GAME MAKING FOR LEARNING: A SYSTEMATIC REVIEW OF THE RESEARCH LITERATURE
Institute for Educational Technology, CNR (ITALY)
In the wake of the current booms in digital gaming and Game Based Learning (GBL), the past few years have seen a noticeable increase in the opportunities and tools available to young people for designing and making their own digital games. At the same time, there appears to be growing interest among educational researchers and practitioners in exploring the affordances these activities may offer for learning, and in investigating how those affordances might best be harnessed for educational purposes (Bermingham et al, 2013). This is by no means uncharted territory. It is rooted in the principles of constructionism, established through the seminal work of Seymour Papert and colleagues at the MIT Media Lab in the 1980s and 1990s (Papert, 1980; Papert & Harel, 1991). However, the current wave of popularity in GBL and emergence of related educational trends like 21st Century skills, computational thinking, coding and so on appear to be giving new impetus to this line of investigation (Gee & Tran, 2015).
The burgeoning research interest in game making for learning and the proliferation of related educational experiences make this an auspicious juncture for establishing a clear picture of the field’s general development, its overriding concerns and possible future directions. Accordingly, we present a review of the research literature that is based on a comprehensive and systematic search of the global literature on learners’ game making published between 1980 and 2015. This work complements the efforts of authors who have sought to contextualise their investigations of game making research by identifying cornerstone themes and reference points (Gee & Tran, 2015; Burke & Kafai, 2014; Busuttil, 2014; Johnson, 2014; Akcaoğlu, 2013; Marone, 2013; Siko, 2013; Siko & Barbour, 2013; Stiklickas, 2013; Denner, Werner & Ortiz, 2012; Marlow, 2012; Richards & Wu 2012; Robertson, 2012; Aubrecht, 2011; Doss et al., 2011; Howland, 2011; Patton, 2011; Reynolds & Caperton, 2011; Sprung et al., 2011; Wilson et al., 2011; Oldaker, 2010; Games, 2009; Harris et al., 2009; Yatim, 2009; Howland et al., 2008; Pelletier, 2007; Veelo, 2007; Kafai, 1996).
The present systematic review is based on a dataset of almost 500 records retrieved from a wide-ranging structured literature search performed in early 2015 using a variety of services and channels. The records gathered comprise academic papers, book chapters, conference proceedings, dissertations and official project reports. While the main interest of this review lies in tracing the development of digital game making, studies concerning other game types have nonetheless been retained in the dataset.
The review forms part of the author’s research in game making for learning (Earp et al, in press), which has largely been carried out with an EC co-funded project called MAGICAL (Making Games in Collaboration for Learning - http://tinyurl.com/magicaldoor). It begins with a description of the method and procedure adopted for carrying out the literature search and producing a comprehensive dataset of records. This is followed by reporting and analysis of the generated data. The review concludes with a brief discussion and reflection on the results.