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Lesson 1: Track A Summaries

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Schedule   ::   Lesson 1   ::   Track A Summaries   ::   Track B Summaries

Wolf, Chapter 6: Genre and the video game

Reading summary/quotes:

Wolf starts with a comparison of film and game genres. The study of games is different from movies because of the participation of user with the game. His game classification system takes into consideration the interaction required by the game’s primary objective, not just iconography. This is a way to avoid the ambiguity of theme classification, although there are still hybrid games that combine two or more genres. Player participation and interaction are necessary components in determining video game genre. The bulk of the chapter is spent on describing and giving examples for each of the 42 genres.

It was very interesting how the author divided genre's even when they were very similar, i.e. collecting and catching, which are simply separated by the fact that the object to catch is moving, whereas if the object does not move, it is collecting.
The idea of genres for games is very helpful because it forces one to think about the kinds of objectives and interactions the game has, shouldn't have, or should have. For example, one might start out to design a game that has some puzzle aspects to it, but may inadvertently include aspects that would make it adventure, or some other category which wasn't intended.

“Video game genre study differs markedly from literary or film genre study due to the direct and active participation of the audience in the form of the surrogate player-character, who acts within the game’s diegetic world, taking part in the central conflict of the game’s narrative (p. 114).”

“By beginning with the interaction required by the games primary objective, we can start to divide the wide variety of video games into a series of interactive genres (p. 114).”

“In some ways, player participation is arguably the central determinant in describing and classifying video games—even more so than iconography (p. 114).”

"…classification by iconography ignores the fundamental differences and similarities which are to be found in the player’s experience of the game (p. 115).”

“Of course, any proposed system of genres will be the subject of debate and criticism. At the same time, coming up with a consistent and comprehensive list of genres that attempts to define and articulate the boundaries of each is a much more difficult task than criticizing existing lists (p. 134).”

Discussion points/questions:

  • How do game classifications change with time?
  • How can having a list of genres benefit game designers?
  • Why do the genres need to be so specific, why so many?
  • What should be included in the description for the educational game classification?
  • How does theory relate to genre?
  • On what characteristic should games be categorized? Should it be on interaction, lesson learned, characters, objectives?

Holland, Jenkins, & Squire, Chapter 1: Theory by design

Reading summary/quotes:

The article begins with a discussion of emerging game theory. This is compared to the emergence of film theory, which also went through a period of rapid transformation early in its history. MIT’s Comparative Media Studies Program has encouraged public debates between academics, game design professionals, and gamers. MIT’s Games-to-Teach (GTT) Project involves designing and implementing games that can be used in education. Four projects highlighted are Hephaestus, Supercharged!, Biohazard, and Environmental Detectives. Each of these educational games seeks to integrate game action that is relevant to the instructional goal of the game. In other words, these four games go far beyond the generic, fill-in-the-blank, jeopardy style educational games that are so common these days.

Theory comes about as a means to explain and classify processes that we use in different situations, be it art, music, or gaming. Theory most often comes from and begins with actual practitioners, not necessarily academics. Games present more then simple visualizations or lectures in that they offer “microworlds” in which users have a context for solving problems interactively and directly contributing to a solution, thus providing them with satisfaction. Gaming must be used within educational contexts and practices to be most effective as an instructional tool, it can't be used in a “vacuum”. In order to promote transfer of knowledges to other contexts, games must be used with other forms of instruction and not simply by themselves.

GTT “seeks to encourage greater public awareness of the pedagogical potentials of games by developing a range of conceptual frameworks that show in practical terms how games might be deployed to teach math, science, and engineering at an advanced secondary or early undergraduate level (p. 27).”

“Our group starts from the assumption that educational games need to be inserted into larger learning contexts, not operate in a vacuum (p. 28).” This is one reason why most successful educational games have been developed for younger (elementary school) children thus far. It is easier to design games for younger kids because they have more limited learning contexts than say High School students. This is not to say good educational games can’t be developed for older students, but the subject matter is usually more complex so the design of an educational game with relevant action would have to be more intricate as well.

During the development process of Environmental Detectives, the designers realized that there were major usability issues in “developing a framework for educators to design scenarios (p. 42).” It is important to consider usability in every step of the design process. This is clearly a major challenge that the GTT Project seems to be addressing.

Related articles/class discussions:

  • Virvou article (Week 1 Track B) : Combining software games with education: Evaluation of its educational effectiveness. This study compares a game-based Intelligent Tutoring System (ITS) with a conventional ITS. One weakness of the comparison is that the action of the game-based ITS is not relevant to the educational goal. In contrast, the game action in Supercharged! is very relevant to the educational context of learning about electromagnetism.
  • Class discussion: The importance of game action of an educational being relevant to the instructional goal of the game.

Discussion points/questions:

  • What are some common elements of successful educational games?
  • Why must gaming be used in conjunction with other instructional methods and not just by itself?
  • How do games aid in keeping a learner's attention so effectively?
  • Can games be developed for individual differences?
  • How do you help the worlds of gaming and education work together?

Contributors: Tom Caswell, Marion Jensen, Jennifer Jorgensen, Jon Scoresby, and Tim Stowell
Copyright 2008, by the Contributing Authors. Cite/attribute Resource . admin. (2008, May 20). Lesson 1: Track A Summaries. Retrieved January 07, 2011, from Free Online Course Materials — USU OpenCourseWare Web site: This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License Creative Commons License
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