INF541: Critical Reflection

Before studying INF541, my use and understanding of games and game-based learning was limited and I had little inclination to use it in my teaching. The unit has helped me to develop a reflective and nuanced view of game-based learning that has allowed me to understand how it can be implemented to aid learning.

The initial step was understanding the principles that contribute to a good game. Depending on the framework, the principles of digital-games vary but generally consist of escapism, fun, individual or social interaction, sound, secrets, guessing, anticipation, winning, losing, rules and objectives (Perrotta, Featherstone, Ashton, & Houghton, 2013; Turkay, Hoffman, Kinzer, Chantes, & Vicari, 2014; Wood, Griffiths, Chappell, & Davies, 2004). After finding a framework that resonates, I found it useful to research how different games make use of these principles, before finally moving on to designing games with an understanding of why you are using certain design features.

In reflecting on what games can bring to education, Bronwyn Stuckey’s presentation helped to develop my understanding. Stuckey argued that games shouldn’t be used to teach but as an “invitation to tinker” and to reflect on a concept. Digital-games giving learners the freedom to play and explore was a concept that was reiterated throughout the course. That freedom to explore, gave students agency and the freedom to fail and try again gave them confidence to try new things.

The course has helped me to appreciate that digital-games can (and often should) be based on a wider array of learning theories than just behaviourism. Amy’s forum post of Errant Signal’s critique of gamification was a helpful starting point in understanding that game principles cannot just be thrown against any problem to provide improved learning. The temptation of relying on behaviouristic approaches to motivate users can be counterproductive to learning as the users only focus on winning the game (Furdu, Tomozei, & Kose, 2017). However, as Carleen and Mitchell commented in the forum, this is a negative perspective of gamification and when the principles are utilised correctly, they can benefit learning through motivation (Dicheva, Dichev, Agre, & Angelova, 2015). This use of arbitrary rewards to persuade players to do something that is not in players’ best interest was raised a number of times in my research for INF541, in this Extra Credits video, the narrator summarises that by understanding the tricks used by game developers you should be better able to spot them and avoid falling in to the traps, thereby improving your gaming experience. For me, this warning was an important lesson that players will know (either implicitly or explicitly) when something is not fun and that gaming principles are being used to exploit them.

INF5410 introduced me to the concept of remediation, the depiction of one medium in another. Once I was aware of remediation, I was aware of it everywhere. The game I chose for my game-review, Simulacra, heavily relied on remediating the plot devices from horror films through a faux-mobile phone experience. I was excited by the prospect of remediation of Amy’s and Mitchell’s game projects. I utilised remediation in my final game project remediating television news, digital currency and social media apps.

Remediation cartoonSource:

One aspect of game-based learning that I would like to study further is the accessibility and inclusiveness of games. Attempting to play Ingress highlighted to me the difficulties of playing certain games (even for a fit, middle-class, white male). Although every student will experience games differently, they all should be able to play the game and explore the concept the teacher is trying to convey (Dodge et al., 2008). Part of my future studies will be exploring how games can be made accessible to students.

Prior to INF541, I considered game-based learning to be interesting but not something that I would ever use. The course has shown me how beneficial digital game-based learning can be. I have learned how game-design principles and desired learning outcomes can be combined using the wide-range of game creation tools to create exciting learning opportunities.



Dicheva, D., Dichev, C., Agre, G., & Angelova, G. (2015). Gamification in education: a systematic mapping study. Journal of Educational Technology & Society, 18(3), 75.

Dodge, T., Barab, S., Stuckey, B., Warren, S., Heiselt, C., & Stein, R. (2008). Children’s sense of self: Learning and meaning in the digital age. Journal of Interactive Learning Research, 19(2), 225.

Furdu, I., Tomozei, C., & Kose, U. (2017). Pros and cons gamification and gaming in classroom. ArXiv Preprint ArXiv:1708.09337.

Perrotta, C., Featherstone, G., Ashton, H., & Houghton, E. (2013). Game-based Learning: Latest Evidence and Future Directions (NFER Research Programme: Innovation in Education). Slough: NFER. Retrieved from

Turkay, S., Hoffman, D., Kinzer, C. K., Chantes, P., & Vicari, C. (2014). Toward Understanding the Potential of Games for Learning: Learning Theory, Game Design Characteristics, and Situating Video Games in Classrooms. Computers in the Schools, 31(1–2), 2–22.

Wood, R. T. A., Griffiths, M. D., Chappell, D., & Davies, M. N. O. (2004). The Structural Characteristics of Video Games: A Psycho-Structural Analysis. CyberPsychology & Behavior, 7(1), 1–10.

INF541: Online Reflective Journal Blog Task

Using these articles as a springboard, and your readings and interaction with the subject to date, develop a statement about your current knowledge and understanding of game-based learning. You may wish to recount an instance of your own learning through game (whether the game was designed for learning or not) and reflect on what you learned. What is the context of your ongoing learning through games? What are your personal aims in this subject? What challenges are you hoping to meet for yourself?

My knowledge and understanding of implementing game-based learning is limited but developing rapidly thanks to this course. Game-based learning is going to become an increasingly important to promote the skills required in the jobs of the future (such as collaboration and digital literacy). Game factors can be a great motivator but they must meet instructional design goals.

The Mary Rose game was very rudimentary but I can remember being so excited about it!

My personal experience with game-based learning is more varied. In school I played a number of rudimentary “progression” games. The most memorable being a game where you discovered the wreck of the Mary Rose, a sunken Tudor warship. The goals for the game (of me learning Tudor history) were brushed aside as I quickly endeavoured to finish the tasks as quickly as possible. That desire to “win” was my experience with most games and reflecting back, there were lots of teachable moments that were missed because the explicit links were not made between what I learnt in the game and how it could be applied to other parts of my life (a critical step as discussed by Spector et al (2010)). My time with edu-games were not accompanied by teachers prompting discussion on the topics the game raised.


In Theme Park, a good tactic was to increase the salt content in your chips so that customers would buy more drinks.

My entertainment gaming experience was mostly around strategy games such as Sim City and Theme Park and again, reflecting back, I learnt a great deal from those games about logistics, budgets and contingency planning. My early game-based learning was mostly as an individual and it was not until much later that I began to appreciate the learning potential from playing games with others. Halo was my first experience with cooperative play and it was exhilarating to be exchanging ideas an strategies and quickly evolving tactics and techniques to be able to complete the game.

I always learnt so much more about how to “beat” the game when I played Halo in coop mode (and had more fun)

Reflecting on my own experience and the lessons of this course I believe the game-based learning can be a very important tool. A number of the readings have raised that some scholars, teachers and parents are concerned that there is not enough evidence to support the use of video games as a valid learning tool. In order to appropriately respond to these questions on effectiveness, it is vital to look to the instructional design model. If the teacher can clearly articulate the learning goals and the skills they are looking for the student to develop, then it should be much easier to convey why the game choice will help develop those skills. The reasons for game choice will then form an important role in helping the students to make explicit links between the skills and knowledge learnt in the game and how they can be translated in to other parts of the students life.

I found this YouTube video to be a good description of Instructional Design

My readings so far have raised some important cautionary lessons to be considered if you are using game-based learning as a tool:

  • Ensuring that students have sufficient digital literacy in order to use the game for the desired learning outcomes.
  • Receiving feedback from students and iterating on your approach is important to ensure that you can harness the “tremendous potential” of game-based learning and not fall in to traps such as an over focus on  the game factors of winning and losing. (Media Literacy : New Agendas in Communication, edited by Kathleen Tyner, Taylor & Francis Group, 2009. ProQuest Ebook Central)

My personal aims for this subject are to be able to:

  • understand and convey to others why game-based learning is important;
  • learn the principles of good game-based learning so that I can create or adapt games for my work environment.
  • challenge myself to think creatively about how different games can be utilised to convey the learning goals of a subject.