Gaming literacy… What is it?


On completion of this unit, you will be able to:

  • define key concepts pertaining to gaming literacy
  • understand how games can be implemented in and enhance the language class
  • select resources for the classroom and design gaming literacy tasks for your students

What is Gaming Literacy?


Dudeney, Hockly and Pegrum (2014: 14) define visual media and multimedia literacy as “the ability to effectively navigate, interact with and achieve goals in a gaming environment”.

So, why is Gaming Literacy important?

Games and gaming have changed dramatically in the course of the past 30-40 years and have moved from being considered just a kids’ pastime to being used in a larger variety of contexts, not only recreational. The advent and expansion of the World Wide Web, together with the pervasiveness of use of computers first and portable technology later, have made all sorts of games accessible to everyone, almost anywhere. From the ’80s onwards gamers have moved from computer games, where the individual plays against the machine, or in a solo adventure inside a digitally created world, to games where you could play with or against friends and family to massively multiplayer online games (MMOGs), where gamers play in a virtual environment, that is used by other gamers from all over the world.

Virtual worlds (VWs) had a parallel development to computer games. Damer and Hinricks (2014) describe VWs as “immersive experiences delivered through the imagination [that] have their origin in deep prehistory.” Even though creating a virtual experience and narrating it is an expression of human creativity, more recently social and gaming virtual worlds have turned into an even more widely shared experience, as the Internet has made it possible for more and more physically distant participants to visit and explore virtual worlds, and interact with one another, within them.

Already in the 1980s MUDs (Multi-User Dungeon, later Multi-User Dimension) attracted a vast amount of users. MUDs were multiplayer real-time virtual worlds and were, for most part, text-based, as can be seen in the following snapshot:

Gaming Literacy - MUD screenshot
By KaVir – Screenshot of Dungeon Crawling, CC BY-SA 3.0,

In MUDs, players could play and construct virtual realities and stories. They would read descriptions of rooms, objects, other players, non-player characters and actions performed in the virtual world and interact with each other and the world by typing commands that resemble a natural language. Later, MUDs grew into massively multiplayer online game (MMOG) and virtual worlds.

MMOGs, such as World of Warcraft and EverQuest, enable players to cooperate and rival with each other to a great extent, and sometimes to interact meaningfully with people around the world.

Social virtual worlds, such as Second Life, There, or OpenSim, allow their users to explore the virtual environment, modify it and interact with it and with others, socially. Virtual worlds, like physical reality, can also be used to play games.

Other virtual environments, such as Minecraft, a purpose-oriented virtual environment, can be placed between online games and social virtual worlds.

All these new gaming possibilities have caught the attention of young and adults alike, of industry and educators, and show a high potential for learning. Only an understanding of gaming rules and gaming literacy can help us harness this potential and use it in our language class.

Games and Education Scholar James Paul Gee on Video Games, Learning, and Literacy

About Gaming Literacy

Virtual worlds and games have already been adopted by businesses to secure their stranglehold on all markets. Games and virtual worlds can also enhance education. In his book, ‘What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy’ (2007), James Paul Gee points out that in games

‘real-world consequences do not exist, allowing learners to take greater risks. For example, in gaming worlds learners are able to “try-out” different identities relating to gender, ethnicity, and even species (see Personal Literacy). Similarly, gaming environments allows learners to make multiple attempts towards a given reward (i.e. new level, boss) without any real-world consequences. This creates a safe space for the learner to fully engage with the environment’.

Importantly, learning should be able to be transferred to and from the real world. The focus is on the process, and not just on the content. The learner/player learns while playing and while focusing on being successful in the game. S/he will apply learning from earlier stages to later stages in the game, thus reinforcing earlier learning. Also, as the learner is told very little explicitly, a “good” game has to be challenging: new challenges, learning potential, and consistent struggles of these games also make video games motivating and entertaining for the user, he or she is instead allowed to explore and discover on his/her own.

Useful links

Game Literacy: Games in Education – Should We Teach Game Basics? – Extra Credits Second Life and Other Virtual Worlds: A Roadmap for Research, CAIS, 2008 IBM dives into Second Life

Source/attribution: Digilanguages     Author: Susanna Nocchi/Alexandre Jacquot

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Materiale aggiuntivo in italiano

Da leggere:

Da vedere:

  • Un video doppiato in italiano di EuroNews sull’utilità dei videogiochi educativi

  • Un video di MIT su come fare un videogioco