Ludoliteracy: Defining, understanding and supporting games education

  • Thomas S
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On the surface, it seems like teaching about games should be easy. After all, students are highly motivated, enjoy engaging with course content, and have extensive personal experience with videogames. However, games education can be surprisingly complex. In this book I explore the question of what it means to understand games by looking at the challenges and problems faced by students who are taking games-related classes. My results suggest that learning about games can be challenging for multiple reasons. Some of the more relevant findings I will discuss include realizing that extensive prior videogame experience often interferes with students’ abilities to reason critically and analytically about games, and that students have difficulties articulating their experiences and observations about games. In response to these challenges, I will explore how we can use online learning environments to support learning about games by (1) helping students get more from their experiences with games, and (2) helping students use what they know to establish deeper understanding. I explore each of these strategies through the design and use of two online learning environments: GameLog and the Game Ontology Wiki. GameLog is an online blogging environment designed to help students reflect on their game playing experiences. GameLog differs from traditional blogging environments because each user maintains multiple parallel blogs, with each blog devoted to a single game. The Game Ontology wiki provides a context for students to contribute and participate legitimately and authentically in the Game Ontology Project. The Game Ontology Project is a games studies research project that is creating a framework for describing, analyzing and studying games, by defining a hierarchy of concepts abstracted from an analysis of many specific games. GameLog and the Game Ontology Wiki were used in three university level games-related classes by more than 250 students. Results show that students found that participating in these online learning environments was a positive learning experience. In addition to improving their relationships to videogames as a medium, it also helped students broaden and deepen their understanding of videogames. Students also felt it provided them with a vehicle for expression, communication, and collaboration. Students found that by reflecting on their experiences playing games they began to understand how game design elements helped shape that experience. Most importantly, they stepped back from their traditional role of “gamers” or “fans” and engaged in reasoning critically and analytically about the games they were studying. In the case of GameLog, I show how blogging, in particular blogging about experiences of gameplay, can be a useful activity for supporting learning and understanding about games. For the Game Ontology Wiki, I show how it is possible to design learning environments that are approachable to learners, allow them to contribute legitimately to external communities of practice, and support visibility and access to the practices of a broader community

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  • Siobhan Thomas

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