GBL – The Green Light for Enlightenment

Investigating the potential of games based learning (GBL) for education has resulted in a range of valuable experiences to assist with their development and implementation. Developing GBL activities is challenging because of the need to align the contents of games to the curriculum. Implementing GBL is also challenging because of the need to diagnostically, formatively and summatively assess the value that has been added to student learning opportunities and the associated teaching programs. After learning more about why formal education environments have been slow to adapt GBL technologies in mainstream classrooms (Hocknull, 2015a), motivation for pursuing these technologies was not hard to find because of the increasing ubiquity and popularity of video games in our society as seen in the rise of activities such as eSports (Stockwell and McVeigh, 2015).


Research into developing GBL activities involved a critical analysis and evaluation about the nature of video game characteristics. This involved a consideration about the debate and slow adoption of GBL in formal school environments because of characteristics such as violence and associated issues of problem use (Bourgonjon, et. al., 2011). This debate has made it difficult for teachers who are passionate about digital technologies to utilise the affordances of GBL as well as complementary technologies such as Web 2.0 applications (Baek, 2008). Participatory communities are using video games and Web 2.0 technologies to communicate in creatively sophisticated ways with transmedia content that demonstrates high levels of information literacy.


A significant development in my approaches toward GBL have occurred after investigating the nature of compulsive behaviours that result from the characteristic of uncertainty in video games (Hocknull, 2015b; Hocknull, 2015c). Opportunities to research Csikszentmihalyi’s (2014) psychological concept of flow (finding a balance between game challenge and the player’s skill levels) in relation to GBL resulted in a deeper knowledge about features of challenge in video games such as uncertainty. Costikyan (cited in Game Design Conference, 2014) suggests that challenge in games is necessary to maintain enjoyment and that uncertainty is a significant aspect of this characteristic. When developing or choosing GBL activities for the classroom, an understanding of the characteristics of flow can assist in balancing features of the game by making it fun and align it with curriculum content.


Further research about implementing GBL focused on the important relationship between play, games and learning. Re- purposing lesson activities using GBL needs to consider the concept of flow in play and games to make lessons fun, however, an equal amount of concern needs to be given to aligning game content with curriculum outcomes for learning (Hocknull, 2015d). One of the most important affordances of GBL in this context are the affordances of these technologies to make learning fun and to also provide opportunities that are relevant to the 21st C skills that students need in information fluency. A balanced approach to GBL needs to consider Jenkins’ evaluation of transmedia and participatory cultures and how they are developing communities of practice that add considerable value to our society (Jenkins, cited in Smithsonian American Art Museum, 2012).


Designing, choosing and implementing GBL is a challenge because the future developments and social acceptance of these valuable and popular technologies are uncertain. The course has been fun because of this uncertainty and it has allowed me an opportunity to set goals that are out of my comfort zone in relation to knowledge and skills. I look forward to developing an OpenSim server and providing GBL platforms for school communities as well as choosing appropriate commercial games to be aligned with curriculum content. Hopefully games will not be a distraction in the classroom (like the Ingress HiSec messages I keep getting while trying to do this blog) and instead be a leveller for our world and source of creativity for diverse cultures.




Baek, Y. K. (2008). What hinders teachers in using computer and video games in the classroom? Exploring factors inhibiting the uptake of computer and video games. CyberPsychology & Behavior, 11(6), 665-671. Retrieved from


Bourgonjon, J., Valcke, M., Soetaert, R., De Wever, B., & Schellens, T. (2011). Parental acceptance of digital game-based learning. Computers & Education, 57(1), 1434-1444. Retrieved from:

Game Design Conference. (2012). “Uncertainty in Games” Greg Costikyan, Playdom.


Game Design Conference. (2012). “Uncertainty in Games” Greg Costikyan, Playdom.


Hocknull, I. (2015a). Are digital games being overlooked in ‘digital education’ reform? Retrieved from


Hocknull, I. (2015b). Video Game Behaviour and Education Practices. Retrieved from


Hocknull, I. (2015c). An uncertain future: The exciting world of GBL. Retrieved from


Hocknull, I. (2015d). Gaming classroom information systems. Retrieved from


Smithsonian American Art Museum. (2012). The Art of Video Games: Interview with Henry Jenkins


Stockwell, S. and McVeigh, S. (2015). The rise of eSports. Retrieved from:

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