Gee on Video Games and Learning

James Paul Gee makes a strong case for the relationship between video gaming and learning for today’s children. He argues that the new literacy that develops during gaming promotes skill mastery, agency, and control that can readily be transferred to meet broader educational objectives.

Today, children’s popular culture is more complex than ever before. … Children today “multi-task” across multiple modalities, playing a video game … , reading and writing about mythology, researching it on the Internet, and, maybe, even contributing to web sites devoted to the game and wider topics in mythology … Children today often engage in cutting-edge learning in their popular cultural practices, learning of a sort that fits well with what the Learning Sciences have discovered about optimal human learning, but not necessarily well with how current schools operate. At the same time, good video games—like contemporary research in the Learning Sciences—challenge us to truly integrate cognition, language, literacy, affect, and social interaction in our ideas about learning and the organization of learning inside and outside schools.

Video games are a new art form. That is one reason why now is the right time for Game Studies. The importance of this claim is this: As a new art form, one largely immune to traditional tools developed for the analysis of literature and film, video games will challenge us to develop new analytical tool and will become a new type of “equipment for living … “

Video Gaming is a new “literacy”. By “literacy” we mean any technology that allows people to “decode” meanings and produce meanings by using symbols. The alphabet is obviously such a technology, the one that gives rise to print literacy. The digital technologies by which games are made are another example of such a technology. Game design involves a “code”—a multi-modal one made up of images, actions, words, sounds, and movements—that communicates to players because players (conventionally) interpret aspects of that design to have certain meanings … .

Every literacy involves some set of relationships between consumption (reading) and production (writing). Gaming literacy is interesting in this respect, since consumption inherently involves certain forms of production on the part of the player. Gamers, of course, decode and comprehend (“consume”) game design when they react effectively to that design in order to play the game. However, that game design doesn’t really come into full existence until players make decisions and take actions in the game (otherwise the first screen of the game just sits there). If the game is open-ended enough, different players, by making different choices and taking different actions, produce somewhat different games. They enact the game designers’ game design in different ways; in a sense, they design the game with the designers. Thus, production is inherently part of consumption in gaming, because gaming inherently involves taking action … . Thus, consuming and producing—reading and writing—are closely connected in gaming as a literacy.

Good video games can offer people new experiences which can be interrogated inside good learning systems. They can offer problem sets integrated, worked, modeled, and ordered in intelligent ways. … They can create new forms of collaboration and communities of practice. They can create new roles and enrich old ones for teachers. They can create new gaps and make old ones worse, or they can be one tool among many for us to close old gaps and forestall new ones.


Gee, James Paul. Good Video Games + Good Learning. New York: Peter Lang, 2007, pp. 18-19, 83, 135, 172-173. || Amazon || WorldCat


Previous || Chapter 6: Directory || Next