November 15, 2004

Digital Game-Based Learning now in paperback

A paperback edition of my first book, Digital Game-Based Learning, is hot off the presses, and is available HERE . The book has been out of print and only available as a PDF. The new addition contains corrections and minor updates to the original.

The 400+ page book provides andwers to many questions I frequently hear asked today about Digital-Game-Based Learning, including theory, effectiveness, and examples from the corporate world, the education world, and the military.


Posted by Marc at 12:46 PM

November 07, 2004

Catching Up: July to October Activities

Ok I’m back in the blogosphere! Hi everyone! I haven’t written since June or so, and it’s been an eventful summer and fall. Let me start with the present and then work backwards.

Current Projects

Games2train is currently working on an Algebra game The Algebots (Motto: Beat the game, pass the course) in Flash, a middle school science game from the Hidden Agenda contest called MeCHeM, in Wild Tangent, a Tropico-like game called Winning the Peace for DARWARS, also in Wild Tangent, a couple of cell phone games in the corporate and K-12 areas, and working with the Florida Virtual High School in HTML and Flash. In addition we are moving our Battle of The Brains classroom game and all our Java certification games (The Challenge, Pick-it, etc) to Flash, much of which work is already done.

New Articles

I’ve posted several new articles on my website that are free for download and republication, including:

Interactive Pretending -- An Overview of Simulation

Beyond the Lemonade Stand -- Economics and Business Lessons for a 10-year-old From a Computer Game

The Seven Games of Highly Effective People -- How Game Playing Helps You Succeed in School, Work and Life

How Kids Learn To Cooperate In Video Games -- A Guide for Parents and Teachers

What Can You Learn From A Cell Phone? - Almost Anything! - How to use the 1.5 billion computers already in our students' and trainees' pockets to increase learning, at home and around the world

Project Inkwell Working Session

As I write this I’m returning from San Diego, where I attended the working session of Project Inkwell (I’m on the steering committee.) The goal of Project Inkwell is to accelerate the implementation of “1 to 1” computing in schools, by creating minimum specs for not just the device, but the entire system that supports a new form of education. Inkwell’s role is to help its members, which include manufacturers and users at all part of the chain agree on a minimum set of specifications, so there will be some consistency to the rollout of 1 to 1, and it will be done with helping kids’ education, rather than just selling more business computers, in mind. The group spent time at the Lemon Grove school district, which is a true leader in this area, having designed its own 1 to 1 computer, and we saw some really exciting education.

We also heard about some interesting new initiatives: AMD has a project named Emma, a bare-bones internet-ready computer designed for the masses in countries like India, China, Russia, etc. which costs approximately $230 with monitor. (AMD has built a reference design which they are licensing to local manufacturers.) Scandisk, which invented the USB memory stick, is launching a product where the stick will be sold with copyrighted content, as well as a processor and reader software to display it on any device, including a TV.

The U.S. Election

Overall I’m quite bummed by the direction the country is moving, but the one piece of good news is that hopefully we’ll see John Bailey, who previously headed the DoE office of Technology, back at the DoE doing something important. John (along with his successor Susan Patrick and her associate Tim Magner, formerly of Microsoft) are friends of good, technology-led education, and supporters of all of us who want to improve our education through technology.

National School Board Association

I presented a special session at the NSBA conference in Denver on engagement and learning, entitled “It’s Not Attention Deficit, I’m Just Not Listening!” You can download a copy of the presentation by writing me at


On my first visit (and certainly not my last) to beautiful Vancouver, I gave presentations to the Association of Credit Trainers and Simon Fraser University, and did a workshop (“Creating Learning Digital Natives Will Love”) for the local chapter of the ISPI.

Florida Virtual Schools

I had the pleasure of working with the development team at FLVS to think with them about ways to add more engagement and interactivity to their online courses, particularly in the math area. This will be an ongoing project.

Serious Games Summit DC

The Serious Games Initiative, run by Dave Rejeski and Ben Sawyer for the Woodrow Wilson Center, held a 2 day conference in DC which attracted an unanticipated show of over 500 attendees – interest in this field is growing by leaps and bounds! There were so many sessions they had to be multi-tracked (an organizational style I am not particularly fond of, since there are always two or more sessions I want to attend simultaneously.) I did attend interesting sessions on modding, and saw further development of several of the products listed on , including Project Telecom, Making History, and DARWARS Ambush!

New Zealand!

In October I was lucky enough to be invited to speak and do two workshops in New Zealand, which let me get to that country for the first time. I saw parts of Aukland, Wellington, Christchurch, and I took the train across the south island to Greymouth and back. The country is both rugged and pretty, and the people were wonderful. I found lots of interest both in adding engagement to education, and in Digital Game-Based Learning Based Learning as a means of doing so. One of the highlights of the trip was the Maori opening ceremony (Powhiri) at the e-Fest conference in Wellington, where I got to touch noses, a traditional Maori way of showing closeness and friendship. Our workshop participants came up with some great game ideas, including: Drudge, a game about cleaning your room, and Go For Gold, a game about becoming an Olympic hero.

Iowa Public Television

I got to address the Iowa Public Television conference. Public TV, which has always been very involved in education, is now partnering with game and other companies to make what it offers kids more interactive by integrating with computers and other devices. I hope to push them in a cell phone game direction.

Aubrey’s Wedding

Games2train’s super-talented head graphics designer, Aubrey Arago, got married to fellow designer and web programmer Mike Bowser in New Jersey, with a fun reception in NY that included fireworks! They went off to honeymoon in Italy, and then Aubrey went on a two week tour with her band (she is the drummer!) We wish them both a very happy and exciting life together.

New Jersey Educators

I addressed a group of New Jersey Superintendents and principals, at a conference sponsored by Pearson. The attendees were very enthusiastic about the ideas I presented, and left me with the feeling that administrators are very aware that engagement is missing from their classrooms and are looking for ways to help their teachers bring it back. Thus they are very interested in Game-Based Learning solutions.

National Science Foundation

NSF is trying hard to improve science education, and convened a group of high-powered academics (and me as gadfly) to help them create a research agenda about how Modeling, Simulation and Game Technologies can be applied to learning. Quite a few of the nations top academic thinkers in this area were present, and the discussion was lively. I will check to see if the results have been posted and amend this if so. A favorite term out of the session: “premature abstraction” (from Roy Pea.)


Because Phase II of Games2train’s DoD SBIR grant that led to the creation of the web sites and has been sponsored by Dr. Ralph Chatham, head of DARPA’s DARWARS program, I got to attend the principal investigators meeting, and learn about all the research efforts in the program. They are impressive, including, among many others, a Language Training Program employing scenarios built in the Unreal game engine.

Games for Health Conference

This terrific conference, sponsored by the ADL Co-Lab, the Serious Games Initiative and The Federation of American Scientists was held in Madison Wisconsin on September 16-17, 2004. While may exciting things were presented, including a fitness game for the X-Box (see the highlights for me were talks by Dr. James “Butch” Rosser of Beth Israel Hospital in NY and Paul Wessell, the inventor of GlucoBoy.

Dr. Rosser is in charge of teaching Laproscopic Surgery at Beth Israel, and realized early on that many of the physical and mental skills of laproscopic surgeons and video game players using game controllers overlap. He first did studies to determine if surgeons who had played games in the past made fewer mistakes at surgery (they did, significantly) and
then initiated a program in which surgeons warm up on videogames before surgery. Rosser’s data shows that this warm-up has resulted in a 40 percent reduction in mistakes during surgery! And who says mastering videogames is a waste of time?

The Glucoboy story is equally impressive. Wessell’s son is diabetic and Wessell realized that kids with type I diabetes (who need to check their blood sugar frequently) are often “losing” their monitors to avoid the process, considerably endangering their health. Over a 3-year process, Wessell persuaded Nintendo to open up their chip set for the first time, so that the Glucoboy meter could connect directly with the GameBoy, and “reward” games for good self-monitoring and behavior could be played on the GameBoy. The product will finally be coming out shortly (see


Scotland is becoming a hotbed of innovation in the games for learning area. Two separate groups in Scotland invited me over to help them think through how they can apply game-based learning to their projects, including educating disaffected adult learners. I finally got to see Loch Lomond, which is, truly, bonny!

Austin Games Conference

While relatively small, the Austin conference had some very interesting sessions (and an interesting sign on the door of the conference center saying “No guns allowed except for concealed weapons with a permit.” Boy, did that make me feel safe.)

One favorite session was by developers of Disney’s multiplayer game Toontown, in which they explained some of the strategies they employed to get to their goal of a 50-50 boy-girl ratio. One strategy was to use a blue-pink “girl’s” palette of colors for the overall game, with grays and darker colors reserved for the enemy “Cogs” and their headquarters later in the game, when both boy and girl players are hooked. A second strategy is having the fighting with the Cogs take place in the streets, initially, where girls who (typically) want to watch and get the feel for what is happening before they plunge in can stand off on the side and do so. Toontown is a great game that I heartily recommend, and a fun game for adults and kids to play together (how the Cogs are named and what they do will amuse adults more than kids.) Note: I have written an article (posted on my writings site) about Toontown called How Kids Learn To Cooperate in Video Games.

I also enjoyed a talk by Richard Garriott, in which he reminded us that good, lasting game design is not easy, and can’t just be done off the top of your head overnight.

TV for Microsoft Games

I was engaged by the Microsoft Games for Windows group to write an article (The Seven Games of Highly Effective People) and to be interviewed on several morning news TV and radio shows around the country about the positive effects of game playing.

FYI, I am writing a new book for parents about the positive effects of game playing on kids. The book’s working title is “Don’t Bother me, Mom, I’m Learning.”

Connections Military Simulation Conference

This annual conference was held this year in Colorado Springs, and included some sessions at the U.S. Air Force Academy. The focus is on military simulation of all kinds, computer, board and other. We were given a preview of an exciting new program for letting instructors develop their own complex military sims.

Navy Training Conference

This impressive conference was organized by the Navy’s Naval Education and Training Command (NETC). A highlight was an address by the Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Vern Clark, who made it very clear that his job was to help the sailors by giving them the best, most advanced training tools available. One feature I particularly liked about this conference’s organization was the repetition of breakout sessions so that you could attend sessions that conflicted at other times

World Future Society

At this Washington DC Conference I had the privilege of sharing a panel with Clark Aldrich, author of the books “Simulations and the Future of Learning” and the upcoming “Learning by Doing.” Each of us addressed the idea of simulations and games from our own perspective, and a lively discussion ensued.

Secretary’s No Child Left Behind Leadership Summit – Increasing Options Through e-Learning

I was invited to speak at the No Child Left Behind e-Learning Summit, and gave my presentation, Give Us 21st Century Tools from the students’ point of view. Please contact me for these slides if you would like them.

Hewlett Foundation

A group of very bright thinkers and pioneers in education and game-based learning were invited by the Hewlett Foundation to their lovely headquarters in Palo Alto, for a discussion on “Games for Improving K-12 Learning,” including where the field of Game-Based Learning was going, and how they could contribute. Among others, I finally got to meet Ann McCormick, one of the earliest pioneers and famous names in Game-Based Learning, who is still active in the field!

m-Learn Mobile Learning Conference in Rome

This conference, which I decided to attend, I confess, partially to learn about what was happing in European Mobile Learning and partially to spend time with my wife in Italy, turned out to be excellent on both fronts. Although small (about 100 people) the conference was filled with people doing interesting things with handhelds (and to a much lesser extent, to my disappointment, with cell phone) area. Held at a true medieval castle high over beautiful Lake Bracciano, the conference was a great mixture of old and new. I recommend to anybody interested in the mobile learning area that they attend the next conference in this series, which I think will be in South Africa.

So, folks, that pretty much catches me up. If you read this far, congratulations! Because of spam I am not enabling comments here. But if you have any, please write me at


Posted by Marc at 02:11 PM