Procedural Literacy: Bogost's Learning Through Games

The process of playing a game creates a learning experience beyond the content communicated on screen. Videogames create opportunities for players to understand and empathize with real-world situations. Games help players learn through doing. Bogost describes this learning experience is described as procedural literacy. Videogame players learn by actively taking part in a process. Players make decisions based on information, experience the results of those decisions, and adjust future strategies based on those results. Videogames are an active learning experience.

Looking back on what I wrote about the top 10 list of educational games that John Rice created, almost all of the games teach through procedural literacy:

Revolution – puts the player into the world of colonial America and requires them to make decisions and adjust to the decisions of others. It teaches, not through cut scenes but through conversations. Players learn naturally through the very act of playing.

River City – players explore and use the scientific method to solve the problem plaguing the city.

Arden – encourages players to explore the world during Shakespeare’s time, learning about the content and people through interactions

The History of Canada uses the Civilization III engine allowing players to player through historic events.

America’s Army puts players into the roles of different military positions; a recent story shows the power of procedural literacy when a man responded to a crash and dressed the wounds based on his training in the game

Sim City is, well Sim City. Enough said.

The majority of the titles on Rice’s list use procedural literacy to teach and help players learn.

What other games use procedural literacy well?


Anonymous said...

Hi Paul. I respect Bogost's work, and it's an interesting way to frame our understandings about educational processes within games. I probably would have stuck with terms like constructive learning, etc. But procedural learning does seem more descriptive. Certainly there are procedures as you describe in the majority of those games.

I also find it interesting that so many efforts have been taken to try and define what goes on with serious or educational games. It reminds me of the video poker phenomenon. We know gamblers play a lot more when video poker machines are installed in a casino, but no one really knows why. Is it the pretty lights on the screen? Is it sufficiently divorced from reality that player lose themselves in the game with virtual cards and a lack of touching real money that is won or lost in virtual hands? Or is it something else in the human psyche?

And so it is with educational games. Do players lose themselves in the environment and engage in it on a different level than RL interactions? Is their sense of play so stoked that all else falls by the wayside in their pursuit of the game's objectives? Or is it simply a diversion that focuses attention in ways few other media can? Good questions, and many angles to approach in answering them.