Computer games have made a significant cultural, social, economic, political, and technological impact on
society (Newman 2004). Given the widespread popularity of video games, their ability to sustain long-term
player engagement with challenging tasks (Gee 2003), and their tendency to elicit proactive player comm
unities (Rheingold 1994), it should come as no great surprise that educators have become increasingly
interested in the potential of such games as learning tools.
The term game-based learning has emerged as a general name for the use of games in education. Despite
early work showing rich inferential learning taking place as a result of gameplay (Greenfield 1984), most
game-based learning has been geared towards using a game as a host into which curricular content can be
embedded. This approach can be problematic, however, because it too often builds upon the premise that
learning is not fun and that games are, and that by introducing a game element, one can make learning fun.
As we will argue, the processes involved in learning and play are often very similar, and the true potential of
gaming in higher education may be realized in other ways. By allowing the learning process to become
informed rather than supplemented by processes identified with successful gameplay, instructors can
maintain consistency and coherence without relying on extrinsic motivational interventions. The importance of
consistency and coherence shall be touched upon throughout this work, but for specific discussion on
intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, see Malone (1982).
In contrast to game-based learning, game-informed learning suggests that educational processes themselves
should be informed by the experience of gameplay—a tenet similar to the principles of contemporary active
learning approaches such as constructivism and problem-based learning (PBL). Recent discussion of such
approaches has been offered by Boud and Miller (1996), but these methods clearly have their roots in Kolb
(1984), Lewin (1948), and Dewey (1933). Indeed, the principles of successful gameplay build on these
established learning practices, suggesting that game-informed learning may offer a particularly valuable—and
already influential—alternative to game-based learning in higher education.