Learning through Game Play

The premise of this paper is that video games create rich and complex contexts for learning (Gee, 2007). Traditional understanding of learning separates complex tasks into simpler parts that can be learned with the amount of information reduced to manageable levels. However, this process of learning separates the known task from the context and separates the performer of the task from the intent of the task. Complex learning theory suggests that connecting the context, task and learner are critical to the human learning process (Barab & Plucker, 2002; Davis & Sumara, 2006). In this paper we examine how video games, examined from a complexity thinking framework, enable us to understand learning as a complex and emergent process, an ongoing fluid relationship between personal knowing and collective knowledge as the learner/player observes and acts in the observed world. Learning in video games becomes a process of information-action coupling (Chow et al., 2007; Davis & Broadhead, 2007; Renshaw, Davids, Shuttleworth, & Chow, 2008) where players' capacity to understand game play, to act effectively and to handle complex learning is enabled through interaction in the game, discussion with other players, and prior understandings from similar video games.