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Games for learning: creating a level playing field or stacking the deck?

Whitton, Nicola (2013) Games for learning: creating a level playing field or stacking the deck? International review of qualitative research, 6 (3). pp. 424-439. ISSN 1940-8447

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Abstract

Advocates of digital game-based learning make the case that games can support inclusivity and equality in education because they motivate non-traditional students, promote wider access, and engage learners who are disengaged from formal education. This article will argue that this is a limited analysis which – by the very nature of its inherent assumptions – propagates stereotypical notions of the role of games in learning and could actually reduce social equality. Assumptions about and demographics of computer game players are discussed, as are issues of gaming literacy, differences between education and entertainment games and the impact of these on learner motivation, gender issues of game choice, and accessibility considerations. The article also addresses the methodological challenge of giving a voice to those who are disengaged in research, a particular issue in the field of games and learning. Finally, four ways in which games have the potential to promote inclusion and equality are presented and discussed, drawing on recent examples of projects carried out at the Education and Social Research Institute (ESRI) at Manchester Metropolitan University. First, the use of non-digital games and playful activities; second, informal learning through commercial games, such as massively multiplayer online role-playing games; third, giving learners agency as game creators; and finally, the growing movement of games for good, such as games to support campaigning and fundraising activities.

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