The Future of Games and Learning

I was lucky enough to be invited to give a keynote talk last week at the Future of Technology in Education Conference. Although a bit knackered, after a 5am flight from another conference in Cork, I managed to get through it in one piece, and the feedback from twitter was very kind (although the ability to receive instant feedback after – and even during – a presentation is a bit disconcerting).

The title of the talk was What is the Future of Digital Games and Learning? (although perhaps should have been more correctly titled: What is the Future of Games and Learning in HE?) and I’m not going to go into it in depth here (the slides and video are available online). It was one of those talks where you have to come up with the title long before you think of the content. However, I wanted to share what I think will be the three big trends in games and learning in HE in the neat future, just to get an idea whether people agree, disagree or think I’ve missed anything blindingly obvious. All comments welcome!

  1. Low cost gaming. The sector can’t afford high-end games costing tens – or even hundreds- of thousands of pounds. There are now lots of free (or inexpensive) game development tools available (GameMaker, Informor Adventure Game Studio, for example) that don’t require vast amounts of technical knowledge or expertise. The proliferation of casual games also supports the use of low-budget games for learning, and games don’t even have to be digital as I think we’ll see a resurgence in traditional and mixed-media games. This is exciting as it puts the power to create educational games back in the hands of teachers.
  2. Gamification, that is, using game elements in non-game situations. There is masses of hype around this at the moment – particularly based around the PBL (points, badges, leaderboards) model – but I think it will peak then die-away and more sophisticated models will emerge that integrate ideas of curiosity and mystery, goal-setting, visible progression and rewards based on actions, set collection (as well as PB and L) but support deeper learning and more critical engagement.
  3. Student- centred gaming, where the boundary between game ‘player’ and game ‘builder’ becomes more and more blurred. There are already examples of  using game-building to teach technical or employability skills, experienced players mentoring new players in online role playing games, ARG players creating their own mythologies and narratives around the game, and the development of game-support communities.

As an aside, Katie Piatt, ran a brilliant potato-themed conference game. Her reflections can be found on her blog.

1 Comment

  1. Annabelle Howard

    Thanks for the summary. It has reassured me that I’m going in the right direction.
    I am a Brit living in the US. The image of “brilliant potato” is playing in my head from a UK and US point-of-view! In the US, potatoes are normally on couches and pretty dull 😉
    Do you know of a flexible quiz-making tool?
    Best wishes,

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