Ludography - A Bibliography on Games, Game-Based Learning and Gamification


Classroom Practice and Learning

Carnes, Mark C. Minds on Fire: How Role-Immersion Games Transform College. (Cambridge, MA, 2014).

Dignan, Aaron. Game Frame: Using Games as a Strategy for Success. (New York, 2011).

Gee, James Paul. Good Video Games + Good Learning. (New York, 2007).

Isaacs, S. “The Difference Between Gamification and Game-Based Learning.” Retrieved January 22, 2015 from

Kapp, Karl M. The Gamification of Learning and Instruction. (San Francisco, 2012).

Niecikowski, David M. Game Design in the Classroom. (Tucson, 2011).

Prensky, Marc. Digital Game-Based Learning. (St. Paul, MN, 2001).

Sheldon, Lee. The Multiplayer Classroom. (Boston, 2012).

Video Games Transforming Education Infographic - e-Learning Infographics. (2013, December 17). Retrieved January 16, 2015, from

Game Design

Annetta, Leonard A. Serious Educational Games: From Theory to Practice. (Rotterdam, 2008).

Bateman, Chris / Boon, Richard. 21st Century Game Design. (Boston, 2006).

Bogost, Ian. Persuasive Games: The Expressive Power of Videogames. (Cambridge, MA, 2007).

Flanagan, Mary. Critical Play: Radical Game Design. (Cambridge, MA, 2009).

Flanagan, Mary and Nissenbaum, Helen. Values At Play In Digital Video Games. (Cambridge, MA, 2014).

Juul, Jesper. half-real: Video Games between Real Rules and Fictional Worlds. (Cambridge, MA, 2005).

Ritterfeld, Ute, Michael, Cody and Vorderer, Peter. Serious Games: Mechanisms and Effects. (New York, 2009).

Schell, Jesse. The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses. (Burlington, MA, 2008).

Sicart, Miguel. Beyond Choices: The Design of Ethical Gameplay. (Cambridge, MA, 2013).

Sylvester, Tynan. Designing Games. (Sebastapol, CA, 2013).

Gamer Cultures

Corneliussen, Hilde G. and Rettberg, Jill Walker. Digital Culture, Play and Identity: A World of Warcraft Reader. (Cambridge, MA, 2008).

Nardi, Bonnie A. My Life As a Night Elf Priest: An Anthropological Account of World of Warcraft. (Ann Arbor, MI, 2010).

Pearce, Celia and Artemesia. Communities of Play: Emergent Cultures in Multiplayer Games and Virtual Worlds. (Cambridge, MA, 2011).

Taylor, T.L. Play Between Worlds: Exploring Online Game Culture. (Cambridge, MA, 2009).

Games and Culture

The Benefits of Board Games. (n.d.). Retrieved March 29, 2013, from

Bissell, Tom. Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter. (New York, 2011).

Dyer-Witheford, Nicka and de Peuter, Greig. Games of Empire: Global Capitalism and Video Games. (Minneapolis, 2009).

Curry, A. (2009, March 23). Monopoly Killer: Perfect German Board Game Redefines Genre. Retrieved June 15, 2013, from

Dietrich, David R (2013). “Avatars of Whiteness: Racial Expression in Video Game Characters. Sociological Inquiry, 83 (1), 82-105

Elias, George Skaff, Garfield, Richard and Gutschera, K. Robert. Characteristics of Games. (Cambridge, MA, 2012).

Ladley, S. (2013, February 1). Games Develop Social Bonds and Communication Skills. Retrieved March 29, 2013, from

Pajot, Lisanne. Indie game: [Motion picture]. (2012).

McGonigal, Jane. Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change The World. (New York, 2011).

Rogeau, Mike. How I realized my Dragon Age: Inquisition character is gay. Retrieved June 5, 2015 from

New Media Theory

Selfe, Cynthia L. and Hawser, Gail E. Gaming Lives In The Twenty-First Century: Liberate Connections. (New York, 2007).

Wardrip-Fruin, Noah and Harrigan, Pat, eds. First Person: New Media as Story, Performance and Game. (Cambridge, MA, 2004).

Wardrip-Fruin, Noah and Harrigan, Pat, eds. Second Person: Role-Playing and Story in Games and Playable Media. (Cambridge, MA, 2007)

Wardrip-Fruin, Noah and Harrigan, Pat, eds. Third Person: Authoring and Exploring Vast Narratives. (Cambridge, MA, 2009).

Philosophy of Games, Gaming and Experience

Carse, James P. Finite And Infinite Games: A Vision of Life as Play and Possibility. (New York, 1986).

Costikyan, Greg. Uncertainty In Games. (Cambridge, MA, 2013).

Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly. Flow. (New York, 1990).

Juul, Jesper. The Art of Failure: An Essay on the Pain of Playing Video Games. (Cambridge, MA, 2013).

Reeves, Byron and Read, J. Leighton. Total Engagement. (Boston, 2009).

Wark, McKenzie. Gamer Theory. (Cambridge, MA, 2007).

Philosophy of Play

Caillois, Roger. Man, Play and Games. (Chicago, 2001).

Huizenga, Johan. Homo Ludens: A Study of the Play Element in Culture. (Boston, 1950).

Sutton-Smith, Brian. The Ambiguity of Play. (Cambridge, MA, 1997).

Philosophy of Learning

Friere, Paolo. Pedagogy of the Oppressed. (New York, 1970).

hooks, bell. Teaching to Transgress. (XXX, 1984).

Kolb, David A. Experiential Learning: Experience as the Source of Learning and Development. (Englewood Cliffs, NJ, 1984).

In Praise of Procedural Rhetoric

I am a scientist, educator, game designer, and lifelong gamer - in that order, and yes, that order is important. Having come to game design through science, I see games from a scientist’s perspective, and it turns out that this perspective is incredibly useful for designing serious games. How so?

Well, science is all about models. The idea that planets orbit the sun - that idea is a conceptual model of our solar system. The idea that electrons in an atom orbit a core of protons and neutrons - that idea is a conceptual model of an atom. Now, a model is not a mandate. A model does not tell the world what it must be. Rather, a model is an attempt to describe the processes and systems that produce the patterns that we see in the world. As a scientist, it was my job to understand the state-of-the-art models in my field, work to make them better, and then use them for the good of humanity.

(Yes, I’m an idealist.)

Oddly enough, while science is all about models, most non-scientists believe that science is all about facts. This pains me. At the most idealistic level, I know from personal experience that conceptual models can be be beautiful, surprising, and inspiring. It pains me to think that so many people walk through life oblivious to the complex beauty of the world around them. So many missed opportunities for joy.

On a more practical level, models afford material power over the systems that they represent. While facts are great, if all you have are facts, you are essentially abdicating responsibility for your life, and leaving everything up to chance and fate. On the other hand, if you use your facts to create models, or if you adopt conceptual models created by others, you suddenly have the power to make educated guesses about the consequences of your actions. Chance and fate will still play important roles in your life, but with the help of these fact-based systems models, you will be able to stand beside fate and chance and play an equally important role in your life.

As both scientist and gamer, I see games as models. Some games are models of abstract mathematical systems (checkers), some are models of concrete fictional places (WoW), and some are models of real systems (Civ). At the same time, I have always wanted to be a force for positive change in the world. Probably because I read too many adventure stories as a kid. At any rate, I felt a growing desire to help curious folks learn about the things that we-as-a-people have learned through science - because these things are beautiful, surprising, and useful.  So, I started designing games based on real-world models, and I’ve become pretty good at it.

Recently, while looking for a textbook for a critical studies class, I came across Ian Bogost’s Persuasive Games. It’s a little pedantic in places, but brilliantly insightful in others, and it’s especially brilliant in the way it introduces and makes use of the concept of procedural rhetoric.

As Bogost explains, rhetoric is the art of expression and persuasion. Verbal rhetoric, as a recognized art and skill, has been around at least since ancient Greece. However, the concept of rhetoric has slowly evolved to become more inclusive, and it now recognizes the persuasive and expressive ability of all media.

Procedural rhetoric, specifically, is the art of persuasion and expression using the medium of processes. At first, this sounds rather vague, but it is in fact the very thing that I’d been doing for years. I just didn’t have a name for it. Rather than expressing my ideas through spoken words, written words, images, or music (nod to TMBG), I was communicating through game mechanics - and game mechanics are processes. After reading this book, a whole bunch of ideas all fell into place.

GlassLab, among others, advocates the idea that an educational game must require students to enact the skills that you wish them to learn. This position is an implicit recognition of the fact that procedural rhetoric is powerful and engaging. A skill is a flexible process. To learn a process, you must practice that process (or a simulation thereof). To practice a process, you must engage with that process, and listen to it. If you listen, the process will tell you when you succeed or fail, and (hopefully) why you succeed or fail. That process is speaking to you using procedural rhetoric.

The idea of procedural rhetoric also connects to the metaphor of chocolate-covered broccoli. For example, The Legend of Geomethor (short gameplay video here) is a multiple-choice geometry quiz bookended by luscious faux-80’s cartoon adventures. In this, it is analogous to a piece of limp broccoli slathered in top-notch chocolate. Maybe some people will play the game. Maybe some of those people will learn something - but if they do learn anything, they won’t learn it from the game. This is because the game has terrible procedural rhetoric - and because it has terrible procedural rhetoric, the producers had to layer on top-notch audiovisual rhetoric (those cartoon adventures) to provide both a motivation for player engagement and the necessary bits of mathematical content.

In contrast, Molleindustria is a modern master of procedural rhetoric. Each one of their games is built on a model of a piece of the real world, but those pieces are so masterfully designed that they are simultaneously engaging, persuasive, and informative. If Geomethor is chocolate-covered broccoli, Molleindustria’s games are like the finest sushi-licious broccoli: raw, real, beautiful, powerful, engaging, and authentic.

But this is not the time or place to be analyzing specific games. That will come later. Among other things, I aim to highlight interesting and thoughtful games, games that have made good use of procedural rhetoric to engage, persuade, and create opportunities for learning.

The point here is to lay a foundation for further discussion and future work. To make the case that procedural rhetoric is a wonderfully useful concept for game design, for curriculum design, and for critical studies. By considering the connections between games, game mechanics, models, and expressive or persuasive speech - you can create engaging and effective games and activities for learning, and you can engage with media in ways that better maintain and assert your own values and beliefs.


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Turning one form of content into another is a great experience for students and one they're naturally inclined to do in this mash-up culture. Here's a great story about novels that would make great video games. Could not agree more with these choices, particularly the suggestion about Iain Banks' "Culture" books.

When you're planning gamified learning experiences, what is the nature of the opposition? What do your players/learners have to do to overcome that opposition? Here's a story about the nature of opposition in certain contemporary video games and why they need to improve.

A fascinating article about virtual realism. When thinking about creating simulations in classrooms, the depth of the realism of the experience matters. This is why many games built specifically for classrooms don't ultimately work.

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From  Flickr .

From Flickr.

Ultima IV and Ultima V are among the most intriguing of RPG designs ever offered. Centering gameplay in the development of one's moral character (or responding to the ways such moral systems can actually become perverted), they push players in unexpected and intriguing ways. This great essay on these games is a reminder of their power.

Played Journey yet? It's free in September!

A succinct article from Alice Leung on Makerspaces and play, because it never hurts to remember that gasified learning is playful learning.


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Journey / From  Alphacoders

Journey / From Alphacoders

Aesthetics form the basis of so many game experiences. The best board games have equipment that enhances the experience of gameplay because of something neat about the design (like the red train cars with the giraffes in the 10th anniversary Ticket to Ride or the art in Machi Koro or the ship in Riff Raff). In video games, one of the most important aesthetic qualities is music. When you think about great games, great music should pop right into your head. I've played a lot of World of Warcraft, and the music of Northrend is one of the reasons I liked that expansion the best. Here's a list of the Top 100 game soundtracks. My only complaint? Journey is better than #18!

Are you playing "Super Mario Maker?" You ought to be. From the perspective of a gamifying teacher, it is a powerful tool that can help you understand some of the nuances of experience design. I know that its lessons are one's that I can bring back to the classroom. Check it out!

And now for what NOT to do if you're doing gamified teaching. A fun story on the infamous backstab from Dark Souls...a game I've been too chicken to even try to this point!

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Achievement systems are a major part of gamification for a big reason - they help the user/player/learner chart his or her progress through their journey with concrete milestones tailored to their personal experiences. They're critical...and wickedly difficult to construct. Some thoughts on the X-Box's system and problems it experienced.

Are you a gamer AND a data nerd? Join the club! Here's a great study of the chess board and the survivability of chess pieces on that board. I've never looked at the game quite this way before.

Anyone out there playing Elite: Dangerous and using its play engines to create gamified experiences? I understand that this wildly huge open sandbox is bigger than anything in our past experience as players, but don't know how difficult it is just yet. Still, I'm looking forward to playing it and learning from it.

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Yar's Revenge! From:

Yar's Revenge! From:


Dungeons&Dragons remains the Giant Ape (level 16) of the roleplaying world for a reason. Its popularity undiminished by the strange side quest that I believe 4th edition will ultimately be seen as, its current edition is bringing all sorts of new players into the hobby. As an educator, D&D is probably too complex as a starting point, but it’s useful to know how the game is structured, how it thinks of itself and why it matters. This article is so helpful in understanding its impact.


An elegant design that can help you as an educator understand the difference between games that are “fun” and games that have other intentions. If you aren’t sure about how video games can have a positive social impact, play this just once and let me know what you think.


Games can and should be beautiful. Their beauty can help one understand how it’s played and how it works, certainly, but at the end of the day, the best thing about a beautifully designed game is its aesthetics.


Anyone up for some Yar’s Revenge? Venture? Xybots?

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Minecraft is one of those game experiences that die-hards totally get (and are rabidly committed to) but which non-players struggle to understand. I’ve been asked “what’s the point?” by more parents/friends/family than I could probably count at this point. The simple answer is this - Minecraft gives young people an opportunity to build something (digital building, I know, but don’t denigrate that) that they can come back to over and over again to rebuild, augment or transform. Building in the physical environment can be quite restrictive in terms of space; anyone who has built with blocks knows this. Anyone who has built a sandcastle knows that building in the “real world” can be a fleeting experience. Minecraft is one of the great “open platforms.” Not really a game, more like a toy, but a powerful stimulant to creativity and flow. Here’s a neat story on just how big the Minecraft environment is.


Ooh…now this is something I could get behind. One teacher’s approach to gamified instruction is this creative discussion-based game that gives students an opportunity to develop their speaking skills in a rich, content-centered context.


Level design is a fundamental component of contemporary game design. It’s also, on a very real level, what we do in teaching and curriculum development. No teacher starts with the final exam as the first experience! Great lessons build subtly, inevitably, towards that “boss-level” goal. Just the same as Super Mario Brothers. Here’s a fascinating story about the design of the very first Mario game.

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Gamified practice is at the heart of what this community of learners is about and every day there are more and more sources of wisdom to help us, inspire us and give us something new to think about.

A recent article published at ISTE makes a case for five different kinds of virtual worlds that you might use to engage your students. I am a big fan of digital social spaces for all sorts of reasons. The best use, I think, for some of these virtual worlds is to establish and nurture a 24/7 environment for your classroom. Having said that, this is something you'd have to actually want. Moreover, it would have to be in the interests of your students, your curriculum and your longer-term learning objectives. Virtual worlds in-and-of themselves are great as game-like spaces, but I don't know how helpful they are for learning.

On his personal blog, Mark Danger Chen discusses tools that you can use to actually make digital games in your classroom. He writes: "Games are about two things: agency and empathy." He's an engaging writer and the resources he's offering here are brilliant!

My argument is that gamification is more important than games themselves. Maybe you've had the experience of trying a game in class and it didn't quite work? Perhaps all you need to do is remix that game! Here's some tools to make that work with some old school classics.

What are you going to play this weekend?


Teaming Up to Slay Bosses

KNITWIT, a great game to use as a model for learning.

KNITWIT, a great game to use as a model for learning.

This site is a community for gamers, teachers and students to learn from each other and to make games and game-based methods a bigger part of their learning and their work. This section of the site is devoted to learning from the giants in the field, thinking about theory, discovering great new books, videos and blogs to help us out in our journey as gamers, teachers, students and learners.

What are some theoretical ideas you'd like this site to explore? Who would you like to hear from in a future podcast? What's on your mind? What questions are you grappling with in your own gamified practice? Drop your thoughts in the comments section.