Serious Play: Literacy, Learning and Digital Games, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Serious Play

Literacy, Learning and Digital Games, 1st Edition

Edited by Catherine Beavis, Michael Dezuanni, Joanne O'Mara


234 pages | 34 B/W Illus.

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Serious Play is a comprehensive account of the possibilities and challenges of teaching and learning with digital games in primary and secondary schools. Based on an original research project, the book explores digital games’ capacity to engage and challenge, present complex representations and experiences, foster collaborative and deep learning and enable curricula that connect with young people today. These exciting approaches illuminate the role of context in gameplay as well as the links between digital culture, gameplay and identity in learners’ lives, and are applicable to research and practice at the leading edge of curriculum and literacy development.


"Digital games, heretofore a rebellious out-of-school force for collaborative learning and participatory culture, have made their way to the often staid realms of formal schooling. Serious Play is an impressive, coherent, and timely report from the frontlines of this odd coupling so pregnant with perils and possibilities."

—James Paul Gee, Mary Lou Fulton Presidential Professor of Literacy Studies and Regents' Professor, Arizona State University, USA

"This important study makes a major contribution to research and debate about the use of digital games in schools. Addressing a wide range of questions, from game-based literacies to coding narrative in Scratch and creativity with Minecraft, it nevertheless integrates a landscape which has long been fragmented and incoherent in educational debates. A welcome feature of the book is that its authoritative argument about games and learning rests on rich empirical research, respectful collaboration with teachers and students, and an enviable track record in this field of study."

—Andrew Burn, Professor of English, Media and Drama, University College London, UK

"Serious Play details the results of a rich sociocultural investigation into the use of digital games in classrooms. Here, we see three leading education scholars tackle the contingency and complexity of technology, representation, identity, literacy, and play in the classroom—and how it connects to contemporary learning and teaching. A nice antidote to the simplifications often made, on both sides, as to the effects of games on learning."

—Constance Steinkuehler, Professor in the Department of Informatics at the University of California, Irvine, USA

"Games are serious business. Watch anyone play a digital game and you soon realize that games are varied, draw on knowledge and skill, and are deeply motivating. Filled with gaming stories across varied contexts, Serious Play humanizes game play in consequential ways. Beavis, Dezuanni, and O’Mara offer readers a much-needed collection for contemplating how we see, feel, and live through games and the tremendous potential they have for remaking literacy research and practice."

—Jennifer Rowsell, Professor and Canada Research Chair in Multiliteracies in the Department of Teacher Education at Brock University, Canada

"Drawing on data from the project of the same name, Serious Play provides fascinating insights into the opportunities and challenges of using digital games in the classroom. Scholarly and accessible, this is an important and authoritative volume that speaks to the concerns of the wider educational community. Driven by the hard work of teacher participants, Serious Play is important reading for all who are concerned with developing a relevant, contemporary curriculum."

—Guy Merchant, Professor of Literacy in Education in the Sheffield Institute of Education at Sheffield Hallam University, UK

"This is a refreshing, in-depth look at game-based learning that puts teachers and students at the center of the field of study, while making seamless connections to theories of learning, gaming, consumption, and identity. The book moves well beyond questions about efficacy of games in relation to learning and addresses deeper questions about pedagogy and student identities that are highly relevant to educators and researchers today."

—Rebekah Willett, Associate Professor of Library and Information Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Preface to the book

Theme 1 preface: Student approaches to games-based learning

  1. Serious Play: Literacy, learning, and digital games
  2. Catherine Beavis

  3. "A game isn’t a game without interaction": Students’ thoughts about the use of digital games in school
  4. Catherine Beavis, Roberta Thompson, and Sandy Muspratt

  5. Impassioned learning and Minecraft
  6. Michael Dezuanni and Joanne O’Mara

    Theme 2 preface: Changing game-play for the classroom context

  7. Negotiating pedagogical transformation and identity performance through gameplay in Statecraft X
  8. Roberta Thompson, Catherine Beavis, and Jason Zagami

  9. Curating the curriculum with digital games
  10. Michael Dezuanni and Jason Zagami

    Theme 3 preface: Teachers’ work and games-based pedagogies

  11. The non-gamer teacher, the quiz & pop teacher, and the Kinect teacher
  12. Sarah Prestridge

  13. Narratives come to life through coding: Digital game-making as Language and Literacy curriculum
  14. Joanne O’Mara

    Theme 4 preface: Digital literacies in the wild—multimodality, materiality and embodiment

  15. Mining the Cli-Fi world: Renegotiating the curriculum using Minecraft
  16. Joanne O’Mara and Kynan Robinson

  17. Games as text and games as action: English, literacy and digital games
  18. Catherine Beavis, Sarah Prestridge, and Joanne O’Mara

  19. Material and discursive learning with Minecraft and Lego
  20. Michael Dezuanni

    Theme 5 preface: Assessment, digital games and teachers as creative professionals

  21. Serious outcomes from Serious Play: Teachers’ beliefs about assessment of games based learning in schools
  22. Leonie Rowan and Catherine Beavis

  23. Playing, making and analysing games: Cases of assessment and Serious Play
  24. Leonie Rowan

  25. Quests, achievements and experience points: Opportunities to level up through school-based Serious Play

Leonie Rowan and Sarah Prestridge

Post Script

About the Editors

Catherine Beavis is Professor of Education in the Faculty of Education and the Arts at Deakin University, Australia, and program leader for the Curriculum, Assessment, Pedagogy and Digital Learning program in REDI - Research for Educational Impact: Deakin University's Strategic Research Centre for research in Education.

Michael Dezuanni is Associate Professor in the Creative Industries Faculty at Queensland University of Technology, Australia.

Joanne O’Mara is Associate Professor of Education in the Faculty of Arts and Education at Deakin University, Australia.

About the Series

Digital Games, Simulations, and Learning

Digital Games and Learning

Series Editors:

  • Sara de Freitas
  • Paul Maharg

Thinkers from Plato to Piaget have acknowledged the central role of play in learning. Games and simulations are expressions of play, as they support playful interchanges, build communities and encourage collaboration. Increasingly, the engagement and motivation given by games, play and simulations is finding its way into our educational institutions: schools, colleges and universities and into training and development in companies across many sectors. With this increased use of games and simulations to support education and training, a range of academics, business leaders, researchers and learning practitioners are being challenged in a number of ways, not least how to adapt and deploy games and simulations effectively but also how to evaluate and measure successful outcomes. This book series aims to provide a forum for educators and industrialists to consider key issues such as: how to best design games for educational purposes? How to engage and motivate their learners and staff through immersive experiences? How can we adapt and learn from gamification or games approaches to design better outcomes for education and training? What are the key concepts for understanding how play and games work? Why is play such as effective pedagogic tool? What frameworks and tools are available to learning practitioners?

The book series has already attracted a range of authors who seek to share their knowledge and experiences with the wider education and training communities, including books on serious play that focus on how games can be used for literacy learning, online gaming and playful organization (which evaluates the impact of games on organization), aesthetics and design for games-based learning (which outlines how games can be most effectively designed), and digital games and learning (which provides a useful overview of the research and theory in the field).

Volumes in the DGL series will focus on innovative research, theory and practice, including some or all of the following themes and traits:

  1. Disciplinary grounding
  2. Our series will investigate the relation between more conventional ‘signature pedagogies’ and new approaches to learning engendered by digital games and simulations.

  3. Interactivity of social relations
  4. Games and simulations are often highly social, but their social and cultural codes still require substantial research.

  5. Design-led learning
  6. 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.

  7. Problem-solving
  8. 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.

  9. 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. If you think your work in the area of digital games and learning should be shared with a wider international audience, please contact the editors. Due to the cross- and inter- disciplinary nature of the area we welcome proposals from across the academy and industry. Books may be monographs, single or multi-authored, or edited collections.

To contact the series editors email Sara de Freitas and/or Paul Maharg at:

[email protected]

[email protected]


Editors’ Biographies

Professor Sara de Freitas


Sara de Freitas is an Honorary Fellow of Birkbeck, University of London, Principal Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. Over her career, she has worked as an educator, researcher and senior executive in four universities in Australia and the United Kingdom most recently as Pro Vice Chancellor at Murdoch University and Assistant Deputy Vice Chancellor at Curtin University, leading on cross-university curriculum change, blended learning and transnational education. Before working in Australia, Sara was Director of Research at Coventry University, UK, where she founded and developed the Serious Games Institute, bringing together commercial and academic partnerships to fuel regional economic growth. As Director or Research, she led on 56 projects attracting over £10 million in research income from European Regional and Framework funds and UK research councils, charitable organizations and industry, supporting the development of the education games industry and regional growth and development.

Sara is a passionate advocate of pedagogy-driven approaches to leadership and has a special interest in online, blended, accelerated, game-based and active learning to enhance flexibility, retention and high-quality learning in different student cohorts. Her research findings are published in seven books and over 200 peer-reviewed journal articles, conference papers, book chapters and technical reports (over 6,000 citations). Her cross-disciplinary and cross-sectoral influence upon the academic domains of educational technology and higher education policy and leadership development has been fostered by sitting on over 60 programme committees and advisory groups, and undertaking over 120 international keynotes, presentations and public lectures in four continents. She has led significant international industry and academic clusters in ICT, manufacturing and digital games.

Her most recent book, Education in Computer Generated Environments (2014) has been published in hardback by Routledge, in their Research in Education Series, outlining a vision for future learning in higher education which aligns policy and practice whilst focusing upon designing engaging learning experiences. She blogs on disruptive education at:, her books can be found at: and full list of publications at:

Professor Paul Maharg


Paul Maharg is Distinguished Professor of Practice – Legal Education at Osgoode Hall Law School, York University, Toronto, and part-time Professor of Law at Nottingham Law School. Prior to this he was Professor of Law in The Australian National University College of Law, Canberra, where he was Director of the PEARL centre (Profession, Education and Regulation in Law). He is now an Honorary Professor there. Earlier, he was a Professor of Legal Education at Northumbria University School of Law; and Professor of Law in the Glasgow Graduate School (GGSL), University of Strathclyde. At Strathclyde he was Co-Director of Legal Practice Courses, and Director of the innovative Learning Technologies Development Unit at the GGSL, as well as Director of the two-year, JISC/UKCLE-funded project, SIMPLE (SIMulated Professional Learning Environment – and consultant to the JISC/HEA Simshare project.

His authored and edited books include Transforming Legal Education: Learning and Teaching the Law in the Early Twenty-first Century (2007, Routledge), Digital Games and Learning (2011, Continuum Publishers), Affect and Legal Education: The Impact of Emotion on Learning and Teaching the Law (2011, Routledge), and The Arts and the Legal Academy: Beyond Text in Legal Education (2012, Routledge). As well as co-editing Digital Games and Learning, he co-edits Emerging Legal Education (Routledge Publishing), and has published widely in the fields of legal education and professional learning design. His specialisms include international and interdisciplinary educational design, and the use of technology-enhanced learning at all levels of legal education. Since 2002 Paul has worked extensively with regulators internationally on a range of legal educational projects, including the SRA in England, the Law Society of Ireland, the Law Admission Board in Victoria, Australia, the Law Society of Hong Kong, the Law Society of Scotland and the Law Society of Upper Canada. He was a member of the Legal Education & Training Review Group (LETR – in England and Wales, which reported to front-line regulators in legal education. He was appointed a Principal Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (2015), a National Teaching Fellow (2011), HEA Global Ambassador (2017), and a Fellow of the RSA (2009). He holds Visiting Professorships at Hong Kong University Faculty of Law and Chinese University of Hong Kong, and was 2014 Distinguished Professor of Teaching and Learning at Denver University Law School. He blogs at, where a full CV can be found on the Bio tab. Email: [email protected]

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
EDUCATION / Curricula
EDUCATION / Elementary
EDUCATION / Secondary
EDUCATION / Computers & Technology
EDUCATION / Distance Education & Learning