Tag Archives: game research


games VS learning material


The decision to write this lengthily post in here is based on:

  •  After being asked to define games, and in spite that I consider myself a game researcher into educational technologies, I wasn’t able to give a proper definition of them on the fly 🙁   Auch…. That put me to think about this again. But you know to understand games, as play as the gameplay is a very complex task in itself. (btw, it is not an excuse, just that at least for me it requires time to process)
  • Several of my colleges are getting interested to get involve in games in some way in their own research. Then, I seek that this post might be useful, perhaps for someone, to clarify if what you are referring is a game, or it is an activity with play-elements. It might exist a small difference between these two and this might bring a debate. But in any case I believe that will enrich us as researchers.

Then let me start with games facts (long), then learning material (briefly) and some conclusions (very briefly)


 No_random_fact_1:  I do not posses a personal definition about games.

I will not give a personal definition of games, I am not ready for it. However, I will exteriorized to which definition I subscribe myself in No_random_fact_4.

No_random_fact_2: History

Games and the game-play overall are not new, and they are VERY old. In addition they are strongly culturally interwoven. And if I put the “cultural” word in here, anyone of us can understand that it implies complexity. Then, for a clear comprehension of games, play and the game-play along time, I suggest to understand the culture that surrounds them. Actually it is said: civilization was not built upon games, however games existed before civilization.

Then best way to start for creating a common ground about games and the game-play I suggest to read history.  The books of  Humo Ludens from  Johan Huizinga and the one of Man, Play and Games from Roger Callois are examples of valuable historical analysis and without a doubt foundations for anyone that one to work in the research using games.

No_random_fact_3: Unclear definition of games from Educational Researchers

This is a tuff one as constant debate exist in Educational research forums abut games and the curriculum. Actually this is one reason why I do not subscribe to formal learning at all.

 It is a fact that games are powerful educational methodologies if they are used appropriately (Allessi and  Trollip , Sandfor et al, Reeves, etc.) . However creating successful games in educational settings it is not easy.

Now, I haven’t seen yet any Educational Scientist who defines games. What I have seen so far is their opinions about: 

  • the classification of different genres of games according to the educational perspective
  • the elements that educational scientists consider a games should have:
  1. Introduction (goals, rules, directions, constrains, penalties, choices, etc.)
  2. Body of game (scenario, level of reality, cast, skill versus chance, types of action, etc)
  3. Conclusion of game (recognition, providing information, final message, etc)

But what is actually a game for them? and/or a definition about games – still waiting to read an answer.

Now as the new trend of serious games (created by game researchers) increases in popularity, it gives the impression (at least to me) that educationalist just want to join this movement, according to their way of thought. In other words it is possible to breath (implicitly) between the debates that serious games might resolve all their actual challenges (e.g. motivation, engagement, etc.).

But WAIT education is more powerful than just a game !!!  The paper of Ravenscroft and McLister had given me the best food of though in this direction (within education and games). One of their conclusions is:

“It has become clear that the value of, motivation for, and pleasure experienced with (digital) educational games will not just come from the interaction itself – but how the game interaction is integrated and interwoven with the broad education process and related technologies. So we should not just be asking ‘What makes a good educational game?’, but also ‘Why would we want to play it?’ and ‘What long-term value do we get from it?”

 I just can say, EXCELLENT reflection!! The game, if it is for learning, can be observed neither created in isolation (just focusing in the games and the learning objectives) but it should be interwoven with the educational process. And from my own opinion, it should go even further or beyond those limitations, going back to the No_random_fact_2, games are embedded in culture.

To summarize this no_random_fact_3, my opinion towards pure educationalist and games at the moment is:

  • Researchers in education have a school of though with clear objectives of their existing purpose. That offers possibilities and challenges as any school of though (one way to see is a way to do not see something else, as Conni has always mentioned to me).
  • Until now I haven’t seen a definition of games coming from Educational Scientist, does someone have one?

No_random_fact_4: Game Researchers

They have put attention in games, play and the gameplay, its meaning, their implications (individual, collectively), etc. from former times to the actual digital gaming. Definitions are several, but I subscribe myself to the one given by Salen and Zimmerman:

“A game is a system in which players engage in an artificial conflict, defined by rules, that results in a quantifiable outcome.” 

 As one of my ex-professor in OO programming used to told us: “Simple is beautiful”. However, within that simplicity  it is also the tip of an iceberg.

I will copy a small summary of each part of the definition directly from Salen and Zimmerman:


It refers to a game system. There are many ways to frame a game as a system: a mathematical system, a social system, a representational system, etc.  There are four elements that all systems share:

– Objects are the parts, elements, or variables with the system.

– Atrributes are the qualities or properties of the system and its objects

– Internal relationships are the relationships among the objects 

– Environment is the context that surround the system.

The way these elements are identified in any individual game depends on the way it is frames as a system. The four elements would be different, for example, if a games were framed as a formal, mathematical system, and experiential system of play, or as a cultural system.

These three framings or a games as system, formal, experimental and cultural, are embedded in each other. A game as a formal system is always embedded within a experiential system and a games as a cultural system contains formal and experiential systems.

Although all the three levels (formal, experiential, and cultural) exist simultaneously, ti can be useful to focus on just one of them when making an analysis of solving a design problem. It is crucial when designing a game to understand how these three levels interact and interrelate to each other.

Systems can be open or closed. An open system has an exchange of some kind with its environment. A closed system is isolated from its environment. Whether or not you consider a game as closed or open depends on the way you frame it.


A game is something that one or more participants actively play. Players interact with the system of a game in order to experience the play of the game


Games maintain a boundary from so-called “real life” in both time and space. Although games obviously occur within the real world, artificiality is one of the their defining features


All games embody a contest of powers. The contest can take many forms, from cooperation to competition, from solo conflict with a game system to multiplayer social conflict. Conflict is central to games.


We concur with the authors that rules are a crucial part of games. Rules provide the structure our of which play emerges, by delimiting what the player can and can not do.

Quantifiable outcome

A quantifiable outcome is what usually distinguishes a game from less formal play activities.


Actually I do not know what a learning material is. I try to search for it, but, I mainly got hits about diverse didactic materials.

If someone can tell me what a learning material is, be my guest ;). So far, I see it as objects (from lego to books, or from sound to videos) that can be used for education.

Meanwhile I will use a non elaborate way of understand this. I assume that a learning material is any type of didactic objects (digital and non digital) that educators can use to support the teaching-learning activities.


  • Games (as systems) are marvelous learning methodologies that support specific activities and learning outcomes. However for its existence it is important to interwoven the elements that surround the system with the game.
  • Learning materials by itself are not games.
  • No all learning activities are games, however they can have game-elements.
  • To create games within the mark of formal learning is VERY challenging, as games integrate learning across a number of subject areas, in addition to cover some educational requisites.
  • Games are not the solution for all !!! –  Even if I am a crusade about games, I admit this point. My dad always tells me: everything has its moment and its own time.

In another moment I might clarify the distinction between games, play and gameplay. Even the adjective “playful” deserves special attention.

I would add that games are also art. Like multimedia, painting or cooking. One should know what to combine in order to get specific outcome. To put all the media together without thinking it is just overwhelming, the same with games!. (or mixing all colours at once, we will only get black, then learn to use the colour to paint master pieces)

Any comments or suggestions even complains are welcome. As this is actually very messy to clarify in my head. Life long learning, I admit 😛

Mmmmm…. maybe I should write a paper about this at some point 😉


march in brief….

Sometime ago, I start to question myself for what do I want my blog?. Different people use it with different purposes. Some complete intellectual, others as a personal diary, others as publicity, jokes, etc. Still I do not have a reason or focus of mine, hence, I really do not know how to personalized it.

Nevertheless this time I want to publish with the goal of remembering. Yeap, March 2007 has been a month with many things to digest and I haven’t moved from my actual physical place much.

Let’s see, from the intellectual part: it was submitted 2 conference papers (March 1st. to DiGRA and March 15th to PerGames. Ok, I know to submit it does not imply to be accepted, which it is fine as long as we get valuable feedback. However it does imply an effort to write. And for ME scholarly writing is a pain in the ass!!! Hopefully one day a miracle will show up and I will be able to do it.

Besides that, a report of activities for my Mexican grant should be sent and reach Mexico before March was over and a trial of my research proposal for the game seminar I am taking in Tampere was due on the 5th of March. My goal was to get some feedback from the Game researchers. To close properly this month, well a submission for the Seminar of Games and Society was due on the 31st of this March.

From practical things, well SciMyst born. Yeap after some months of gestation and hard work, it came to the world in the SciFest . And without a doubt I will write more about it soon. It has a lot of dreams and research. Without doubt looking forward to make it growth. And I should make public that if it was not for the passion and effort of all the members who work on it, it wouldn’t be possible to bring it alive. Thanks to each one.

Also the digitalizing of the Seniors’ games is taking place. For those who knows Joensuu and specially for those who speak Finnish you will enjoy them 😉 Soon they will be available on line for all the public.

However from all that, the most remarkable event was that I turn to be an Aunt and also in the same month Paul went to heaven.

I am from the philosophy to do and be my best. Life is a right and obligation to be lived, as long as we are in here. And it is up to each individual how to live it. However, Paul showed me to fight with all your strength for the life, and to do not complain about the adversities. It is amazing how much can teach and give someone in just one week, such a innocent and little one, and that independently of anything else. Because it doesn’t matter of the loved surround us, money or technology anything is granted. We only have to be our bests. This is really difficult and hard to digest.

Also I would like to read again how Einstein explains relativity. Because in this month I lived on my own person how each moment of time was endless, because I wanted to know about my love ones, and the pain makes the things no easy. And at the same time so ephemeral because I was not able to finish what I wanted to do (even if I prepare tons of things weeks in advance) and that special feeling showed up too when you see some of your dreams come truth after so much effort but you can’t share it with your love ones because there is deep pain too. All at the same time, it is just bizarre!

I think I will need a time to process all these.

Ah!!! And I forget to add, I crashed the Network of the Department, they said it had implications to the University Network. No idea of the impact of my trip to second floor with my baby . As a good chaotic  engineer I made it work in the place I need it 😉 in a really naïve way, because I never wanted to harm the whole network. However, it was interested to have this feeling “wanted dead or alive” oh god!!! what a month!!!

are we easy to get impress?

Jessica Mulligan told us at the workshop of Games and Storytelling that we, westerns, have no idea how is the gaming phenomenon in Asia. Unfortunately I can’t read any Asian languages, but little by little information has been filtering, as a great post from Henry Jenkins. And today I remember her words so thoughtful. An example of what she meant: in this side of the planet, western, people make a big noise because WoW has 6 million players register, as it can be noticed the excitement about this number in Aula 2006 with Joichi Ito and he is not the only one, a diversity of media highlight this fact. And this is a game played mainly in USA, Canada, Australia and Europe (which means several countries right?!).

Now, on the other side of the planet, in east: only in China, and only in one of their local virtual worlds (they have several of course) they present 25 million players registered . Interesting right?! And still I haven’t been able to see numbers of players in Korea or Japan, other leaders countries in playing. With this I only want to mention, we have just NO idea of what it is happening.

For those who want to know a bit about the impact in real life of this Virtual Worlds, at least an example in China, I openly recommend to read the previous mentioned post from Henry Jenkis.

are we all kids?

From the Aula 2006 Joichi Ito talked about World of Warcraft. It called my attention how persistently he mentioned that the players in WoW are Kids.

I agree that ALL of us have a child inside, even that I do not think he really means that. Or I start to wonder about the age range in the term of kids. Because it is known that several of the players in Virtual Worlds are in there twenties and thirties. Well actually it is said that there are CEO’s that get in the game to play with their contra parts instead to play golf. But I shouldn’t go so far, I haven’t read about that. However, he said that he plays together with some of his friends and colleges (and for me he is not a kid). Then it wouldn’t be a good idea to stop thinking that these types of games are only of kids?!

Thank you for the link Andres! And yes, VW, will be sound more and more each time.

Reseach in VW (virtual worlds)

Time has been flying so fast, even with the longer days. And it exits several “facts” that had happened and that I would like to share with you. But I will leave a FIFO system for publish purposes. In other words, step by step.

Recalling of what I mentioned earlier, regarding that I wouldn’t get surprised if it starts to be studies and research into virtual worlds. Well, be careful what you write, because I fall back dazzled when I saw the presentation of Dimitri Williams in connection of my own words few days earlier.

The study that he presented was IN WoW into the USA. I share you some of the Method that was used (you can see the picture). There were interesting comments! But still, I can’t believed it!