Category Archives: Links


Digital vs Analog: The Value of Divergent Game Types

In the relatively new field of game studies, digital games have attracted the most attention of researchers and scholars. While technology continued to improve, so did the acceptance of digital games as a viable medium for interactive storytelling and artistic expression. In today’s world, most people walk around with mobile devices that play games that look about as good as they did on game consoles a few years ago. As such, digital games have become much more pervasive in society and it is much easier to see them as legitimate fields of study. The problem is that while digital games garner so much attention in game studies as a field of scholarship, very little work has been done on analog games in comparison.

Since games come in numerous formats and vary in purpose and style of play, they are used in classes several different ways. In order to be used effectively, the needs of the students are a primary concern, since the goals and objectives of the class determine whether the use of games is a feasible, practical option (Conover, 1974). In addition, if a game is considered useful in a classroom setting, the teacher should pay special attention to how students engage with in-game tasks as well as their cognitive attempts to take advantage of the immersive benefits of the game (Murray, 1999). Over the years, numerous teachers and researchers studied how games can improve various factors of language acquisition. Most of the studies focus on digital games, but the rationale can apply to analog games as well.


One relevant study by Bridge and Radford (2014) examined the digital version of the board game Diplomacy as a pedagogical tool for language learning. Due to the game’s online capabilities, one of the strengths that the article mentions is the ability to play the game outside of class. By having students play the game on their own time, the teacher saves precious time which would be taken up if he/she used the physical version in class. While the face-to-face interaction which comes with using the analog game is applicable and valuable for teaching strategic language use, the usefulness of the digital version cannot be denied.

An issue that comes with playing board games with other people is the personalities of some players may be stronger than others, influencing the decisions of more passive players. In face-to-face interactions, refusing or disagreeing with another player could be challenging due to the close proximity. When looking at the article by Bridge and Radford, we can assume that more passive players “might feel more at ease using electronic communication than verbal negotiations—and therefore might be more likely to engage because of the computer interface” (p. 431). The digital version also made it easier for the instructor to assess the students on their Willingness to Communicate (WtC), since they could write comments for everyone to see online.

In addition to the practical advantages the digital version entails, the students being studied responded quite favorably to playing Diplomacy. Most found the game useful in terms of critical thinking as well as learning about international relations theory/practice in addition to being fun to play (p. 433). By using this game centered on interpersonal communication and negotiation, the teacher can take advantage of an authentic material for pragmatic purposes and fostering WtC.

While the field of digital games as it relates to language instruction has received a great deal of attention in scholarly articles recently, analog games have not gotten as much attention, even though the volume and diversity of these games have improved just as well. In addition, analog games can provide an environment that is just as safe and contained as digital games to practice English language use, developing the potential to instill motivation and WtC within English language learners.

Just as with any kind of authentic material adapted for classroom usage, the teacher has to choose what is appropriate for the class as a whole. Some of the inferences that researchers have made concern how board games take considerably more time to set up than digital games and contain several small pieces, where one accidental bump could ruin an entire activity. However, several new games have been developed which are composed of nothing more than a handful of cards and a pile of chips.


With proper preparation and scaffolding, the teacher can use games to teach various language features, regardless if they are digital or analog. Understanding the advantages and limitations of each game type is important when choosing which game to use.

If you would like to learn more about analog games, Analog Game Studies is a great place to
start. In addition to the numerous links and articles on using analog games to teach, you can also download a PDF download of their book Analog Game Studies off of their website for free.

If you would like to learn more about the different ways you can use digital games in the classroom, stay tuned for more updates from Games2Teach or go to our ‘Explore’ section to see other resources out there.

-Ben Pearson


New Game in ARIS?

Operator-Desperate3 Info-UnderTable Demo

A magnitude 9.0 earthquake has hit the entire state. Several structures within the University are severely damaged and without power. Please remain calm and do the following:

  • If you are in a building, evacuate using only stairs and fire escapes, not the elevator. Once you are safely outisde, ensure all persons are accounted for. Do not attempt to go back inside the building until it is deemed safe by emergency authorities.
  • Stay away from windows and unsecured objects.
  • Take keys, wallets, purses, and emergency supplies with you as you exit, since you will not be able to reenter the building.
  • Move to an open area away from –

The news cuts out. Looks like that’s all the information you’re getting for now. You do not know what to do, but you want to help any way you can. Suddenly, your phone starts to ring. Immediately, you are worried that someone you know may have been affected by the earthquake.


Do you answer it?


Stay tuned for more information on the new iteration of Ecopod we have been working on over at CASLS. For those going to the ARIS Summit this year, you will get a sneak peek of the game before it’s fall release. In addition, you will get some inside info on how we have been using ARIS to make engaging, immersive games for the language classroom. Can’t wait to see you there!


Commercial Games and the World Language Classroom

Commercial Games and the World Language Classroom

A few weeks ago, at CALICO (Computer-Assisted Language Instruction Consortium) 2016, Johnathon Beals, Phillip Cameron, Brenda Imber, and Val Waldron gave a workshop entitled, “Meaningful Play: Gamers as Teachers.” This workshop addressed how to appropriately integrate commercially available games into course content. According to Reneé Marshall, workshop attendee, the workshop showed “how games can thoughtfully be used in the language classroom…this workshop [was] fun, informative and practical.”

As part of the workshop, presenters covered the Taxonomy Alignment for Gaming ( featured below.


This taxonomy alignment is particularly helpful for instructors trying to determine which games would be most appropriate to incorporate into the classroom.  As one can see, vocabulary and grammar memorization games like Duolingo, the games that are most readily-available and content-specific, involve the lowest order of thinking skills and are not always the best games to use. While the games certainly make the sometimes arduous task of memorization more fun, they do not necessarily serve to develop a learner’s language proficiency.

The potential for a game to aid a learner in improving his or her target language proficiency increases as one moves up the taxonomy featured here. Let us consider as our example Plague Inc., a digital commercial game (

This game, a game in which the player pretends that he or she is the CEO of a company trying to develop a disease that will successfully infect the entire world, involves a great deal of strategy, and to a lesser extent, exploration. While these aren’t the highest levels of cognition featured on the Taxonomy, the game provides for a clear example of how one might incorporate commercial games into the classroom.

To begin gameplay, each player names his or her disease. After that, the player picks a country to infect with the disease first. Before selecting the country, the player is able to find out additional information (socioeconomic standing, climate, topography, and population density) about the country in question in order to inform his or her selection.


As the player plays and the disease begins to spread, the player earns DNA points that can be used to evolve the disease in order to adapt it to the new countries that it enters.


At any point, the player can see the overall progression of the disease and can monitor any research being undertaken in order to combat the disease. This information will inform subsequent decision making.



So why use a game like this?

The answer to this question is multi-faceted and related to the high levels of active cognition employed both during gameplay and in potential follow-up activities. At the most basic level, the visual design of games like this provide players with so much visual context that even novice learners are able to infer the meaning of many targeted vocabulary words. Additionally, commercial games like Plague Inc. allow learners to explore and evaluate such concepts as innovation, community, and internationalism. These concepts ignite student engagement given their cross-curricular relevance. Finally, these games can serve as an inciting incident of sorts to springboard further classroom communication and exploration that is both authentic and contextualized. Novice learners can create semantic maps with the knowledge that the acquire through gameplay, intermediate learners can practice summarizing major events through live tweeting gameplay, and advanced learners can engage in roleplay scenarios in which the imagine the conversations that characters in the game would have. It is important to note that any of these activities should be supplemented by additional classroom discussion and instruction. In essence, the game not only involves contextualized language interpretation, but it also inspires contextualized and authentic language output on both the individual and classroom levels.

If you are interested in checking out activities to supplement Plague Inc. and a variety of other commercial games, check out what we have created at


New Online Course on Designing Games

Hello everyone,

A new four class course is being offered at  called ‘Game Design: Art and Concepts Specialization,’ where learners receive a foundation for designing a video game at the conceptual level. Beginning on November 23, this 4-class course will focus on exploring important aspects of video game design, such as narrative, character development, and gameplay aspects before programming even begins. For more information about the course itself, frequently asked questions, and how to sign up, click on the link here.

Take a look if this is something that interests you!