A definition of educational games

A definition of educational games

If we examine different gaming definitions, we will observe that games are viewed as closed systems, the context of which has a meaning only inside their own scope. Johan Huizinga, proposed the notion of a playground, isolated from the real world, bound by specific rules, the rules of the game that someone plays. This playground is called the Magic Circle. According to Eric Zimmerman and Katie Salen, the magic circle of a game is where the game takes place. When people play, they enter this magic circle or they create a new one. Let’s take for example two children playing doctor, performing surgery on a doll. The children know that they are not doctors. They also know that the doll is not alive. But within the boundaries of the magic circle, they are bound by its rules and conventions. The idea of the magic circle shows the particular and immersive nature of games and emphasizes their potential in learning contexts.

In any case, the great complexity and immense connection of play and games with our everyday lives make them rather difficult to describe and define. So, let’s try to have an overview of the aspects and qualities that the definitions above cover. Considering play as an expression or aspect of every human activity, as Piaget suggested, play can also be viewed as an expression or aspect of learning. From the other side, when people play games, they are also prone to learn. They are presented with artificial problems that they need to find solutions to and through their interaction with the games, they may receive new information, develop their skills or form different perspectives on topics related to their lives and society. Players’ decisions and actions matter in gaming contexts, since the development of a game is very connected to them. Many would say that decisions and actions are important for simple activities that are not characterized as games too. Any type of exam requires solvers to make decisions. Are they games? The vast majority are not! The main reason for this is that they are not intrinsically motivating by themselves. In this sense, we could try to describe educational games as:

Interactive problem-solving structures, presenting players with a set of positions or options, the decision among which may result in different outcomes, both positive or negative for players, the advancement through which aims to create intrinsically motivating learning experiences (Kalmpourtzis, 2019)

This definition tries to cover the aspects that were examined in this chapter. Whether you agree with this definition or not, each individual perspective that is being presented will be examined thoroughly in a series of upcoming posts.


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[11] G. Kalmpourtzis, Educational Game Design Fundamentals. CRC Press, 2018
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[15] G. Kalmpourtzis, Connecting game design with problem posing skills in early childhood. British journal of educational technology, 50(2), pp.846-860, 2019