Ludic Epistemology? Knowledge-Representation in Game-based Learning

S. de Castell and J. Jenson (Canada)


Play, video games, epistemology, education, game design


This paper discusses the distinctive demands of—and the particular constraints upon--- knowledge representation in the development of computer-supported game-based learning environments. Theoretical questions central to the re-mediation of educational knowledge and its representation are introduced and illustrated from the practical standpoint of developing one such educational computer game, “Contagion” ( In any rule-bound, game based environment of this kind, knowledge must be re conceived in a play-based digital form. It is the argument of this paper that traditional demands for specified ‘learning outcomes’ mislead educators increasingly now urged to look to computer games and play for pedagogical models and instructional tools, since digital games do not invite, and rarely tolerate, the kinds of extended, propositional and analytical statements that text-based knowledge enables. Understanding more about how the constraints and affordances of digital games work against traditional text-driven forms of knowledge representation, and coming seriously to terms with a ‘ludic epistemology’---a theory of play-based learning and knowledge—is fundamental for transforming and refining emerging conceptions and practices of education.

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