Multiliteracies in ELA Classrooms

How We Can Learn from Game Developers

July 15th, 2014 · No Comments

“Good Video Games and Good Learning” by James Paul Gee.


The author mentions several great points linking video games with active and effective learning. Playing a video game encompasses so many different literacies which can be linked to learning. One of the strategies that James Paul Gee mentions in his article is that in playing a video game, we take on a different role, which he argues that we should be encouraging students to do in the classroom. Have them role-play as scientists in the lab; as writers in the English classroom; as artists in the studio. This type of hands-on approach is what will yield better results in assignments.

The interaction we see in games is something that would translate well in the classroom. Gamers become more fully invested in the game, as it is their character, their work, their story they’ve worked through, and so they are more apt to be willing to see the game through to the end. We need to instill this brand of ownership on our students so that a greater sense of pride will be felt in their work.

Another great strategy that Gee mentions is that video games incorporate a great deal of creation as well. You are essentially writing your own story when you play a role-playing game, as gamers tap into their creative side in constructing their own characters and stories. As Gee mentions in the article, “Customized curricula in school should not just be about self-pacing, but about

real intersections between the curriculum and the learner’s interests, desires, and styles.” (Gee, 35). The student should have a say in some of the direction the curriculum is heading.

While Gee noted many great facets that show we as educators can actually learn from video game producers, there are a few other examples he left out. One is that these games often include a map for the user to follow, which is a literacy in itself. The cardinal directions must be followed to orient your character to the next objective. Some maps are often modelled after cities, to scale, which is obviously very useful as gamers can get to drive, run, or web-swing New York City as is the case in Spider-Man 2.

Something else to consider is that these games also aid students in grasping the English language, as there is often dialogue to follow or instructions to read. Critical thinking is also prevalent in these games, as is paying close attention to the narrative being presented in the game. As Gee writes, “players need to think of how each action taken might affect their future actions and the actions of the other players playing against them as they move their civilizations through the ages. In our complex society, such complex system thinking is crucial for everyone” (Gee, 36).

The issue of including games in the classroom usually begins and ends with “they can be beneficial if used appropriately and with pertinence to subject matter.” But perhaps there is more to the argument. Perhaps we ought to be learning lessons from the gaming world as to how to better engage our students critically.




Gee, J. (2005). Good Video Games and Good Learning. Phi Kappa Phi Forum,85 (2), 33-37.

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