Game-Based Learning


Educational writer and speaker, Marc Prensky came up with the phrase “Digital Game-Based Learning,” now referred to as simply game-based learning, or GBL. Prensky and others like him share the belief that the motivational aspect of games can be combined with curricular goals and content to facilitate learning in schools.

Supportive Stats:
  • “…On average, using academic games in the classroom is associated with a 20 percentile point gain in student achievement.” (Using Games To Enhance Student Achievement, Marzano)
  • “92% of children ages 2–17 play video and computer games.” (National Institute on Media and the Family, 2001)



  • Motivational tool/fun/heightens interest for topic
  • Activates prior knowledge
  • Provides immediate feedback
  • Assesses progress
  • Promotes critical thinking
  • Provides opportunity to differentiate instruction
  • Develops computer skills and technological fluency
  • Non-linear format appeals to the “modern” student

  • Possibly too much competition
  • May not appeal to all students’ interests
  • Others’ perceptions of games may be negative
  • Time/ difficulty fitting into curriculum
  • Technology availability
  • Non-linear may be intimidating to some teachers


Types of Games:

1. MMORGs, or Massive Multi-player Online Role-playing Games. These are commercial games, typically made for entertainment purposes. Many of these are role-playing games that follow fictional storylines. Some well known examples are: World Of WarCraft, Final Fantasy and RuneScape.

Benefits of Use:
- Potential for constructivist learning by providing interaction with material
- Teamwork
- Interactive/engaging
- Social – working with other students, sharing ideas/techniques
- Critical thinking – using knowledge to make appropriate decisions
- Problem-solving/inquiry – through investigations and testing diff. ideas
- Creativity - i.e. making avatars, finding multiple solutions

2. Educational or “Serious” games are on-line and off-line games meant to facilitate student learning. An example of an on-line educational game is Outbreak at WatersEdge where players must discover the source of an illness and try to save the community. Some examples of off-line games are those that that are designed after traditional games or game shows, i.e. Jeopardy, Wheel of Fortune, Pyramid, Family Fued. These can be played via programs such as Powerpoint or SmartBoard.

Benefits of Use:
- Quiz/assess knowledge
- Review content
- Practice skills
- Problem solving (i.e. puzzles)

Resources For Online Educational Games:

Templates For Off-line Educational Games:

3. Educational MUVEs, or Multi-User Virtual Environments, are where commercial MMORGs meet educational games. Educational MUVEs allow students to work in and explore virtual environments via an avatar that they create. Students can play individually or simultaneously with their classmates. Students are able to interact and collaborate with each other, facilitating team-based learning. They can also use and interact with digital tools or artifacts in the virtual environment. They are given problems so solve and provided with factual information to guide them to one of many solutions. Many educational MUVEs are aligned with state standards. Some examples of educational MUVEs are: Quest Atlantis, Revolution, and River City.

River City Project Website:

Quest Atlantis Website:


How To Use Educational Games in your Classroom:

Ways to Incorporate Educational online and offline Games
  • Individual or partners at a learning center to practice skills
  • Whole group review of material

Ways to Incorporate Educational MUVEs
  • Individually, on student’s own time to reinforce content and practice inquiry
  • Whole group, as a class to explore/learn content and practice inquiry/ problem solving

Ensuring Effective Use
  • Target the content – make sure the game addresses topic in meaningful way
  • Debrief post-game - revisit content, clear up misconceptions
  • Do not stress the competition aspect - stakes should not be too high

Educational MUVE Games: (also avail. in Spanish)

Online Educational Games:

Offline Educational Game Templates (ie: Jeopardy, Wheel of Fortune…)

Journal Articles:

Other Articles, Websites and Resources: