13 Learning Principles that Games can Teach Us


According to Paul Gee, there are 13 learning principles that we can pick from games, divided in 3 main categories:



– Agent/co-design principle:  what you do matters, it affects the game

Customization of the experience for the learner; good games allow you to solve problems in different ways; they invite the gamer to try a different style

Identity: Who am I gonna be? What will I get if I do this? Avatars and clear goals in games. Depending on your experience, you can become a new kind of person

Manipulation: Games allow you as a player the new world; it gives control to the player. You learn in a very embodied way. The games offer you tools to truly involve your body and mind in learning.




Sandbox: an opportunity to be in a safe, bounded space where you are protected. A place where you can explore, take risks,

The fish tank principle: dealing with the complexity of an ecosystem; dealing with some of the complexity of a system, not all variables at once. You are eased in to understand a complex system, and by the end of the game

Well-ordered problems: gamers use facts to solve problems; games are interesting problem spaces where you are given good tools for problem solving. You feel engaged and you get lots of feedback with the final outcome of a win state. Gee states the importance of giving a good sequence to the problems players face. It is core to game, translated in level design. ˜Early problems set the player up for later success”

Pleasantly Frustrating: the gamer feels a challenge that he/she knows can be overcome; keeping the challenge at the edge of the regime of competence. These challenges lead the gamer to a state of flow

Information Just in Time & on Demand: Small piece of information, applied on the spot. You get it when you need, when you can use it and when it applies. On demand – when you realize that you need that block of information to move on

Cycle of expertise; You give a person a challenging problem and they practice until they can do it. Then, you give another challenge and the person has to rethink his routine. He/she has to integrate it with new knowledge

Skills under strategies: You know new skills and you lean how to integrate these sills to solve a problem




Meaning as action: in games we make meaning by associating texts, meanings, actions to goals; situated meaning is the foundation to understanding problem solving.

Systems Thinking: most problems we deal in the real world are complex. Games are a kind of model-based reasoning, how variables come together. So, gamers need to learn how to work with complexity to understand the underlying set of rules that govern the game and that they need to use to accomplish the goals; model based reasoning is the foundation of scientific reasoning

Teaching should be designing and resouring learning for people. So, teaching and gaming are closely related. The question for teachers is ,”How do we desing learning? What tools do we use? Games is one of those tools. They have a lot to teach us of what  good learning design is all about.

Summary of Paul Gee’s ideas based on the videos available in the Coursera MOOC Videogames and Learning

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