Oxford, Wien, 2007. VI, 194 pp.

Biographical notes

James Paul Gee (Author)

James Paul Gee is the Mary Lou Fulton Presidential Professor of Literacy Studies. A linguist by training he has currently works in the area of digital media and learning. He is the author of What Video Games Have to Teach Us about Literacy and Learning and The Anti-Education Era, among other books.


Title: Good Video Games and Good Learning
book preview page numper 1
book preview page numper 2
book preview page numper 3
book preview page numper 4
book preview page numper 5
book preview page numper 6
book preview page numper 7
book preview page numper 8
book preview page numper 9
book preview page numper 10
book preview page numper 11
book preview page numper 12
book preview page numper 13
book preview page numper 14
book preview page numper 15
book preview page numper 16
book preview page numper 17
book preview page numper 18
book preview page numper 19
book preview page numper 20
book preview page numper 21
book preview page numper 22
book preview page numper 23
book preview page numper 24
book preview page numper 25
book preview page numper 26
book preview page numper 27
book preview page numper 28
book preview page numper 29
book preview page numper 30
book preview page numper 31
book preview page numper 32
book preview page numper 33
book preview page numper 34
book preview page numper 35
176 pages