Game-Based Learning

This material was originally created for Starting Point:Introductory Geology
and is replicated here as part of the SERC Pedagogic Service.

Initial Publication Date: June 2, 2004

Created by Rebecca Teed, SERC, Carleton College

There is no reason that a generation that can memorize over 100 Pokemon characters with all their characteristics, history and evolution can't learn the names, populations, capitals and relationships of all the 101 nations in the world.

- Prensky, 2001a . Digital natives, digital immigrants, On the Horizon 9 (5)

This module is written to assist faculty who want to start using games to help them teach.

  • The big challenge is to make your learning objective integral to game play.
  • Once you've done that, you can use games to:
    • Make learning fun
    • Liven up your classroom
    • Motivate your students to learn outside the classroom

What Is Game-based Learning?


Features of game-based learning (GBL):

  • GBL uses competitive exercises, either pitting the students against each other or getting them to challenge themselves in order to motivate them to learn better.
  • Games often have a fantasy element that engages players in a learning activity through a storyline.
  • In order to create a truly educational game, the instructor needs to make sure that learning the material is essential to scoring and winning.
    What is GBL? - elements of an engaging, educational, classroom game.

Categories of games that can be adapted for learning include:

Why Use Game-based Learning?

Not only does the integration of learning with gaming make science more fun; it also:

How to Teach with Games

To integrate learning and game play:

  • Work out how to give students points for accomplishing certain goals in a lesson plan
  • Decide on rewards for the victors
  • Create game pieces
  • Test your game before you run it

Some important concerns include:

Geoscience Examples


A bibliography of essays and articles dealing with the use of games in education.

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