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Digital Media

Transformations in Human Communication

Edited By Paul Messaris and Lee Humphreys

The age of digital media has given rise to a new social world. It is a world in which the transmission of information from the few to the many is steadily being supplanted by the multi-directional flow of facts, lies, and ideas. It is a world in which hundreds of millions of people are voluntarily depositing large amounts of personal details in publicly accessible databases. It is a world in which interpersonal relationships are increasingly being conducted in the virtual sphere. Above all, this is a world that seems to be veering off in unpredictable ways from the trends of the immediate past. This book is a probing examination of that world, and of the changes that it has ushered into our lives.

In more than thirty essays by a wide range of scholars, this must-have second edition examines the impact of digital media in six areas – information, persuasion, community, gender and sexuality, surveillance and privacy, and cross-cultural communication – and offers an invaluable guide for students and scholars alike. With one exception, all essays are completely new or revised for this volume.

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Chapter 5: Learning by Design: Good Video Games as Learning Machines (James Paul Gee)


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Learning by Design

Good Video Games as Learning Machines

James Paul Gee


Many good computer and video games, games like the Civilization, Metal Gear Solid, and Mass Effects series of games are long, complex, and difficult, especially for beginners. Games like Minecraft, Dragon Box, and Portal recruit complex thinking in areas like design, algebra, and physics despite also being highly entertaining.

As we well know, young people in school are not always eager to do difficult things. When we adults are faced with the challenge of getting them to do so, two choices are often available. We can force them, which is the main solution schools use. Or, a temptation when profit is at stake, though not unknown in school either, we can dumb down the product. Neither option is open to the game industry. They can’t force people to play and most avid gamers don’t want their games to be too short or too easy.

For people interested in learning, this raises an interesting question. How do good game designers manage to get new players to learn their often complex and difficult games, and not only learn them but pay to do so? It won’t do simply to say games are “motivating.” That just begs the question of “Why”? Why is a video game motivating? I believe that what makes games so deeply motivating is that they are designed...

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