D-Lib Magazine
February 2002

Volume 8 Number 2

ISSN 1082-9873

Video Gaming, Education and Digital Learning Technologies

Relevance and Opportunities


John Kirriemuir
<[email protected]>

Red Line



This article presents an overview of video gaming and discusses how gaming is related and relevant to digital libraries and digital learning technologies. It suggests that these relationships are worthy of more detailed investigation.

The article begins with information about video games and gaming consoles, a comparison of consoles and the PC, and some observations on the network capabilities of consoles. Next, the relevance of gaming to academia is highlighted, and the relevance of games and consoles to learning technologies is considered. Emerging gaming platforms are explored, and the article concludes with some observations on future directions in video gaming and how the best and most relevant aspects of gaming can help create engaging and beneficial digital learning and research technologies.

1. Video games as a mainstream culture

1.1 What is a video game?

The phrases video game and computer game are often used interchangeably. Typically there is a screen (television, monitor, LCD display) through which the game is viewed. Input devices vary depending on the game and hardware, but usually involve a controller, joystick, keyboard or keypad.

Such a game is:

  • playable using a television set. The game software is accessed via a games console, to which input devices such as joysticks or controllers are attached; or
  • playable using a television set, with the game being accessible or downloadable through a satellite or digital subscription-based system; or
  • playable on a PC or Macintosh; or
  • housed inside a cabinet with a built-in screen and input device such as a joystick. These are typically found in arcades; or
  • found on small, portable games machines, of which the most well-known is the Game Boy; or
  • increasingly found in consumer electronic devices, such as mobile phones and handheld PCs.

Essentially, most video games can be viewed as simulations of some form. Realism-based simulations include contemporary car racing games, business simulations, sports, combat and civilization development games. More abstract simulations involve adventure, fantasy, and space battle games, although realistic graphics and physics-based effects are used in many of these games. Other simulations include puzzle games such as Tetris, and conversions of traditional games such as Scrabble, Monopoly and crosswords.

Games are not restricted to the entertainment sector. The business sector has long used games and simulations [INSEAD] to train staff in developing fiscal, economic and trading skills. The military sector [DMSO] uses simulation-based games [MAK] (due partially to advances in graphical and A.I. realism) in combat training, while the health/medical sector are increasingly using similar realism techniques and technologies to those used in games. Aircraft pilots, and "drivers" of other vehicles, often use simulations in the early stages of training and equipment familiarization.

Within most of this article, we discuss those video games accessible through a television (via games consoles such as the Playstation2, Xbox and GameCube), through a PC or Macintosh, or via a handheld games console such as the Game Boy Advance. Other gaming platforms, and applications of games, are discussed towards the end of this article. More substantial histories of computer and video gaming can be found on a number of web sites [history1] [history2] [history3].

1.2 Size and scope of the video game industry

There are large numbers of surveys, market reports and sales extrapolations about the use and purchase of games [statistics]. Over the last three decades, gaming has gradually become one of the main entertainment media, comparable in revenue, customers and employees to the film and music industries; the industry generates some $20 billion annually [Market size]. One example of the success of this industry is the Game Boy series of handheld game consoles, of which over 130,000,000 have been sold to date.

The old stereotype of a video gamer -- an antisocial adolescent male playing simplistic, violent games in isolation -- is absurdly inaccurate [Domesticity]. 60% of Americans play video games [IDSA]; the average age of game players is 28; and 43% of game players are female. For example, Cyan's Myst [Myst] games series, with over 10,000,000 copies sold, has a 60% to 40% split of male to female players.

Video games are increasingly pervasive in contemporary society. For example, Nintendo has installed variations of its Super NES gaming console in over 590,000 hotel rooms and 50,000 airline seats [airline].

1.3 Why do people play video games?

The study of why people play video games has received relatively little attention. Considering the vast number of players, and monies spent on games, this is a peculiar oversight of the research sector. Computer games provide a medium that engages people for long periods of time, and gamers usually return to the same game many times over. There are obvious lessons here for the developers of digitally-based educational, learning and training materials.

For example, one of the most popular video games is that of Pokemon, in which players collect a menagerie of monsters. Pokemon is played by millions of people, mainly children, on handheld and television-based consoles. Players enthusiastically learn a large amount of information during play, such as the fighting and defensive attributes of each monster, and the likely outcome of the interaction (through battles) of these attributes. It is here that developers of educational materials may benefit from exploring why people play Pokemon to such an extent, how people so easily soak up such large amounts of information during play, and how this process can be replicated as part of education and learning.

Occasional research on why people play video games has been done. Thomas Malone [Malone] identified three main reasons: fantasy, challenge and curiosity. Other research confirms these findings; for example, in experiments using educational software, Amory et al [Amory] identified curiosity as a common motive in playing a game.

2. Game consoles: the next few years

At the start of 2002, there were three main manufacturers of television-based and handheld gaming consoles. Most independent reviews and comparisons of the three consoles do not decide on a clear "winner" [LA Times], instead concluding that each is more appropriate for a particular gaming demographic. Their increasing dominance of the market makes it difficult to see other manufacturers developing and sustaining sales of a games-oriented console.


In late 2001, Microsoft launched the Xbox (or X-box) in the US; launches elsewhere are due in early 2002. Microsoft is new to the games console industry, though software such as its flight simulator series has given it experience in the PC games sector. Microsoft invested substantially in Xbox hardware, game development relationships, and PR; consequently, the console launched with a relatively wide range of games, some critically acclaimed.

Early strong US sales, and a large number of games due for release throughout 2002, should ensure a sizeable market share.


In 2001, Nintendo launched the GameCube in Japan and the US, as a successor to its N64 console; launches elsewhere are expected in 2002. This is the smallest and cheapest of the three contemporary television-based consoles.

Nintendo is also the manufacturer of the Game Boy series of handheld consoles. The third in this series, the Advance, was launched in 2001. This console features a landscape-format color screen (though a lack of backlighting was a controversial decision), and a rapidly increasing library of games, due to the relative ease of development.

Both the GameCube and the Game Boy series feature games containing heavily branded Nintendo-associated characters, such as Mario, Pikachu (from Pokemon) and Link (from Zelda). A strong loyalty to Nintendo characters and games will help boost sales of both devices over the next few years.


The Playstation2 (or PS2) has now sold in excess of 20,000,000 units worldwide. The PS2 is the successor to the original Playstation console, which sold c. 80,000,000 units. The PS2 can "run" Playstation games and, like the Xbox, can play DVDs and CDs.

The wide user base, strong Playstation brand and user loyalty, plus the large number of games under development, should ensure that the PS2 will be a significant games console over the next few years.

The PC

Many people use the PC as a games machine, even if purchased for other tasks. Most people have had at least a brief encounter with simplistic games or simulations, such as Minesweeper and Solitaire; however, many recent PC-based titles are of a quality and complexity to match that of leading console-based titles. Online games (especially combat-oriented simulations), civilization-building games, business tycoon simulations and flight simulators are genres that are particularly strong on the PC. This is partially due to the large number of controls, or game textual input requirements, for which a keyboard is far more effective than a joystick or game controller pad.

3. Comparing the PC and games consoles

To understand the possibilities and limitations of games consoles, it is useful to compare such devices and the PC against a set of user and development-oriented criteria.

3.1 Ease of system operation

Most users need to learn how to use a PC, the peripherals, the operating system, and the software. With the games console, there are very few buttons; software operation consists of inserting the cartridge and disc, and turning the power on. Usually, the underlying operating system is either greatly simplified (compared to that of a PC), or kept largely hidden from the user.

3.2 Fixed specification

The primary difference between games consoles and PCs is that a console has a fixed specification: the graphics, internal memory, drivers and so forth are identical across all units of a particular model. PCs evolve, in terms of memory, graphics, sound and other factors. This can mean that games developed for contemporary PCs are unable to work on older machines, due to a lack of memory, or the correct graphics card or driver, or some other hardware or software requirement.

3.3 Operational stability

PC operating systems and software "crash" or "lock up". Due to the aforementioned fixed specification, this very rarely occurs with games consoles, as game software is designed and tested against a known and fixed hardware specification. This is one of the reasons why many of the major game development and publishing companies produce titles for games consoles, and not for the PC.

3.4 Openness of development

It is relatively easy to develop software or applications directly onto and for the PC, using a wide variety of tools and programming languages. Games consoles are a more closed environment, and expensive software and hardware is usually required by game development companies to create the end product. However, technically determined individuals have made progress with increasing the functionality of consoles e.g., adding Linux, or porting PC games.

3.5 Range of peripherals

A PC usually comes with a keyboard and mouse as standard; peripherals such as printers, scanners and additional drives are commonplace. A games console typically came with just a controller, the range of peripherals being limited to just those devices that are used in games e.g., additional controllers, light guns. Recent consoles have begun to offer additional peripherals, such as DVD remote controls for the Xbox and PS2, and keyboards for complex or textual online play.

3.6 Range of applications

Due to the openness of development, the PC can run a vast array of applications, including games, business applications (word processors, spreadsheets, databases), educational software, Internet software such as web browsers and email readers, and so forth. Officially, games consoles (currently) run just games.

4. Online connectivity

The three television-based consoles described in section 2 all contain a modem and/or broadband port. This is primarily so users can play multiplayer games against opponents situated elsewhere in the world. Network access is being developed and rolled-out on a regional basis; for example, in the UK Sony and Telewest are developing and trialing a Playstation2 broadband network [PS2 broadband], for launch in 2002.

However, the GameCube, PS2 and Xbox are not the first consoles to offer online access. The critically acclaimed but short-lived Sega Dreamcast contained a modem, which allowed people to either play games online, or "browse the web" using a proprietary browser. Some games provided only static online interaction, for example, updating a centrally-held league table of high score. Others allowed more dynamic interaction, where people could play either against each other or in teams. The better of these games were designed so in-game "lag" or delay caused by data transmission was minimized and did not affect game play.

The addition of such functionality is not a surprise; the PC has shown that online gaming [Barrysworld] is rapidly growing and hugely popular, with games such as EverQuest and Ultima attracting large numbers of simultaneous users. Games such as Phantasy Star Online, feature increasingly sophisticated multilingual player communication systems. One interesting online game is that of Lineage [Lineage], a subscription-based game with 10 million registered users, and regular simultaneous access by over 100,000 players, many playing from cyber cafés in South Korea. Market predictions from industry commentators indicate a large growth in online gaming, hence the inclusion of such facilities as standard by manufacturers of the newer consoles.

5. Games and academia

5.1 Academic courses and research

The number of gaming-related courses has increased in recent years. In the UK, Steve Maddock has identified a number of institutions that offer game-related undergraduate or postgraduate courses [Maddock]. Approaches to teaching gaming-related topics differ; some courses are tailored towards game design and programming, while others offer a more generic computer science qualification containing several games-related modules [Watt].

There are also a number of pre-university colleges offering multimedia courses containing elements of game design, programming, and music. Outside the UK, there is a growing collection of academic and educational establishments offering gaming-related courses and qualifications [Global courses]; Kurt Squire presents an excellent 3-part analysis of gaming-related courses in US higher education [Squire].

In addition to courses, several UK research and development centers devoted to gaming have recently launched [Abertay] [ICDC] [Teesside], joining the rising number of centers and research groups in other countries [Maastricht] [E-GEMS].

5.2 Collaboration with games companies

Correspondence with academics revealed that courses were often developed after discussion with games companies concerning staff skill requirements. While knowledge of languages such as C/C++ for programmers and experience of particular tools for designers was essential, a body of knowledge and skills in other areas was often deemed necessary. This included mathematics, object physics, knowledge of gaming console architecture, and knowledge of gaming aesthetics and genres.

Experience of some of these more specialized topics is increasingly gained through collaboration between academic departments and local games development companies [DTI report]. Such collaborations often occur due to academic staff being games enthusiasts, with contacts in these local companies. These collaborations sometime result in donations of resources, company-funded PhDs and research projects, and student placements in the gaming companies. Console manufacturers such as Sony donate resources to a number of university departments [Yaroze], ensuring the next generation of industry staff gain experience of developing on their consoles. Correspondence with Xbox [Xbox] staff indicates that similar academic collaborations will take place once the console is launched in the remaining territories.

5.3 Gaming as a multi-disciplinary subject

Computer science is not the only academic subject of relevance to video game development. Indeed, as "middleware" (software tools that assist with game creation) becomes more widespread, so the role of pure programming is slightly reducing in importance. Examination of a selection of gaming genre and titles reveal features of relevance to several academic subjects. For example, geography and urban planning are associated with in-game landscape, building and community recreation; engineering and physics are essential to the realistic simulation of vehicles; history is useful for accurate re-creations of events, characters and societies; the arts for character development; and music for sound effects.

Though these sectors of academia are yet to work with the gaming industry on any significant scale, isolated collaborations and cross-sector use of skills, tools, research and experience are occurring. For example, several projects in the architecture sector have taken software originally developed for FPS (First Person Shooter) games, and used it to create accurate and explorable representations of buildings and landscapes. The results are often comparable to those produced by using established architectural virtual reality modeling systems, but at a small fraction of the cost [Quake].

6. Games, consoles and game-based PCs as learning technology

6.1 Games and education

Games are increasingly used to support teaching and learning e.g., using text adventures to assist in teaching English as a second language [ESL]. Conclusions as to the effectiveness of games for educational purposes differ; one particular review of relevant research indicated that mathematics was a subject where the use of games was usually superior to traditional classroom instruction [Effects].

However this, and several other reviews, were carried out when games were relatively primitive; fewer studies have been undertaken over the last five years, during which games have significantly increased in complexity, and often demand much greater interaction from the user. One recent study [BECTA] involved using components of six games in school settings. For example, a football manager simulation game was used thus:

"Championship Manager 00/01 was used with Year 7 and 8 pupils. Learning objectives involved interrogating databases and data manipulation. The teacher created a scenario in which a team manager (the teacher) needed the scouts (the pupils) to find suitable players according to a range of criteria. Using the database of players in the game, the pupils found the players by using a variety of filtering options."

It does not require a great leap of imagination to extrapolate this database-oriented scenario into a more digital library and teaching-oriented scenario. For example, the scenario could be modified into that of an online database-oriented game. The pupils would then work online in conjunction with pupils from other schools, acquiring database searching, information acquisition, network communication, and information analysis skills in order to complete the game.

Experiments with the structured use of most of these games displayed a variety of positive benefits:

"Teachers in the study found that use of the games could provide motivation, develop skills and encourage collaboration. The motivating power of games and their ability to encourage cooperation were felt to support the work of schools in developing independent but social individuals."

Further BECTA-funded work resulted in the identification of ways in which games may support formal and informal learning, in addition to guidelines for capitalizing on learning opportunities within games [Supporting Learning].

6.2 Consoles, PCs and education

Games consoles are not yet a common fixture in academic and public libraries, though a few are starting to appear as an addition to existing entertainment media such as CDs, videos and the fiction (book) section [Brighton]. A more common occurrence is the provision of educational games for use on library PCs [Shenandoah].

In school classrooms, games consoles are even less common. The principle reason for this is a lack of educational or learning software of relevance, or of acceptable quality, with the PC being the main beneficiary of any such software. Throughout the last two decades, games consoles have rarely hosted more than a handful of educational titles each [Gamerland].

However, when gaming-oriented entertainment and learning or educational material are combined the result has often been disappointing; the educational value is debatable or irrelevant, and the gaming and engagement qualities compare poorly to those of pure games. Several commentators have noted that frequently such software seems to contain gaming or entertainment components designed by a teacher, and learning components designed by a games designer, whereas it should be the other way around. Some educational titles do gain high praise from parents and teachers, but with marketing budgets only a fraction of those of conventional games, the educational titles usually result in insignificant sales.

One high-profile and notable exception to the lack of proven, educational, games console-based software, is that of Lightspan [Lightspan]. This is curriculum-based games software developed for the Playstation (and PC); pupils without a console often borrow the hardware and software from school, and use it at home to complete homework assignments.

Some of the techniques and lessons from successful games, such as creating imaginative, immersive, manipulable environments, are starting to be implemented into PC educational software. Kar2ouche [Kar2ouche] is a notable example (and huge fun to watch!); this allows students to recreate scenes from plays by Shakespeare, thereby improving their understanding of the narrative. Immersive Education, the company behind Kar2ouche, was created by a combination of academic and industrial organizations, with significant involvement from both the gaming and teaching communities.

6.3 Consoles and networked learning technology

As mentioned previously, the Dreamcast (or DC) offered online access through a modem port. As with all consoles, many people experimented with DC functionality [DC] to see what could (and couldn�t) be done online. One non-technical trial [Kirriemuir] involved using the DC as an online research tool; searching databases, finding data, and collating information. The general conclusion was that, in terms of speed, the DC matched the PC. However, the lack of a hard drive meant that large amounts of information could not be downloaded and stored, severely restricting use of the DC as a persistent research tool.

The Xbox contains a hard drive (though this is used primarily by games software for temporary data storage), and Sony is producing an external hard drive for the PS2. The ease of access to these for non-gaming purposes by non-technical users is, at the moment, unclear.

In addition, Sony has begun launching Linux development kits for the PS2 in various global sectors, to increase the range of applications for the machine and to provide familiarity with the PS2 for budding developers. The Japanese version of the kit consists of a software DVD, 40GB hard drive, USB keyboard and mouse.

This combination of factors, in addition to modem/broadband console functionality, opens up possibilities for developing online non-gaming applications, such as remote learning, and database-oriented tools. While gaming consoles are not (currently) as open to development as the PC, their pervasiveness in society, relative cheapness, ease of use and stability of operation offer intriguing prospects for the digital learning and library sectors.

There are other video gaming sector technologies that may be of use to the digital technology and library sectors. For example, "emulation" is a strategy that may assist preservation, as some electronic materials that depend on obsolete hardware/software can be difficult to convert to contemporary formats [Bullock]. Emulators are widely used in gaming, making available games that were produced for a large number of now defunct platforms.

As previously mentioned, the success of online gaming is worthy of investigation. To simultaneously interact with many thousands of other online players in a complex, data rich and immersive environment is a thought-provoking experience. The parallels with network-based teaching, learning and communication, and large-scale online database access and content manipulation, are striking.

7. Handheld games consoles as learning technology

Handheld consoles offer interesting possibilities as learning technology hardware. These consoles are portable, easy and simple to use, robust, and very cheap; the aforementioned Game Boy Advance costs some $80. Up to four Game Boy consoles can be easily and cheaply connected to each another for multiplayer gaming, offering possibilities for small group interaction.

As with home-based consoles, there is a thriving "hobbyist" development community for the Game Boy series [GB developers]. In fact, developing software for the GBA and the previous consoles in the series is relatively quick and very cheap; the process usually involves writing or converting the code on a PC, and downloading it onto a blank cartridge using specialized hardware.

This opens up an array of possibilities for educational and learning software development, on a gaming system that millions of school children own and know well. Possibilities include:

  • tutor-led games through four connected consoles. To encourage team playing and skills interchange, the objective of the game can only be reached if the players work together towards a common goal.
  • information acquisition games. For example, on school outings to museums, pupils are usually given an often dull set of questions, the answers to which are obtained by peering at exhibits kept in glass cases around the building. In a handheld game, the player is guided around the museum, and by examining objects (in the museum) and interacting with them (in the game), progresses through the game.

In the course of this research, various games companies were emailed with regard to the problems and logistics concerned with developing educational and learning software for the GBA. Several potential problems were received in response:

  1. official approval for such software would require a successful pass through the quality control program of the console manufacturer (Nintendo). While this is not unfeasible, the marketing of the GBA as a games machine may cause problems.
  1. official production runs usually involve a minimum number of cartridges being purchased (a figure of 50,000 cartridges was mentioned by several correspondents), thus requiring significant pre-marketing finance.
  1. official distribution would require the involvement of a publisher willing to take financial and marketing risks. Publishers of Game Boy software are almost exclusively fixed on games software; previous failures to mass-market educational (or "edutainment") software mentioned elsewhere in this article makes the already difficult task of persuading a publisher even harder.
  1. as with other educational software, teacher and educator involvement is paramount. In addition, the software has to be entertaining and engaging in order to compete successfully against the best GBA games for the attention of children.

Clearly, there would be significant problems in producing GBA-based non-gaming software; however, several respondents said that it was not impossible, the active approval of Nintendo being especially important. The relative ease of development would mean that software would not require the multi-million dollar design budgets of television-based console games.

Electronic books are of increasing interest to the research and education communities, as a portable format for books, texts, classwork and teaching materials [EBONI]. One potential avenue of development involves using handheld consoles as electronic book readers; several people and independent companies have made progress with converting the Game Boy Advance into such a tool [Reader]. In addition, at least one enthusiast is developing a web server for this particular handheld device [Fivemouse].

8. Convergence: other gaming platforms

Games are appearing on a number of electronic devices, in part to make devices more commercially attractive to games players, and in part to increase the number of functions offered by the device.

8.1 Portable games console convergence

Portable hardware is starting to appear on the market, or in "Under Development" press releases from electronics manufacturers, where devices such as the portable PC, MP3 player, radio, games machine, web browser, electronic diary, electronic book reader and so forth come together into one unit. Theoretically, one piece of hardware should be cheaper, and easier, to use than several. In addition, such units will offer increased functionality; for example, it should be possible to find an MP3 (music file) on the Internet, download it to the unit, store, and listen to it later.

The reality of portable convergence in the UK to date is a little different. There are an increasing number of devices that offer a wide array of functions; however, these (currently) tend to be more expensive, specialized and sell in relatively small numbers. Ironically, many users of mobile phones are instead drawn towards relatively "low tech" facilities such as SMS [SMS] messaging. In other territories, mobile convergence is often at a more advanced stage. A key example is Japan, where the i-mode service, offering interactive games, email, web access and other features, is used by over 20 million subscribers [i-mode].

In the UK, there are currently any number of mainly simplistic games available through various mobile handset/network provider combinations [Vizzavi]. One factor holding back development of more sophisticated games is the bandwidth required to download games, or in the case of mobile-to mobile games, the response speed required to play games without an off-putting data transmission delay; another barrier is the small LCD screens of most handsets.

However, many manufacturers have recently demonstrated "near to market" devices in this area; a few that go significantly beyond the conventional mobile-SMS-WAP combination are now on the market [Pogo]. Some will rely on 3G (third generation) mobile network capabilities and Java facilities in order to provide gaming claimed to be similar to that of a handheld console [PCS].

In various regions, network providers such as Orange [Orange] are currently offering downloadable games comparable to those on the old 8- and 16-bit gaming consoles. An increasing number of companies that develop games for television-based and handheld consoles are also developing games for mobile phones (see, for example, [Hudson]). Future take-up and long term revenue prospects in this particular sub-sector are somewhat speculative.

8.2 Home-based games console convergence

The Xbox and PS2 will offer considerably more than a games-playing experience, with CD and DVD playing facilities, and Internet access available now or in the near future. However, industry speculation is rife concerning the next generation of consoles, and the increased functionality they may offer. Console manufacturers are, not surprisingly, reluctant to release details of future machines, in case potential customers of their current product adopt a "wait until the next one" approach.

Industry speculation regarding the successor to the Xbox centers on the possibility that it will offer digital video recording facilities, as well as Bluetooth-dependent features to enable it to be a more centralized "entertainment hub" in the home [Com news]. Since before the PS2 was launched, industry speculation has increased concerning the next console Sony will launch. This is felt to be a few years away, when PS2 sales are beginning to decline and another major jump in gaming platform architecture and capability is required to keep up with, or stay ahead of, other consoles.

As previously mentioned, the Xbox and PS2 will both offer online facilities for, at the moment, playing games -- though it will be interesting to see how many non-gaming applications that use this network connectivity appear. Nintendo appears to be taking a slightly different tack, marketing its GameCube as a pure gaming machine. Though the GameCube has a port for Internet connectivity, Nintendo has adopted a "wait and see" policy, delaying the roll-out of online services until the communications infrastructure and market are more developed.

Some commentators have pointed out that this convergence will turn games consoles into machines similar to PCs. However, a key factor is the fixed specification and stability of games console, as opposed to that of the PC. A machine with the stability of a games console, and the development openness and functionality of the PC, could result in the "best of both worlds" for games designers and players alike.

8.3 Interactive TV

Unlike many technologies that have failed to achieve predictions of rapid growth, Interactive TV seems to be taking off in territories such as the UK. This particular medium is well suited to games; possibilities exist for people to e.g., play associated games running in parallel with television programs, such as quiz shows. The use of a television screen means that game developers are not faced with the restrictions of screen size and format that hinder mobile phones and other portable technologies.

The take-up of games through Interactive TV is worthy of consideration. For example, the PlayJam interactive TV channel, which can be accessed in several European countries, claims that 1.4 billion game sessions have taken place during the first year of operation [PlayJam]. User statistics are particularly noteworthy, with 55% of players being female and 61% of users aged between 16 and 34, thus being significantly different to traditional gaming demographics. Even with small "pay per play" fees, the potential revenue from such a well-used service is, not surprisingly, causing much interest in the media and entertainment sectors.

9. Future directions

Games and gaming consoles still suffer an image problem, although attitudes are changing. However, even in the face of growing anecdotal, empirical and pedagogic evidence of the benefits of gaming when correctly incorporated into a learning environment [Lightspan evaluation], some will still cry foul because games are�well, games [Malkin].

For education, what is needed is more high-quality user-relevant software, combining the best game techniques (contributed by games designers) and proven learning techniques (contributed by teachers), implemented on consoles with which learners are familiar, rigorously tested, independently evaluated, and widely publicized. The opportunities provided by ubiquitous gaming consoles, such as stability, ease of use and broadband access, should be exploited. Some organizations and projects, such as the Games-to-teach project [Games-to-teach], and others mentioned in this article, are making progress in researching and developing such software; many others are showing interest.

Future trends in video gaming are notoriously hard to predict. Even established industry experts fail to agree on particular gaming trends in anything more than the immediate future [Panel]. The one certainty is that video games and gaming consoles are here; the key console manufacturers exhibit relative fiscal health; games are diverse, complex, engaging and attractive; and they are being played in rapidly increasing numbers. That particular revolution is complete: game over. The challenge now is that of combining the best and relevant aspects of games, game consoles, and learning, to create engaging and beneficial digital learning and research technologies: game on.

10. Acknowledgements

This article is partially a derivative of personal research, and partially a derivative of work undertaken for a forthcoming JISC-funded Techwatch [Techwatch] report.

Numerous people provided feedback and comments for this article. These include staff in various video game development companies, and the heads of several academic computer science departments.

Special thanks for significant input to Colin Anderson and Gary Penn (Denki), Marc Cavazza (University of Teeside), John Connolly (University of Paisley), Adrian Curry (Xbox/Microsoft), Keri Facer (University of Bristol), Paul Holman (SCEE/Sony), Clifford Lynch (CNI), Steve Maddock (University of Sheffield), Kurt Squire (MIT) and John Sutherland (University of Abertay).

11. References

To see the entire list of references, click here.

Copyright 2002 John Kirriemuir

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DOI: 10.1045/february2002-kirriemuir