New Searchable Games Database Goes Live!

Hello all,

We’ve been hard at work compiling a database of useful games to challenge and motivate learners to use language in complex, meaningful ways, and it has finally gone live! Simply go to the ‘Explore’ tab, and click on ‘Search Games’ in the drop-down menu. From there, you can scroll down to see a detailed list of all the games we have playtested and evaluated. You can also filter your search based on a number of different factors, from target language and proficiency level to game platform and price, to find games based on your criteria.

We wanted to start the new year off with something fresh on Games2Teach, so we are happy to finally share this database with you all. A very special thank you to Dan White and Jordan Lewis for researching all the games as well as putting the database into a searchable format on our website. Your work is greatly appreciated!

We will continue to build off of what we have to make an even more extensive database. If you have any good suggestions of games to add or ways to improve the database, please leave a comment below. We are eager to add more to our already growing list of analog and digital games to play!

-The Games2Teach Team


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


Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality: Uses in the World Language

The delineation between augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) is not always clear. Simply put, the difference lies in the degree to which the individual user is immersed in the virtual environment. For instance, Google Cardboard, a pair of cardboard glasses that convert smartphone images shared on VR apps into immersive environments, is a VR tool. The Center for Applied Second Language Studies (CASLS) recently did a workshop with teachers in July to test virtual reality out for themselves using Google Cardboard:


Virtual reality in the language kerning classroom #flteach #ltsi2016 #languageeducation

A photo posted by CASLS (@casls_nflrc) on


In addition, a game like Pokémon Go! in which learners are able to capture pictures of the digital Pokémon that they find inhabiting the real world, is an AR tool. Instead of completely replacing reality with a virtual realm as in VR, learners are able to interact in the real world in a new way given the digital enhancements of the tool. For example, in Pokémon Go! users are able to take pictures of themselves in-game with the Pokémon that appears at your location:



There are definite applications of VR tools and AR tools in the world language classroom. Since VR technology is not yet ubiquitous nor at the level that users are empowered to use their creative capacities within the VR realm without restraint, the intentional, sustained implementation of VR in the world language classroom may be difficult for practitioners. However, a variety of free platforms exist in which AR can enhance the world language experience. The following list offers some suggestions:

  • Learners can use Google Maps to create a geotagged map of authentic restaurants that serve food from the target-language culture within their communities.
  • Learners can build a game using ARIS, an easy-to-use programing platform, in which users have to visit certain areas in the community in order to progress in the game.
  • Learners can create a walking tour in which they describe the historical significance of various locations in the community in the target language. Each location can feature a QR code for users to scan to access a video that the learners created to share that information.
  • Learners can us Aurasma, Hewlitt-Packard’s AR tool, to select target images that provide historical or etymological information about targeted vocabulary.
  • Learners can complete targeted tasks while playing AR mobile games such as Pokémon Go! or Ingress

For more information regarding the distinction between AR and VR technologies, check out Also, check out some of our ready-made Ingress activities at!

– Stephanie Knight


Gamification in Language Learning

Games and gamification have been popular topics in the language learning field for the past few decades, with the boom of new technology and the rush to be on the cutting edge of digital implementation in education inspiring many teachers to try and motivate and engage students in a fun and exciting way. However, not all of the conversation around games and gamification has been positive. In order to discuss gamification in further detail, it’s important to note the difference between the two terms, as they are not synonymous. Using games in a classroom entails incorporating games and game-like content into existing curricula, or designing curricula around their use. On the contrary, gamification is the use of game-like elements in a non-game context.

According to game designer and author of Reality is Broken Jane McGonigal (2011), the core elements of games are rules, goals, feedback, and voluntary participation. Gamification does not depend on the use of games, but rather these core mechanics. However, many gamified classrooms, whose goals and feedback systems are grade-based, tend to only superimpose points, badges, and leaderboards to engage and motivate. However, when taken out of the game context, points, badges, and leaderboards may be ineffective and consequently decrease motivation. Students are doing the same coursework in the same manner with only a superficial change in how they are rewarded.

According to Pew Research Center, over half of all adults play video games in 2016, with 10% considering themselves gamers. The number is significantly larger for adolescents, with over 96% of teens ages 12-17 play video games regularly. To break the numbers down even more, over half reported that they played games as recently as “yesterday” with 86% owning some type of gaming console or computer. What these numbers tell us is that Americans, especially children and young adults, know a lot about games. For language learners, who are in the majority of game players according to these numbers, these types of superficial changes that do not touch on the core mechanics of what games truly are, will not be taken seriously. So why is it that people play games?

According to gamification expert Yu-Kai Chou (2015), an important element in many successful games is epic meaning. Epic meaning is the sense that the players are part of something bigger than themselves, that they shape and impact not only their own destiny, but the destiny of others. We see this presented in everyday life: the vast number of Wikipedia moderators who normally do not earn wages from their work; buying shoe brands that donate a pair of shoes to less fortunate children around the world; using apps that donate money to others with each use. People like to feel as if they are a part of something bigger than themselves, and that their contribution and effort matters to not only them, but others. Can this idea of epic meaning and calling be incorporated into a language learning classroom?

Let’s look at the goals of a communicative language classroom:

  1. An emphasis on learning to communicate through interaction in the target language.
  2. The introduction of authentic texts into the learning situation.
  3. The provision of opportunities for learners to focus, not only on language but also on the learning process itself.
  4. An enhancement of the learner’s own personal experiences as important contributing elements to classroom learning.
  5. An attempt to link classroom language learning with language activities outside the classroom.

From looking at these goals of CTL, we can see that it is already primed for epic meaning. By structuring the course curriculum around epic meaning and drive, the language classroom can become a place for engagement in learning. But how can we as teachers accomplish this?

In a course I am currently designing for my MA project in the Language Teaching Specialization program at the University of Oregon, I use gamification as a way to encourage collaborative work on a creative writing project. Learners in this creative writing class are called to complete an objective: work together in teams to create a narrative based mobile game they will present in a final showcase showdown. The goals of the gamified experience are to promote autonomy and expression of personal identity as individuals, while allowing students to develop interpersonal communication and pragmatic skills through collaboration. At the same time, learners build a wider vocabulary, strengthen their grammatical competence, and develop composition skills that are transferrable to all genres of writing.

In order to complete their project, they will be called to fulfill different roles in both their team and other teams as well. For example, each person might have different strengths that they, as a team, can decide how to best utilize. In addition, because their games require images to be taken and uploaded into the software, they can choose to include images from the Mystery Box, which are an assortment of scenarios for images that they must find a way to incorporate into their story. The Mystery Box also includes a writing section, in which teams can choose to incorporate a random character, plot point, or setting into their story for additional bonus points. Each team has full control over their game, and can use any resources and props they like, which they are responsible for acquiring. If they choose to collaborate with other teams, they can expand their pool of resources, which benefits all. Cross-collaborating is also beneficial for earning bonus points by playing a role in the creation of others’ games as well, such as by being actors in other teams’ games, or peer-editing and giving creative feedback. By incorporating epic meaning into the core of the curriculum, learners are impacting not only their own projects, but the projects of their peers. The gamified structure also promotes autonomy, creativity, and engagement.

– Becky Lawrence & Emily Letcher



McGonigal, J. (2011). Reality is broken: Why games make us better and how they can change the world. New York: Penguin Press.

Chou, Y. (2015). Actionable gamification: Beyond points, badges, and leaderboards. Fremont, CA: Octalysis Media.