The potential of designing games for learning processes

When it comes to learning, the potential of digital games is often seen in enhancing problem solving skills as games basically are a collection of artificially constructed challenges which need to be solved by taking decisions or actions by the players. Moreover, games provide a safe space to try out causes and effects of actions and processes without having to fear any real world consequences (Gee, 2005). Although learners are also active when playing a digital game (compared to watching a film or reading a text), they need to integrate even more skills when designing their own games. The reason is that they need to learn details about game-design like narrative elements, character and world design, reward system and so on (Perry & DeMaria 2009). Beside learning about game-elements, learners need to work in teams, apply different idea-generating methods as well as being able to let go of ideas. There is even another challenge added if the task is to design games whose primary purpose is beyond mere entertainment (Michael & Chen, 2005). If a game should convey meaning or teach about a topic, game-designers need to dive deep into the contents they want to integrate. Gaming fluencies (Kafai & Peppler 2012) should be an objective of constructivist teaching as learners do not only get familiar with game design but also engage in creative, critical and technical aspects of digital media.

Game design is seen as advantageous by advocates of this teaching method because it can enhance creativity as students need to think of new worlds, characters and rules. Making a game usually is a collaborative task and furthers technological skills. Moreover, games are described as a collection of artificial obstacles – which have to be thought of and solved by game designers. Studies have also shown that content-related learning takes place in the context of game-making activities (Kafai & Burke, 2016). Using game design as a constructionist learning environment (cf. Kafai, 1994) has often been researched from the pupils’ and students’ point of view and their learning progress. However, there have also been studies looking at pupils and pre-service teachers to find out about the potential of teaching and learning by creating a virtual game learning environment for others (cf. Kafai et al. 1998; Ruggiero & Green, 2017). Especially when it comes to teaching MINT-subjects or software engineering, this approach has been widely used (cf. Claypool & Claypool, 2005, Shemran et al., 2017). The advantages sought for when using a game-design approach are the many skills learners need for designing a digital game as for example problem-solving and programming skills (VanEck, 2006). Designing digital games has, however, also been used for teaching about games as a cultural medium (Buckingham & Burn, 2007) or to enhance media literacy (Costa et al., 2018) or to make girls more interested in computer programming (Flanagan, 2006). Compared to digital game-based learning, the creation of games is not that widespread. A reason might be that designing digital games provides some barriers as for example the lack of special knowledge in creating games, the high resources regarding hardware and software that are required and finally, the high amount of time that is needed to produce a working digital game.

So why should teachers use game-design as a teaching method? Basically, you can say that game design means active work with media and thus enhances media literacy of students. Before designing their own games, students also need to be able to “read” existing games and to identify elements of a game, find out about what works and what does not work – especially when it comes to rules and reward systems. Moreover, production processes need to be understood – there are certain steps to be taken to come from an idea to a finished product. Designing a game also enhances creativity – students can realize their own ideas, they need to care for grphics, sound, animation as well as texts, design and coding. Digital games are therefore often designed in teams – which means there is another potential of game design. Teamwork needs communication and collaboration as well as project management and being able to give and get feedback. Looking at this long list of skills that can be taught by designing digital games, it becomes obvious that they should be part of every curriculum.

Sonja Gabriel


Buckingham, D. & Burn, A. (2007). Game Literacy in Theory and Practice. Journal of Educational Multimedia and Hypermedia, 16(3), 323-349.

Claypool, K. & Claypool, M. (2005). Teaching Software Engineering Through Game Design. ITiCSE ’05 Proceedings of the 10th annual SIGCSE conference on Innovation and technology in computer science education, 123-127.

Costa, C., Tyner, K., Henriques, S. & Sousa C. (2018). Game Creation in Youth Media and Information Literacy Education. International Journal of Game-Based Learning, 8(2), 1-13.

Gee, J.P. (2005). Learning by Design: Good Video Games as Learning Machines. E-Learning and Digital Media 2(19, 5-16.

Flanagan, M. (2006). Making Games for Social Change. AI & Society 20, 493-505.

Kafai, Y.B., Burke, Q. (2016). Connected Gaming. What Making Video Games Can Teach Us about Learning and Literacy. Cambridge (MA): MIT Press.

Kafai, Y. B. (1994). Minds in Play. Computer Game Design as a Context for Children’s Learning. New York: Routledge.

Kafai, Y. B., Peppler, K. (2012). Developing Gaming Fluencies with Scratch: Realizing Game Design as an Artistic Process. Steinkuehler, C., Squire, K., Barab, S. (Eds). Games, Learning, and Society. Learning and Meaning in the Digital Age, 355-379.

Michael, D., & Chen, S. (2005). Serious games: Games that educate, train, and inform. Mason: Course Technology PTR.

Perry, D., DeMaria, R. (2009). Game Design. A Brainstorming Toolbox. Boston (MA): Charles River Media.

Ruggiero, D. & Green, L. (2017). Problem Solving Through Digital Game Design: A Quantitative Content Analysis. Computers in Human Behavior, 73, 28-37.

Shemran, R.P., Clark, R.M., Bilec, M. M., Landis, A.E. & Parrish, K. (2017). Developing a Framework to Better Engage Students in STEM via Game Design: Findings from Year 1. ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings.

VanEck, R. (2006). Digital Game-Based Learning: It’s Not Just the Digital Natives Who Are Restless … EDUCAUSE Review, 41(2), 16-30.

The project significance for our school

Today video games are used as an additional or alternative method to traditional education. Video games are beneficial and used for educational purposes in the classroom or at home. So, learning from video games outside the classroom is possible as well.

So, we (five countries from Europe) decided to create the project that is about games and their use at various lessons. Two students from Alytus vocational training centre and three teachers were the core team in this project and were working on the video games. The students were selected of the computer network developer training programme and they had only basic skills of programming before the project.

At first, this project was very challenging and quite complicated for them, because our students had to learn a lot of new things. During the project they learnt HTML5, JavaScript and Canvas programming languages. They have never learned to use these programming languages for video games before. They had been working hard for two years, and finally, they created two games using “Unity” for programming. “The Pirates Looking for Treasure“, “The Maze“ are the video games with mathematical tasks for senior students who are going to take the national Math examination. Our students were very passionate about creating these games and this project was so motivating for them that they are going to study further and become computer programmers in the future.

Our Math teachers and students have already tested these games and it has been more interesting to study Math playing games than traditional lessons which are boring for students. Moreover, this project is really meaningful and beneficial for our school and students because they will use these games during the lessons and they can change the math tasks according to the topics of lessons.

Lilija Dailidaitė

The Benefits of Childhood Games

In this digital era a lot of children like playing computer games using their electronic gadgets at a very young age and they do not want to go out and have a playtime in the yard. Parents find challenging to get them off their couches. Parents understand that their children should have a normal childhood and they have to play simple traditional games which could ensure their children‘s not only physical fitness but also boost their brain power, because playing traditional games is an important part of a child‘s development.

During the meeting in Bucharest, Romania we had the chance to remember our childhood and play childhood games. One day was devoted to playing of childhood games and the motto of the day was the words of the well-known Irish writer George Bernard Shaw associated with playing: “We don’t stop playing because we grow old, we grow old because we stop playing”. Each team had to choose a specific childhood game which is popular in their country. Lithuanian team chose the game with a ball. All teams presented their games, explained the techniques of playing and all pupils had to play that game. After playing the game participants had to estimate if that game was educational or not. Pupils talked about educational objectives of the games, developed skills and acquired knowledge for the game. Some games acquired specific knowledge such as quick thinking, physical fitness, making decisions and so on.

So, we learned that simple games give children the opportunity to develop essential skills, for example, children learn to develop their imagination, experiment, solve problems, make decisions and etc. Because of interaction with their friends they learn to communicate, to share and to solve conflicts. If children play games outside they have a possibility to exercise in the fresh air which is very important for their mental and physical health.

L. Dailidaitė