Serious games in language learning and teaching

I don’t think I’ve really covered this before, but ‘serious games’ is the new buzzword that’s taken over ‘educational games’ and ‘edutainment’. So really, I should be referring to my project as trying to design and build a serious game. But first, my (very opinionated) two cents: I very much dislike the term ‘serious games’. Why? Because if you’re creating a game for educational purposes, I believe that first and foremost it has to be a game, and make the most of the things games can offer – otherwise you may as well be presenting in a different medium (which may be a better idea for your topic; games are not the only answer). As soon as you call your game a ‘serious game’ you’re cutting out a humungous potential audience, who may actually enjoy your game and learn something from it. But if they are looking for entertainment – as they most likely are – they are going to avoid anything with the word ‘serious’ in it like the plague. The idea of ‘serious games’ is to interested the uninterested learner, and presenting it like any other part of the curriculum is not going to do that. Anyhow, I digress. Good to get that off my chest.

559. “Serious Games are defined as digital games and equipment with an agenda of educational design beyond entertainment.”

561. “In off school contexts, children thus generally understand and use languages as a means for communication, information gathering and gaming, whereas in schools the understanding and use of languages is often understood to be a goal of the activities.” This is interesting, and is another return to the importance of context. People are more driven by something if they have a personal, concrete goal for it; learning English ‘just to learn English and get a good grade’ gives little motivation compared to learning English ‘so I can figure out the best armour to kit my League of Legends character in’. The learning itself should not be the end goal, the end goal should be the context.

561. “games are not necessarily about memorizing or providing correct answers, but rather about the performance of skills within a specific system of thinking and acting.” The players are not thinking about the language itself, but rather the message hidden in it and where that will take them next.

565. Serious games should be understood to “both ‘contain’ knowledge and invite learners to participate in creating knowledge.”



REF: Holm Sorenson, B., & Meyer, B. (2007). Serious Games in language learning and teaching – a theoretical perspective. In Situated Play (559-566). The University of Tokyo, Japan.


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