Overview of Key Concepts

Here are some key concepts (with general ideas and quotes) I've noticed while reading some of the literature on gaming and learning (see References). Of course, there are many others - feel free to add ones you think are important!




“Adaptivity means that the games continually adjusts itself to each player’s skills and abilities." (Prensky, p. 60)




- Gaming can be social (Johnson, p. 20)

- “While you don’t need to be able to enact a particular social practice (e.g., play basketball or argue before a court) to be able to understand texts from or about that social practice, you can potentially give deeper meanings to those texts if you can. This claim amounts to arguing that producers (people who can actually engage in a social practice) potentially make better consumers (people who can read or understand texts from or about the social practice)” (Gee, p. 15)




- Intelligence does not lie in content of game (Johnson, p. 57)

- It's not what the player is thinking about, but the way she is thinking (Johnson, p. 60)

- Curricular learning games - MIT Supercharged!, Revolution; Lucas Games lesson plans; Games2train, America’s Army (Prensky)

- Combining games and content: “The tricky part is putting the two together in ways that capture, rather than lose, the kids’ interest and attention.” (Prensky, p. 15)


- More cool educational/curricular games – Objection!, Making History, The Algebots; the company Tabula Digita (Prensky, p. 86)

- “The problem with the content view is that an academic discipline, or any other semiotic domain, for that matter, is not primarily content, in the sense of facts and principles. It is rather primarily a lived and historically changing set of distinctive social practices. It is in these social practices that ‘content’ is generated, debated, and transformed via certain distinctive ways of thinking, talking, valuing, acting, and, often, writing and reading" (Gee, pp. 20-21)

- “The content of video games, when they are played actively and critically, is something like this: They situate meaning in a multimodal space through embodied experiences to solve problems and reflect on the intricacies of the design of imagined worlds and the design of both real and imagined social relationships and identities in the modern world” (Gee, p. 48)




- language is testing hypotheses – so is gaming. ‘”inductive discovery” – acting like a scientist by making observations, formulating hypotheses, and figuring out the rules governing the behavior of a dynamic representation (Prensky, p. 35)

- probe, hypothesize, reprobe, rethink cycle à parallels real world processes:

“Playing a good video game like Deus Ex well requires the player to engage in the following four-step process:

     1. The player must probe the virtual world (which involves looking around the current environment, clicking on something, or engaging in a      certain action).

     2. Based on reflection while probing and afterward, the player must form a hypothesis about what something (a text, object, artifact, event,      or action) might mean in a usefully situated way.

     3. The player reprobes the world with that hypothesis in mind, seeing what effect he or she gets.

     4. The player treats this effect as feedback from the world and accepts or rethinks his or her original hypothesis.” (Gee, p. 90)






3 Identities:

- “virtual identity: one’s identity as a virtual character in the virtual world of Arcanum” (Gee, p. 54)

- “real-world identity: namely, my own identity as “James Paul Gee,” a nonvirtual person playing a computer game.” (Gee, p. 55)

- “projective identity, playing on two senses of the word “project,” meaning both “to project one’s values and desires onto the virtual character” (Bead Bead, in this case) and “seeing the virtual character as one’s own project in the making, a creature whom I imbue with a certain trajectory through time defined by my aspirations for what I want that character to be and become (within the limitations of her capacities, of course).”” (Gee, p. 55)

- the interplay of these identities “transcends identification with characters in novels or movies, for instance, because it is both active (the player actively does things) and reflexive, in the sense that once the player has made some choices about the virtual character, the virtual character is now developed in a way that sets certain parameters about what the player can do" (Gee, p. 58)

- “The projective identity is the space in which the learner can transcend the limitations both of the virtual identity and the learner’s own real-world identity" (Gee, p. 66)




 - “[C]ognitive scientists have argued that the most effective learning takes place at the outer edges of a student’s competence: building on knowledge that the student has already acquired, but challenging him with new problems to solve. Make the learning environment too easy, or too hard, and students get bored or frustrated and lose interest. But if the environment tracks along in sync with the students’ growing abilities, they’ll stay focused and engaged.” (Johnson, p. 177)




- The term can refer to the act of modifying a piece of hardware or software or anything else for that matter, to perform a function not originally conceived or intended by the designer. (Wikipedia)

- e.g., D&D into a game about living in 1776 America; “a game about shooting mummies in caves into a game about meeting clients in airports” (Prensky, p. 118)




- The human brain seeks order (Gee, Johnson)

- Patterns prepare you for future learning in a way that lists don’t" (Gee, p. 96)

- The brain, as a pattern recognizer, is not “mental” but social (Gee, p. 180)




- Best-selling games are open-ended, no definite endings – can be played forever (Johnson)

- edutainment skill & drill vs. more complex games – “totally different from the many exciting ways (often invisible on the surface) that games can, and do, teach.” (Prensky, p. 11)




- “I learned that video games create what the psychologist Eric Erickson has called a psychosocial moratorium—that is, a learning space in which the learner can take risks where real-world consequences are lowered" (Gee, p. 62)