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14 Great Books on The Importance of Video Games in 21st Century Learning

February 28, 2015
Gaming is a growing trend in the 21st century learning paradigm and you don't need to look hard to see the evidence. Digital and video games  take up a big part of the lives of our digital natives, and of course, as is the case with every 'new technology' doubtful and cynical voices are the first to be heard.  When writing was first invented  some 6 thousands years ago, people were very critical of the new invention. In Phaedrus, for instance,  the popular Greek philosopher, Plato  expresses serious reservations  about writing. He viewed it  "as a mechanical, inhuman way of processing knowledge, unresponsive to questions and destructive of memory."(Orality and Literacy, Kindle location. 891). The same criticism and initial rejection were levelled against other inventions that transformed humanity (e.g invention of telephone, radio, TV, and Internet).


The argument here is that everything has an inherent polarity of negative and positive  aspects and it behoves us to foreground the positive aspects and make the best of them while also devising strategies to deal with the negative sides. The same with digital and video gaming, their advantages greatly outweigh their disadvantages. If you doubt it, here is a set of some really wonderful books that shed more light on the importance of video games and how they help kids in their learning.

1- What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy, by James Paul Gee
“James Paul Gee begins his classic book with "I want to talk about video games--yes, even violent video games--and say some positive things about them." With this simple but explosive statement, one of America's most well-respected educators looks seriously at the good that can come from playing video games.”

2- Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World, by Jane McGonigal


“In this groundbreaking book, Jane shows how we can leverage the power of games to fix what is wrong with the real world-from social problems like depression and obesity to global issues like poverty and climate change-and introduces us to cutting-edge games that are already changing the business, education, and nonprofit worlds.”

3- Fun: Inc: Why Gaming Will Dominate the Twenty-First Century, by Tom Chatfield


“Fun Inc. is the most elegant and comprehensive defence of the status of computer games in our culture I have read. The sheer pervasiveness of game experience—99 per cent of teenage boys and 94 per cent of teenage girls having played a video game—means that instant naffness falls upon those who express a musty disdain for the medium. In fact, as Fun Inc. elegantly explains, computer game-playing has a very strong claim to be one of the most vital test-beds for intellectual enquiry.” (Independent [London])

4- Good Video Games and Good Learning: Collected Essays on Video Games, Learning and Literacy, by James Paul Gee
“This book discusses a broad range of topics concerning video games, learning and literacy. These include the ways games can marry pleasure, learning and mastery through the sense of ownership, agency and control players enjoy when gaming, as well as controversial issues surrounding games. The book explores relationships between values, identity, content and learning, and focuses on how to understand and explain many young people’s differential experiences of learning in gaming and schooling respectively.”

5- Don't Bother Me Mom--I'm Learning, by Marc Prensky


“Marc Prensky presents the case—profoundly counter-cultural but true nevertheless—that video and computer game playing, within limits, is actually very beneficial to today's "Digital Native" kids, who are using them to prepare themselves for life in the 21st century. The reason kids are so attracted to these games, Prensky says, is that they are learning about important "future" things, from collaboration, to prudent risk taking, to strategy formulation and execution, to complex moral and ethical decisions.”

6- The Ecology of Games: Connecting Youth, Games, and Learning, by Katie Salen Tekinba


“This volume looks at games as systems in which young users participate, as gamers, producers, and learners. The Ecology of Games (edited by Rules of Play author Katie Salen) aims to expand upon and add nuance to the debate over the value of games--which so far has been vociferous but overly polemical and surprisingly shallow.”

7- Video Games and Learning: Teaching and Participatory Culture in the Digital Age, by Kurt Squire
“ This accessible book describes how educators and curriculum designers can harness the participatory nature of digital media and play. The author presents a comprehensive model of games and learning that integrates analysis of games, games cultures, and educational game design. Building on over 10 years of research, Kurt Squire tells the story of the emerging field of immersive digitally mediated learning environments (or games) and outlines the future of education.”

8- Games, Learning, and Society: Learning and Meaning in the Digital Age, by Constance Steinkuehler (Editor), Kurt Squire Ph.D. (Editor), Sasha Barab Ph.D. (Editor)

“This volume is the first reader on videogames and learning of its kind. Covering game design, game culture, and games as 21st century pedagogy, it demonstrates the depth and breadth of scholarship on games and learning to date. The chapters represent some of the most influential thinkers, designers, and writers in the emerging field of games and learning - including James Paul Gee, Soren Johnson, Eric Klopfer, Colleen Macklin, Thomas Malaby, Bonnie Nardi, David Sirlin, and others”

9- How to Do Things with Videogames, by Ian Bogost


“Bogost, a leading scholar of videogames and an award-winning game designer, explores the many ways computer games are used today: documenting important historical and cultural events; educating both children and adults; promoting commercial products; and serving as platforms for art, pornography, exercise, relaxation, pranks, and politics. Examining these applications in a series of short, inviting, and provocative essays, he argues that together they make the medium broader, richer, and more relevant to a wider audience.”

10- Digital Games and Learning: Research and Theory, by Nicola Whitton


“Digital Games and Learning: Research and Theory provides a clear and concise critical theoretical overview of the field of digital games and learning from a cross-disciplinary perspective. Taking into account research and theory from areas as varied as computer science, psychology, education, neuroscience, and game design, this book aims to synthesise work that is relevant to the study of games and learning. It focuses on four aspects of digital games: games as active learning environments, games as motivational tools, games as playgrounds, and games as learning technologies, and explores each of these areas in detail.”

11- Gaming Lives in the Twenty-First Century: Literate Connections, by Gail E. Hawisher (Editor), Cynthia L. Selfe (Editor)
“Gaming Lives explores the complexly rendered relationship between computer gaming environments and literacy development by focusing on in-depth case studies of computer gamers in the United States at the beginning of the twenty-first century. This volume examines the claim that computer games can provide better literacy and learning environments than U.S. schools. Using the words and observations of individual gamers, this book offers historical and cultural analyses of their literacy development, practices, and values.”

12- Everything Bad is Good for You: How Today's Popular Culture is Actually Making Us Smarter, by Steven Johnson 
“ In this provocative, unfailingly intelligent, thoroughly researched, and surprisingly convincing big idea book, Steven Johnson draws from fields as diverse as neuroscience, economics, and media theory to argue that the pop culture we soak in every day—from Lord of the Rings to Grand Theft Auto to The Simpsons—has been growing more sophisticated with each passing year, and, far from rotting our brains, is actually posing new cognitive challenges that are actually making our minds measurably sharper.”

13- Gamify: How Gamification Motivates People to Do Extraordinary Things, by Brian Burke


“Gamify shows gamification in action: as a powerful approach to engaging and motivating people to achieving their goals, while at the same time achieving organizational objectives. It can be used to motivate people to change behaviors, develop skills, and drive innovation. “

14- The Gamification of Learning and Instruction: Game-based Methods and Strategies for Training and Education. By Karl M. Kapp


“"Kapp argues convincingly that gamification is not just about adding points, levels and badges to an eLearning program, but about fundamentally rethinking learning design. He has put together a brilliant primer for learning professionals on how to gamify learning, packed with useful advice and examples." —Anders Gronstedt, president, Gronstedt Group”.