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What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy

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A controversial look at the positive things that can be learned from video games by a well known professor of education.

James Paul Gee begins his new book with "I want to talk about vide games--yes, even violent video games--and say some positive things about them." With this simple but explosive beginning, one of America's most well-respected professors of education looks seriously at the good that can come from playing video games. Gee is interested in the cognitive development that can occur when someone is trying to escape a maze, find a hidden treasure and, even, blasting away an enemy with a high-powered rifle. Talking about his own video-gaming experience learning and using games as diverse as Lara Croft and Arcanum, Gee looks at major specific cognitive
* How individuals develop a sense of identity
* How one grasps meaning
* How one evaluates and follow a command
* How one picks a role model
* How one perceives the world

This is a ground-breaking book that takes up a new electronic method of education and shows the positive upside it has for learning.

240 pages, Paperback

First published May 16, 2003

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About the author

James Paul Gee

56 books47 followers
James Gee is a researcher who has worked in psycholinguistics, discourse analysis, sociolinguistics, bilingual education, and literacy. Gee is currently the Mary Lou Fulton Presidential Professor of Literacy Studies at Arizona State University. Gee is a faculty affiliate of the Games, Learning, and Society group at the University of Wisconsin–Madison and is a member of the National Academy of Education.

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5 stars
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 102 reviews
Profile Image for MJ Nicholls.
2,050 reviews4,119 followers
June 11, 2011
Mr. Gee has become the leading (or only) academic to discuss games in serious theoretical terms. This short and effective book gets to the gristle of the matter, drawing heavily on linguistics to show how the skills learnt and refined in games might revolutionise classroom education.

I support Gee’s findings entirely: the education system is in desperate competition with games, and unless new approaches—drawing on the problem-solving and independent thinking skills children learn from games—are taken seriously, an immensely important opportunity for a whole new generation to rise above mediocrity will be lost.

As a writer, Gee is fluent, occasionally indulging in his beloved jargon terms, but educators, parents and gamers should find this a refreshing read. Sadly, this hardcover edition was badly proofread: not a good idea for books with ‘literacy’ in the title. Makes people look silly.
Profile Image for Anderson Evans.
20 reviews9 followers
December 20, 2012
I hate this book. Gee's attempt to turn video game playing into a metaphor for pedagogical betterment is an example of an entire generation's misunderstanding of this ludic narrative form. It is not Gee's fault that he is born into an analog world, but it bothers and surprises me that so many people still see this book as providing any kind of valid insights. In my view this is the kind of text used in the academy that creates the wrong kinds of dichotomies and inspires the wrong kind of arguments. It consumes productivity by providing the analysis of corporate framing of the computational narrative, instead of pushing for a critical analysis of the framing construct. Perhaps such a work might have provided some food for thought a decade ago, but I doubt it. I think if you want to read a valid book about what video games have to teach us about learning and literacy, take a look at Ito's Engineering Play: A Cultural History of Children's Software
Profile Image for Julie.
61 reviews
October 2, 2010
I wanted to like this book. Really I did. As technology and the internet continue to infiltrate into every aspect of our lives, I hoped this book would help me to see how I could apply some of the video game design principles that obviously appeal so much to my students to my own teaching. After all, like most educators, my goals are to keep students engaged, and to master content through authentic learning experiences. But this is where I felt Gee's book fell short.

I found it immensely frustrating that he didn't give many examples about how the game design theory would look in an actual classroom, and instead spent page after page describing how particular video games fit into his theories in what was sometimes painful detail. It was almost like he laid all of these theories and principles out on the table, but then left it up to us to figure out how this could apply in our own classrooms. If Gee was following his own advice about zone of proximal development, he would realize that for many of his readers, the scaffolding has been left out, and accomplishing this goal is just out of our reach.

What's more, Gee implies that his theories are more appropriate for science and mathematics classrooms. While these subject areas may lend themselves a bit more to this type of learning, I think it would have been interesting to explore the potential of these theories in language arts, social studies, and other subject areas as well. Gee's overall impression of the type of learning happening in schools is "skill and drill," and while I have no doubt that is true in many schools, much of those constraints are placed on teachers through curricula and pressure for students to perform well on state mandated tests. Perhaps the next steps might be to show how this type of learning can improve test scores -- so that we can continue to strive towards helping our students become literate and productive members of society, and make the learning process more engaging for students.
Profile Image for Eric Chow.
43 reviews7 followers
November 21, 2010
A fascinating read. This is the most provocative book I've read so far. It made me think back to how I have changed my teaching method over the years. Despite what people think of the way video games are wasting the brains of youth, there is much to learn from how the media is involving young people to form their identities, create affinity groups, and work out challenges in order to reach success. There will probably be much more scholarly work on this area to come, but Mr. Gee does a highly commendable job of organizing and connecting the culture of gaming to the learning that the educational standards that the system strives to achieve, and leaves plenty of food for thought.
Profile Image for Ginny.
251 reviews
March 6, 2008
An interesting, if a bit dry, primer on learning theory as seen through a pastime that has few defenders in academia.
July 20, 2013
This was an excellent book, not perfect but the only one of its kind that I'm aware of. I would have given it 4.5 stars if the system allowed it, but I rounded up because of the groundbreaking nature of the book.

I was actually expecting more of a book on intentionally educational gaming, but Gee's book is true to its title (a rare enough characteristic that it caught me off guard). This book is about the games people play for entertainment, how they go about learning and navigating the mechanics and environment of the games, and what analogies we can draw to inform and improve more "purposeful" learning endeavors.

It's been some time since I read this, but one of the more interesting (to me) ideas in the book is what Gee refers to as the "psychosocial moratorium." I'm not much of a jargon fan, and I interpret it simply as a low risk environment in which to experiment in order to learn without risk to the learners ego. In informal surveys of friends, family and colleagues, I've found that when people wish to learn something on their own, the model they follow much more closely matches how learning occurs in games than in formal schooling. Sooner or later someone will surprise me, but up until now the universal self teaching process involves jumping in and giving it a go without making a permanent assessment along the way that influences a final "grade." Experts and references are consulted along the way, and self assessment is performed to gauge progress, but the bulk of self directed learning happens through experimentation which necessarily involved lots and lots of failure. Any number of quotes from famous inventors fits in here to confirm this. Since games are not, so far as I've seen, designed so that your performance in the initial experimentation stage affects a judgement of your final success, players as learners are free to make all the mistakes necessary to efficiently and fearlessly progress in the learning process.

Similarly, Gee points out that games to not drag the player through barely mastered level after barely mastered level the way schools do with yet to be mastered subjects. Instead, the player remains in the first level until they master the challenges it presents, and then they face the boss for the level. In most modern games, as many attempts as necessary are taken. Failure only exists for the player who gives up. In school, an early F would get averaged into the student's final grade, even if they subsequently master the material on the assessment. In a game, all that matters is the mastery; early failures and experimentation are not counted against you.

I'm focusing on a single aspect of the book that happens to be of interest to me at the moment, but Gee touches on a wide variety of topics that lead to a greater understanding of how the learning process occurs in an unforced setting. He does so from the point of view of a baby boomer discovering games in adulthood, which is an interesting aspect of the discussion all on its own. It's definitely worth picking up for any educator.
Profile Image for Tina.
11 reviews
February 1, 2011
I'm just reading this for an exam (I chose the book myself, i had bought it a few years back because I thought the topic interesting). I must say, as much as I wanted to like it, it it horribly written. Most parts are very dry and unnecessarily laden with scientific jargon. It is also overly wordy. The ideas themselves are excellent and interesting, but written in a way that exactly the people who could and should make use of them will probably never finish the book. It also lacks practical examples. Gee gives a string of 36 principles of learning (they are actually more observations and opinions than anything else) that he found in video games and that can be applied to learning in other areas (schools for example). But how to apply them practically is left for the reader to ponder. And that is almost impossible, considering the principles are also written in such convoluted terms that it is improbable that many people will understand what he has to say at all. Too bad, because I think there are a few hidden gems.[return]Another point is that the principles he found don't really have a backing in research. He bases them mostly on his own experience playing games and watching his little son play them.
Profile Image for Katy Jean Vance.
1,000 reviews57 followers
September 17, 2012
Honestly, I didn't really appreciate this book. I read it for the Level Up Book Club (which I have had to disengage from since moving to Angola- I've been a little overwhelmed) and I am glad I did. I was really struck, though, by that feeling you get in grad school that somebody took a whole bunch of really big words and applied to it to something to make it sound more important. Basically, what saved this book from a 2 star rating was the conclusion, where Gee states that his goal was not to promote video games as an essential part of education; rather, he wanted to address the effective teaching and learning that goes on while participating in a video game community. He does not claim that video games are teaching good things; indeed, some can teach very bad things. He wants us to look at the principles that make video games so engaging and think critically about what this means about today's learners and today's professional systems.

It was just too wordy. Good, I guess, but wordy.
Profile Image for Mario Russo.
261 reviews8 followers
November 11, 2017
Since it's been a while since the last game design book I've read, decided to pick this one despite the lower reviews... I can't say it has added much. It feels redundant at times, and overall it doesn't look like it is going anywhere aside from essays of experiences of a linguist playing video games. I mean, the book is not worthless, and since there is not a vast bibliography of Game Design, it may be worth a read when you have finished the "top grade" of game design books.
Profile Image for sidedishes.
22 reviews
November 26, 2018
Having grown up playing games, joining player communities, and trying to make my own as I went through the school system, I felt this book was validating but eye-opening, and I'm glad to have been exposed to these theories of learning and thought that match and extend my experiences.

I've seen calls for 'gamification' online a while ago based on points or other incentives games use to say, evade some demoralizing or ineffective evaluative systems in schools. I don't think it ever took off and even the term has a bit of a derogatory starry-eyed connotation at this point - much of it seemed to me loose, thinly-veiled Skinner-box tactics. This is none of that. The principles he brings up, about the common points between effective games and education, are positive, deeply lucid, and insightful. While motivation is one aspect of learning, much of his emphasis is on how the inherent and social structures surrounding the game make it easy for players to engage and develop quickly (rather than just make them want to play and play).

The video game examples are also entertaining and apt. At certain points I was envious of how much he seemed to enjoy playing and thinking about his games (having become a bit bored playing them now myself).

I didn't find his ideas and frameworks unnecessarily complex. I particularly liked the ideas of (1) learning as a cycle of automatization, (2) learning as only meaningful within a social perspective (semiotic domain), (3) meaning as situated meaning only, (4) understanding as regulated by implicit (cultural) models about the world.

I was a little skeptical about his analogy of distributed learning in games: at certain points he stated that knowledge about a game was embedded online in the form of guides, and not necessarily in the head of the player; this seems inconsistent with the idea of games as teaching players a skill through experience (a player could blindly follow a walkthrough and learn much less). Though I agree that online resources contribute to a greater social body of knowledge about the game, to which a player who experiences the game contributes.
Profile Image for Yilaine.
253 reviews6 followers
February 12, 2020
Excellent topic of discussion, but this didn't read well for me. I kept wondering about the ideal audience:
Gamers? No… far too dry, academic, slow-paced, and full of jargon.
Academics? Well… only if they are already curious about and open-minded to video games. But then you'd be preaching to the choir.
Teachers? Same as above. The majority of my teacher colleagues would pick this up, start reading, then get tired of slogging through the admittedly poor organization. Overall it just isn't enough to make an anti-gamer really reconsider.

I think there were many missed opportunities for what I think is an important area to start building bridges. Teachers are dismissing - often with unwarranted condescension - valuable aspects of so many kids just because of the stigma that comes with the word "gamer". It's a crying shame, and unfortunately I don't think this book helps the cause.
Profile Image for Dan.
318 reviews63 followers
July 27, 2007
This book is about how video games are becoming a new type of literacy. The book goes on to discuss how video games are very good at teaching users how to do complex things quickly, and that some of the techniques employed by video games could be adopted by educators to teach children.

This is reminiscent of how children were trained to be soldiers with video games in the book Ender's Game.

It is a dense book to read, it is somewhere between a textbook and nonfiction. Despite the fact that it is hard to read, this book is very interesting.

I read this book because my mom gave it to me for Hanukkah, and because it looked interesting.
Profile Image for Stephanie.
Author 5 books11 followers
October 21, 2017
I get what he's saying, I really do. But I feel like... Teachers don't have the same freedoms as videogame designers and all of the various ways he said "Schools kill student curiosity" really started to irk me. Because I know a lot of great teachers and they don't contribute to that.

Principles he mentioned such as "Multiple access points to learning" and "Mistakes are a part of the process," well, those are not necessarily revolutionary for a lot of teachers, either.

In the end, the principles he mentions are all well and good. It is the way he worships videogame designers and belittles how awful and boring and terrible teachers are they I didn't like.
2 reviews3 followers
July 29, 2007
Work is play and play is work...this is something I started because of my new job, but it's also something I would read for fun as well. I like the fact that Gee (now in his 60s I think) was a hardcore linguistics-type professor, then one day watched his toddler son beat him at a video game and decided to switch fields to study video games and its social/cultural/learning implications. A few years later, he started publishing seminal article and books which really helped validate the field of educational gaming. Bravo.
Profile Image for Leonard Houx.
131 reviews28 followers
September 9, 2012
I learned more about education from this book than I have perhaps any other. Strangely, though, Gee never addresses the fact that video game players play roles that are mostly incompatible with or at best irrelevant to most subjects in education. In other words, video game users may enjoy video games more than tradition education not because it provides richer, better-structured learning experiences, but because it, in an imaginative realm, allows them blow up shit.
Profile Image for Andrea Lakly.
473 reviews3 followers
April 5, 2018
I've been reading this for a project I'm doing for grad school, and I've enjoyed it quite a lot. Gee writes about how video games get people to learn. It's not so much a manifesto for the power of gaming in the classroom (though there's plenty of that) as it is an explanation of how effective learning happens.
15 reviews1 follower
February 25, 2018
Even though I read this for a class the book really opened my eyes to how video games have a huge learning component. Very well done. I loved the examples using actual games.
Profile Image for Nathan Albright.
4,488 reviews111 followers
July 12, 2019
Sometimes attempting to do more than one has to do leaves one achieving less than one would have by being more modest, and such is the case with this book.  Ultimately, this author is trying to simultaneously push two agendas in this book:  to demonstrate the legitimacy of video games as a domain that can provide insight to pedagogical efforts and simultaneously to promote a leftist view of education and relativistic morality.  Unfortunately, the author's ambitions in the latter category hinder his efforts in the first category, as while there are plenty of people who will be pleased to see the author praise radical Islamists who have created anti-Jewish games that paint Israeli settlers as the first wave of a military push, there are plenty of others, even those of us who are as favorably disposed towards video games as I am, who find the author's aims in the second category offensive enough as to not make him a fitting defender of the legitimacy of video games at all.  The author should have stuck to trying to point out the ways in which video games involve teaching and can provide models of learning that teachers can adapt in the classroom, as that would have been good enough, but the author's political agenda is unwelcome.

This particular book of a bit more than 200 pages is divided into 8 chapters that allow the author to present 36 learning principles that video games can provide to contemporary educators (at least that of a decidedly progressive bent).  The author begins with an introduction that discusses 36 ways to learn a video game (1).  After that the author discusses semiotic domains, pointing out that playing video games is not a waste of time and that the way that video games are structured not only teaches a certain approach to learning that is gently guided but also less coercive than many forms of instruction but can also teach useful content (as is the case with historical/strategy games) (2).  The author then turns to questions of learning and identity and the way that games can allow people the chance to explore other identities as well as examine their own moral worldview (3).  The author then looks at situated meaning and learning by discussing the way that games can provide moral (or immoral) instruction through the options that are presented to the gamer (4).  This leads to a discussion about telling and doing and the way that games often reward a certain rebelliousness on the part of the player (5).  After that is a discussion of the cultural models that are present within games, some of which allow players to play the "bad guy" and thus gain a moral understanding of evil from the inside (6).  The author discusses the social mind and how games can encourage interpersonal relationships with others of the same affinity groups (7) before concluding (8) and then providing the 36 learning principles in an appendix, after which there are references and an index.

Ultimately, perhaps the biggest problem about this particular book is the approach of the author to learning in general.  While it is indeed true that video games do provide an approach to learning that is worth emulating in some fashions (particularly in the way that teachers could better educate children through introducing them to subdomains of the larger fields that they are teaching, thus introducing students to the problems of the field and how they are tackled by academics and professionals), there is an underlying feeling here that the author is encouraging teachers to cater to the whims and rebelliousness and self-conceit of young people rather than recognizing that there is a strong need to encourage respect for authority and a respect for those who are older, something that is not in fashion and something that the author undercuts through a great deal of his own approach to video games.  As is the case throughout the book, the author has a worthwhile position to present in some aspects, but sabotages his efforts to win the goodwill of the reader by trying to be cool and pushing a leftist agenda, where he would have done more by being more modest and certainly more circumspect.  Video games are not a waste of time, but this author and his approach are not the best way of defending the worth of video games as a model for education.
935 reviews7 followers
June 23, 2020
I originally picked this book up as a general research tool for my Civic Engagement group. I had anticipated it would be a book that detailed all the reasons video games aren't terrible for young minds, that I could pull a few quotes out of it and be done. Once I got into it (and once I actually read the title a little closer!) I realized this book was doing something else that was far more valuable to teaching and curriculum development and my service overall.

Gee's research began after he picked up a controller and realized how difficult and complex current games are. He wanted to know why people were willing to devote 100+ hours to mastering something, sometimes in 5-10 hour increments! As a researcher, his focus is on literacy and language development in traditional classrooms—and he saw a big difference between youth’s involvement in school and in gaming. His question of "why" lead him to play many more games, and he realized what most gamers probably innately understand--good games are very good at teaching. As Gee puts it, video games are designed to enhance getting themselves learned.

Throughout the book, he goes on to outline 36 Principals of learning that are utilized in video gaming and often underutilized in modern classrooms. This book tries to cover a lot in a short space, and while some of it is pretty anecdotal and subjective, I found myself inspired by a lot of the information. He does not argue that video games should be utilized in the classroom (necessarily) or that all children should be playing all video games all the time. Instead, he thinks that educators should take a cue from the immersive environments, problem-solving, and independent thinking encouraged by the best games. I found a lot of connections between his discussion on independent thinking and problem solving and some of the most successful experiences I have had in the classroom (as student and teacher). I was also surprised by his assertion that the immersive learning and social environment often created in gaming reflects real work environments and skill development much more than traditional classrooms do.

While this book didn’t end up being exactly what I was anticipating, and though I’m still considering how valid some of his arguments are, I at least found this book thought provoking. It is rewarding, as a gamer and a teacher of technology literacy, to read an academic concerned with learning and youth development who doesn’t spend all his time disproving the harmful effects of gaming, but rather studies good games as a model for shaping better learning environments and curriculum. If you’re interested in the good effects gaming can have on players, this is maybe not the best book out there. But I would recommend this one to anybody interested in exploring why games are so effective at engaging their learners, and how teachers might begin to replicate that success.
Author 6 books99 followers
March 26, 2013
A very nice discussion about video games in light of various academic theories of learning. I particularly liked this point:

"The fact that human learning is a practice effect can create a good deal of difficulty for learning in school. Children cannot learn in a deep way if they have no opportunities to practice what they are learning. They cannot learn deeply only by being told things outside the context of embodied actions. Yet at the same time, children must be motivated to engage in a good deal of practice if they are to master what is to be learned. However, if this practice is boring, they will resist it."

"Good video games involve the player in a compelling world of action and interaction, a world to which the learner has made an identity commitment, in the sense of engaging in the sort of play with identities we have discussed. Thanks to this fact, the player practices a myriad of skills, over and over again, relevant to playing the game, often without realizing that he or she is engaging in such extended practice sessions. For example, the six-year-old we discussed in the last chapter has grouped and regrouped his Pikmin a thousand times. And I have practiced, in the midst of battle, switching Bead Bead to a magic spell and away from her sword in a timely fashion a good many times. The player’s sights are set on his or her aspirations and goals in the virtual world of the game, not on the level of practicing skills outside meaningful, goal-driven contexts.

"Educators often bemoan the fact that video games are compelling and school is not. They say that children must learn to practice skills (“skill and drill”) outside of meaningful contexts and outside their own goals: It’s too bad, but that’s just the way school and, indeed, life is, they claim. Unfortunately, if human learning works best in a certain way, given the sorts of biological creatures we are, then it is not going to work well in another way just because educators, policymakers, and politicians want it to.

"The fact is that there are some children who learn well in skill-and-drill contexts. However, in my experience, these children do find this sort of instruction meaningful and compelling, usually because they trust that it will lead them to accomplish their goals and have success later in life. In turn, they believe this thanks to their trust in various authority figures around them (family and teachers) who have told them this. Other children have no such trust. Nor do I." (pp. 68-69)

This part struck a particular chord in me since I had just read an opinion piece making exactly such an argument: that not all parts of education can be made to be fun, and that "it's important to realize early on that mastery often requires persevering through tedious, repetitive tasks and hard-to-grasp subject matter". I found myself somewhat annoyed with that position, but couldn't formulate my exact reasons for why.

After reading What Video Games Have to Teach Us about Learning and Literacy, things became much clearer in my head: part of the value of video games is that they can make a subject feel interesting and meaningful on its own. Once a person has encountered a topic in an interesting context, they will be much more likely to find the topic interesting in other contexts as well. Personal example: when we were first taught probabilities in high school, me having read The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy made the subject matter feel more interesting, even though our exercises made no mention of the Infinite Improbability Drive.

Yes, children should learn that mastering valuable skills often requires repetitive practice... but if we want them to actually learn, we should also be teaching them how to experience that practice as interesting and meaningful, and as something that is helping them get better in a field they care about. What we should not teach children is the attitude that much of learning is dull, pointless and tedious, detached from anything that would have any real-world significance, and something that you only do because the people in power force you to. Unfortunately, many traditional school systems are very successful at teaching exactly this attitude, and only the kids who have sufficient trust in various authority figures to make the learning feel meaningful manage to avoid it - and even they only succeed partially.

What Video Games Have to Teach Us about Learning and Literacy also talks about the impact of identities on learning, and by associating school with games and school success with success in fun games, we could help learners more easily develop identities as good students, helping make the learning process feel more meaningful - even when they had to tackle tasks that weren't as inherently fun.

I also liked the discussion of the fact that if a person reads a text that covers a topic the person doesn't have much experience of, it can be very hard to understand exactly what it is that the text is saying. The words aren't clearly connected to the concepts that they are discussing. And much of school learning does consist of having the students read elaborate discussions of concepts that they don't necessarily have much experience of. Even when the students do successfully memorize the rough content of the writing, they are not likely to understand it or be able to apply it very well.

In contrast, somebody playing a video game is actively engaged in the content of the game, free to experiment around with it. Well-designed video games also involve a gradual and natural progression where the players naturally obtain various skills required for playing the game. Once they have beaten the game, it is certain that they have acquired those skills to a far greater extent than if they had just read and memorized the game manual. Games provide for active learning, and the way that a game proceeds from easy initial levels to challenging late-game levels forces a player to constantly acquire additional skills while also practicing the basic skills, in an organic and natural fashion.

The main flaw of the book is that while it provides an excellent discussion of academic theory on learning, its discussion of the way the theory relates to games is at times somewhat superficial. A more detailed analysis of the content of some games in light of the theory would have been nice.
703 reviews
July 9, 2020
I chose to read this book because it seemed different than the typical fare. Also, as a non-gamer surrounded by gamers, at home and at work, I felt like I needed to make an effort to understand the appeal as well as the learning potential. Some of the key points that spiral throughout the book are that learning should be both challenging yet doable. How people cannot learn in a deep way if they are not willing to commit themselves to the learning in terms of time, effort, and active engagement. That such a commitment requires seeing oneself in terms of new identity, as the kind of person who can learn, use, and value the new information, and that as successful learners, "will be valued and accepted by others."
Gee has a very negative perception of the public school system. In his experience, education is all about drill and kill rather than that which stresses strategic thinking and problem-solving, often collaboratively. Science classes are the only ones he seems to have any hope for in that they, like video games, require students to use their experiences, try different strategies, make sacrifices, and even fail once in a while to figure things out and ultimately win the game. I disagree that this only happens in science, but understand that not all schools or teachers have the same ideas about what education looks like. 3.5
Profile Image for Michelle.
98 reviews3 followers
June 3, 2018
This seminal work on video games and learning theory inspired and drives my dissertation research. Gee began this intellectual path with the publication of Social Linguistics and Literacies (1990), which developed into "A Pedagogy of Multiliteracies" (1996), a foundational work of the New Literacies Movement.

The 1st ed. Of this book was published in 2003, when game design was quickly growing as an academic deiscipline. Since then Gee has revised the book and refined his ideas on how good video games employ certain learning structures and principles that lead to active, engaged learning for those who play them.

This book is the theoretical framework for my dissertation. I find it fascinating now to watch young kids playing video gamez. I can actually see them embodying the principles in this book. In my dissertation I will apply this framework to data I gather on an un-investigated demographic in the video game playing population. I can't wait.
Profile Image for Graham.
1,257 reviews62 followers
April 16, 2023
An interesting little pro-video game book discussing how the learning principles enshrined in video games could be transferred to the classroom in order to improve learning for kids. The author is against learning by rote, the old-fashioned drill-and-skill approach, and instead favours social collaboration, creativity and adaptability. Part of this light read consists of the self-acknowledged baby boomer author playing video games, which isn't that interesting, but the more theoretical parts are. Please note that this book came out in 2003 so the most modern games discussed here are METAL GEAR SOLID and HALF-LIFE!
Profile Image for Farid Tabatabaie.
4 reviews1 follower
April 18, 2019
The only reason I’ve given it 4 stars instead of 5 is that it was either not edited at all or very poorly edited. (At least the edition I read was). Replete with typos and grammatical errors. Otherwise a very good read.
Profile Image for Ilib4kids.
1,100 reviews3 followers
September 7, 2015
794.8019 GEE
Active, Critical Learning, not passive.

用 VIDEO GAME 从语言学家的角度阐述什么是好的教学方法和教学环境和好的 Literacy 学习 。评价现行的教育机制和教学方法。总结36条原则。
e.g Knowledge transfer, DI(Direct instruction) , whole Language.
Author is a linguist before doing education research later.
After reading this book, you would know if 背单词的好处和坏处?
Pro: efficient to how massive vocabulary in a short time.
Cons: these vocabulary is learned not in situated environment, therefore their meaning is shallow, with less connections with the our own mind, and would not last long, and could not use them correctly matched to conditions.

Best game so far: Minecraft.

p8 Situated Cognition;New Literacy study;Connectionism
p17 "the fourth-grade slump"
p33 game platform: Playstation (X or 2), Nintendo GameCube, or Xbox
p58 Tripartite play of identities (a virtual identity, a real-world identity, a project identity)
p62 psychosocial moratorium
p90 Abstract systems originally go their meanings through such embodied experiences for those who really understand them. Abstraction rises gradually out of the ground of situated meaning and practice and returns there from time to time, or it is meaningless to most being.
p94 DI: Direct Instruction (script Direct Instruction)
p96 Appreciative system
p134 "Garden Paths" means mislead.

diSessa Boxer programming

1. Simulation Game: SimCity, Sims, Railroad Tycoon, Tropico
2. Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura (2001) Windows
3. The new Adventure of Time machine (Based on H.G Wells' book The Time machine)

chap2: Semiotic Domain
chap 3: Learning and Identity
4. chap 4: Situated Meaning and Learning
Deus Ex: cyberpunk-themed action-role playing video game — combining first-person shooter, stealth and role-playing elements, named "Best PC Game of All Time" in PC Gamer's "Top 100 PC Games" (last in 2011)
5. chap 5: Telling and Doing
Tome Raider ( to be Lara Croft) also movie now called "Lara Croft";System Shock 2
6. chap 6: culture models
RollerCoaster Tycoon: building, maintaining, making a profit from amusement park
Model of Honor Allied Assault: about World War II , invasion of Omaha beach, reminiscent of the opening scene of Saving Private Ryan
Civilization III: about world history
Half-life/ Deus Ex / Red Faction: conspiracies where powerful and rich people... seek to control the world through force and deception: Half-life is one of most renowned first-person shooter games of all time.
Grand Theft Auto 2, Grand Theft Auto III, Grand Theft Auto:Vice City
Under Ash Controversial game, develop after Sep.,11, 2001
The longest Journey / Siberia games with no violence instead of conversation.
Thief:The Dark Project / Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of liberty/ No one lives Forever 2: A spy in H.A.R.M's Way stress stealth and cunning over fighting
Anachronox / Baldur's Gate II:Shadows of Amin stress teamwork.
Return to Castle Wolfenstein :culture model: superhuman, heroic, individualism
Operation Flashpoint:Cold War Crisis :culture model:wars is boring,.....complete different from Return to Castle Wolfenstein
America's Army Developer(s): United States Army
7. chap 7: The social mind
p189 If we want to know how good students are in science- or how good employees are in a modern knowledge-centered workplace - we should ask the following (and not just the first):What is in their head? How well can they leverage knowledge in other people and in various tools and technologies (including their environment)? How are they positioned within a network that connects them in rich ways to other peoples and various tools and technologies? Schools tend to care only about what is inside students' heads as their heads and bodies are isolated form others, from tools and technologies, and from rich environments that help them powerful nodes in the networks.
p197 Distributed Principle: Meaning/knowledge is distributed across learner, objects, tools, symbols, technologies, and environments.
p201 canonical literature (the so-called Great books) is indoctrinating.The canon
Homer, Shakespeare, Milton, Carlyle, Arnold, Austen, Emerson, Dryden, Goldsmith
p203. A work is canonical, for me, if it gives peoples, in Kenneth Burke's phrase, new and bettter "equipment for living" in a harsh and unfair world. It is canonical if it allows them to image, and seek, in however small a way, to implement newer and better selves and social worlds.
In this sense, works like Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man and Gloria Naylor's Mama Day are canonical for me and for many other people.

Jean lave situated learning .. well exemplified in classrooms called Communities of Learners by Ann Brown /Joe Campione p190
EverQuest: most popular online games
Half-Life (Scientist-Alien) /Day of Defeat /Counter-Strike (conversion of Half-life) P194 Mods (r Fan modification), Modders

The Social Mind: Language, Ideology, and Social Practice (Language and Ideology) by James Paul Gee (Jan 1992)
The new work order: Behind the language of the new capitalism (Studies in education) by James Paul Gee (1996)
September 23, 2019
Found this book after reading many excerpts from Gee’s writings, and really enjoyed it. I think any teacher or aspiring teacher should read this book.
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79 reviews1 follower
May 29, 2022
Yet another great resource for my research paper!
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142 reviews1 follower
December 30, 2022
I thought that this book would be a lot easier to read, to be honest it felt more like I was reading a thesis then if I was reading an actual book. I guess it would be a good book for research purposes. Unfortunately I would find it hard to recommend it to anyone I know.
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