The Power of Games (Part One)

Mark Wagner
Educational Technology and Life

Presentation Slides

PowerOfGames.pdf (28.5 MB)

What is Hard Fun?

“It’s hard. It’s fun. It’s LOGO.” (1st Grader)
“This kid called the work fun because it was hard rather than in spite of being hard.” (Seymour Papert)
“How do we make writing become hard fun?” (Seymour Papert)


Digital Natives & Digital Immigrants (Prensky, 2001)
Incidental vs. Intentional Learning (Jonassen, 2002)
enGauge 21st Century Skills (NCREL, 2003)

Marc Prensky

Digital Game Based Learning (2001)
Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants (2001)
Don’t Bother Me Mom - I’m Learning! (2006)

James Paul Gee

What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy (2003)
Situated Language and Learning (2004)
Why Video Games are Good For Your Soul (2005)

Clark Aldrich

Simulations and the Future of Learning (2004)
Learning by Doing (2005)
Paradoxes, Sim Words, and Big Skills...

Virtual Leader


David Williamson Shaffer

Epistemic Games
Simulation Prototypes
How Computer Games Help Children Learn (2006)

Kurt Squire

Civilization III at Indiana University
Prototypes at MIT
Games, Learning, and Society at University of Wisconsin - Madison

Constance Steinkuehler

Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games (MMORPGs)
Games, Learning, and Society Conference

Constructivist Learning Environments


Web-Based Games

Play in your browser
Mostly FREE
Engaging and content related
Great for younger students

Commercial Off The Shelf (COTS) Games

Teachers may not be able to develop a cutting edge game, but many games can be repurposed.
“Instead of embedding a game into learning, it is possible to embed learning into a game.” (Downes, 2005)
Civilization III & IV
The “Age Of...” Series
The Sim Games
The “Tycoon” Series
And More...

Civilization III

Turn-Based Strategy
Systems Content
Social Studies Concepts
Complexity, flexibility, replayability
Failure and choice
Kurt Squire’s Dissertation (2004)

Civilization III

25% complained the game was too hard, complicated and uninteresting.
25% loved playing the game,thought it was a “perfect way to learn history”, and a highlight of their year.
Students played the game in different ways, leading to highly different understandings.
Playing games does not appeal to everyone, and no one game appeals to all gamers.


Aurora / World Editor
Dungeon Siege
Unreal Engine
Civ IV, The Sims 2, GTA, and More...

Neverwinter Nights

Role Playing Game (RPG)
Toolset for user-made content
Teachers can be gamemasters (GMs)
MIT’s Revolution Mod

Making History

Designed for education!
Assessment features
Successfully piloted


Game world mapped onto cartesian plane
Algebra concepts must be mastered to progress in the game
Homework just got harder!
Learn Math or Die Trying.

Serious Games

A purpose other than entertainment...
Games that Educate, Train, and Inform
Education, Government, Health, First Response, Science...

Games for Change

Games meant to “effect positive social change”
The WFP’s Food Force -
Peter Packet -
Dean for Iowa -
Global Kid’s playing for keeps -

A Force More Powerful


Games For Health

Games being built for health care applications
Researchers, medical professionals, and game developers
Using game technologies to create new ways of improving the management, quality, and provision of healthcare worldwide.

Creating Games

Global Kids’ playing for keeps.
Brea High School Global IT Academy (Visual Basic) -
Spreadsheet Simulations
Maps, Storyboards, and Screenshots...

Game Design & Theory

What Players Want
Elements of Gameplay
Non-Linear Storytelling

Creating Emotion

Interesting & Deepening
Character Diamonds
Role Induction

Gender Inclusive Design

Females and Machines
Female Characters
Conflict Resolution Styles
Reward and Gameplay

Organizational Change

Systems Thinking
Collaborative Learning
Resistance and Challenges
Professional Development
Family and the Community

Games in Education Resources

Education Arcade -
Games, Learning and Society -
Serious Games Summit -
Bill MacKenty’s Blog (a great place to start!) -
Video Games in Education (Google Video) -

Q & A


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Contact Information

Mark Wagner -