In his Good video games and good learning Gee (2005) identifies a total of 16 learning principles that are incorporated into good games. In outlining his Risk Taking principle Gee states that players are encouraged to take risks, explore, and try new things (p. 35). Deyenberg (2013) states that video games are a viable option to explore for students with physical disabilities, allowing them the opportunity to move and explore in a virtual world that which they cannot in the physical world (p. 11).
There are several perceived affordances in the design of educational games. Traditionally, people with disabilities have not always been able to access the learning they need when they need it. Educational games have largely overcome that problem by providing a range of options whereby a player with a physical disability can interact with a game without having to use a joystick, a mouse or even a keyboard. In other words, depending upon the game they are playing, they can play the game by using voice commands and/or gestures. Similarly, a player with a mild cognitive disability such as Dyslexia or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) may become highly motivated and engaged when playing a well designed educational game.
As well as that, according to Gee’s list of learning principles, players experience a sense of agency or control when playing games. In game-based learning environments, the player can customise many aspects of the game to fit their learning and playing styles (p. 35). This affordance means that whereas previously, learners had no input into their own learning, with the advent of educational games, players now have much more control. As an example, at the start of Civilization V: Brave New World a player will first need to decide whether to play the game as a single player or a multiplayer. After that, if they’ve chosen to play as a single player then they have the option of customising their experience of the game by selecting from a range of setup options including civilization, map size, and difficulty level. Once play is underway, the player will typically work towards a goal, choosing actions and experiencing the consequences of those actions along the way.
Gee (2005) outlines his learning principle of performance before competence and states that players can perform before they are competent, supported by the design of the game (p. 37). In other words, in a game, a player is free to make mistakes without fear of being judged and/or ridiculed. He or she can play the same level over and over until they finally gain the competence they need to level up. Conversely, in an educational setting, learners are rarely encouraged to gain competence in this way. They are normally tasked with gaining competence by reading texts. They’re not allowed to just experiment until they get it right. They have to do the prescribed reading so that, when given the order to do so, they can get it right on their first attempt.
In summary, educational games are a powerful tool to be used by the teacher to create a more socially inclusive classroom since they provide a safe environment for repeated practice without a sense of failure.
Deyenberg, J. (2013). Video games in an inclusive learning environment. Retrieved from http://www.scribd.com/doc/160266208/Video-Games-in-the-Inclusive-Classroom
Gee, J. P. (2005). Good video games and good learning. Phi Kappa Phi Forum, 85(2), 33-37. http://dmlcentral.net/sites/dmlcentral/files/resource_files/GoodVideoGamesLearning.pdf