Digital Games and Learning: Research and Theory (Paperback) book cover

Digital Games and Learning

Research and Theory

By Nicola Whitton

© 2014 – Routledge

215 pages

Purchasing Options:$ = USD
Paperback: 9780415629393
pub: 2014-03-26
SAVE ~$8.79
Hardback: 9780415629386
pub: 2014-04-01
SAVE ~$32.00
eBook (VitalSource) : 9780203095935
pub: 2014-03-26
from $43.95

SAVE 25%
When you buy 2 or more print books!
See final price in shopping cart.
FREE Standard Shipping!
Look Inside e–Inspection Copy

About the Book

In recent years, there has been growing interest in the use of digital games to enhance teaching and learning at all educational levels, from early years through to lifelong learning, in formal and informal settings. The study of games and learning, however, takes a broader view of the relationship between games and learning, and has a diverse multi-disciplinary background.

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.

This book is an essential guide for researchers, designers, teachers, practitioners, and policy makers who want to better understand the relationship between games and learning.


"The literature on games has become a dense and confusing growth. Nicola Whitton’s Digital Games and Learning finally gives a lucid and illuminating guide to both the forest and the trees. For anyone interested in games and learning this is the best 'strategy guide' available today."

--James Paul Gee, Mary Lou Fulton Presidential Professor of Literacy Studies, Arizona State University

"Finally! A book that builds robust bridges from learning research to practical game design and back again! Whitton's Digital Games and Learning boldly presents the core mechanisms of both learning and games, and from there builds up solid frameworks that can be used in a variety of contexts. This book is a tremendous boon to anyone who is designing or analyzing games for learning."

--Jesse Schell, CEO of Schell Games and Distinguished Professor of Entertainment Technology at Carnegie Mellon University

Table of Contents

Part 1: Introduction

Chapter 1


Chapter 2

Evaluating digital games for learning

Part 2: Games as active learning environments

Chapter 3

Games as meaningful challenges

Chapter 4

Games as authentic contexts

Chapter 5

Games as social interactions

Part 3: Games as motivational tools

Chapter 6

Games as engaging events

Chapter 7

Games as designed enjoyment


Chapter 8

Games as reward mechanisms

Part 4: Games as playgrounds

Chapter 9

Games as protected play

Chapter 10

Games as experimental spaces

Chapter 11

Games as other worlds

Part 5: Games as learning technologies

Chapter 12

Games as interactive systems

Chapter 13

Games as digital habitats

Chapter 14

Games as multi-sensory experiences

Part 6: Conclusion

Chapter 15

The future of games and learning

About the Author

Nicola Whitton works as a Senior Research Fellow at Manchester Metropolitan University. She holds a doctorate in the use of educational games for learning and her research focuses on the relationship between games, play and learning. More broadly, her research interests encompass learning and teaching innovation and the use of rich media and technology for learning.

About the Series

Digital Games and Learning

Games and simulations have had a new lease of life in the digital revolution. There are remarkable examples of fascinating games that are also tools for learning complex knowledge, and engaging simulations that are used for pleasure and work-related training and education. Their existence raises many research questions: how are they designed? Who plays them? What are the economics of such games for players, providers, others in the market, and how do the economics affect game and simulation production and use? Where are they being used in education and training, and to what effect? Digital Games and Learning (DGL) aims to explore these and many other questions about the design and use of games and simulations in our societies.

Books in the series will provide:

  • Insights into how games and simulations can be used effectively in education
  • Appreciation of the multi-disciplinary research base that is emerging in this fast-developing field
  • Knowledge of the implementations that can be put to use in different levels of education: school, further education, higher education and workplaces.

Volumes in the DGL series will focus on innovative research, theory and practice. We shall be publishing books that evidence at least some of the following themes and traits:

  1. Disciplinary grounding
    Our series will investigate the relation between more conventional ‘signature pedagogies’ and new approaches to learning engendered by digital games and simulations.
  2. Interactivity of social relations
    Games and simulations are often highly social, but their social and cultural codes still require substantial research.
  3. Design-led learning
    One of the significant differences between conventional teaching and digital games and simulations is the amount of design work that is required upfront in order to plan the learning environment and facilitate learning within it. DGL will investigate the theory and practices of design in digital games and simulations.
  4. Problem-solving
    Digital games and simulations are useful learning environments for problem-solving heuristics. The extent to which this happens, for whom and under what conditions, will be a theme of our series.
  5. Innovative research methodologies
    We encourage forms of action research (practice research, participatory action research, action science, etc) as well as the challenging of conventional approaches to cognitive science, to educational theory constructs and to the philosophy of game-play.

The series is an international resource for educationalists, educators, technologists and educational users. It brings together some of the best contemporary academic and practitioner commentators to tackle the dilemmas and opportunities in a challenging, informed and inquiring manner. The scope of the series is purposely wide and contributions from a variety of disciplines are welcomed. Books may be monographs, single or multi-authored, or edited collections.

To contact the series editors email either Sara de Freitas or Paul Maharg:


Sara de Freitas is Pro Vice Chancellor and Professor of Learning and Teaching at Murdoch University. In her role, she leads on strategy for learning and teaching across the university, and provides academic leadership for the Centre for University Teaching and Learning (CUTL) which supports a range of activities including: high quality research in learning and teaching, delivery of the OnTrack enabling program and support for advanced educational innovative technologies. Before coming to Australia, Sara was Director of Research at the Serious Games Institute, Coventry University, UK. There she led the formation and development of a hybrid model of research, business and study, the first institute of its kind. The Institute attracted millions in research income from the British Council, UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, European Union and European Regional Development Fund. At Birkbeck College, University of London, she helped to establish the well-known London Knowledge Lab, with its focus upon digital learning. Over the period, she was also the Director of a consultancy company, which provided consultancies for the UK Department of Education and the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC).

Sara currently holds a Visiting Professorship at Coventry University in the UK and a Visiting Research Fellowship at the University of London. Her research interests are focused in learning analytics, technology enhanced learning, higher educational policy and leadership and advanced educational games research and development. Sara has published seven books and over 100 journal articles, conference papers and reports. She currently sits on over 100 programme committees and advisory boards and has undertaken over 100 international keynotes, presentations and public lectures in four continents. Her most recent book, Education in Computer Generated Environments (2013) has been published in hardback by Routledge in their Research in Education Series. She blogs at:

Relevant web links:
 The Serious Games Institute:
 Rethinking Learning for a Digital Age:
 Digital Games & Learning:
 Interdisciplinary Advancements in Gaming, Simulations and Virtual Environments: Emerging Trends: see:
 Book Series: Digital Games and Learning, see:

     Personal profile at:

     Personal Blog at:

     de Freitas, S. (2013) Education in Computer Generated Education book at:


Paul Maharg is Professor of Law in The Australian National University College of Law, and part-time Professor of Law at Nottingham Trent Law School. Prior to this he was Professor of Law at the Glasgow Graduate School of Law (GGSL), University of Strathclyde where he was Co-Director of Legal Practice Courses, and Director of the Learning Technologies Development Unit, as well as Director of the two-year, JISC/UKCLE-funded project, SIMPLE (SIMulated Professional Learning Environment). He is the author of Transforming Legal Education: Learning and Teaching the Law in the Early Twenty-first Century (2007, Ashgate Publishing), co-editor of and contributor to Digital Games and Learning (2011, Continuum Publishers), co-editor of and contributor to Affect and Legal Education: Emotion in Learning and Teaching the Law (2012, Ashgate Publishing), The Arts and the Legal Academy: Beyond Text (2012, Ashgate Publishing) and has published widely in the fields of legal education, technology-enhanced learning and professional learning design ( He is a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, National Teaching Fellow, Fellow of the RSA (, and Visiting Professor at Hong Kong University and Griffith University. He blogs at

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings: