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What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy. Second Edition Paperback – Dec 26 2007

4.0 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin; 2nd edition, revised edition (Dec 26 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1403984530
  • ISBN-13: 978-1403984531
  • Product Dimensions: 15.4 x 1.9 x 23.2 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 295 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #98,414 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


“Gee astutely points out that for video game makers, unlike schools, failing to engage children is not an option.” ―Terrence Hackett, The Chicago Tribune

“These games succeed because, according to Gee, they gradually present information that is actually needed to perform deeds.” ―Norman A. Lockman, USA Today

“James Paul Gee's What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy has been a transformative work. Gee might be described as the Johnny Appleseed of the serious games movement, planting seeds that are springing new growth everywhere we look. More than anyone else, he has forced educators, parents, policy makers, journalists, and foundations to question their assumptions and transform their practices. Gee combines the best contemporary scholarship in the learning scientists with a gamer's understanding of what is engaging about this emerging medium.” ―Henry Jenkins, author of Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide

About the Author

James Paul Gee has been featured in a variety of publications from Redbook, Child, Teacher, and USA Today to Education Week, The Chicago Tribune, and more. He is Professor of Education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Described by the Chronicle of Higher Education as "a serious scholar who is taking a lead in an emerging field" he has become a major expert in game studies today.

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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Commonsensical in an area where a lot of teachers are suffering from severe cases of crano-rectal inversion. Helps them understand why the kid who can't finish a short story at school will then go home and show he has all the 800 written documents in Skyrim memorized.

S'cratchy the Khajiit: I'm more interesting that George Washington, teacher. That's not because Washington is boring. It's because you are.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Confirmation of learning should be fun, inventive and self-motivating
Well written
Very worth reading for educators and parents
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0xa7d50138) out of 5 stars 39 reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa7d28a98) out of 5 stars An Eloquent Description of Learning that Happens in Video Games Oct. 16 2011
By Stacey White - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I do not play video games, however, after reading this book I now have a new respect for video games. Gee clearly and eloquently explains the kind of learning that is encouraged in well-designed video games.

This book is NOT a methods book. You will NOT learn techniques on how to design better games or better instruction. But you WILL learn how video games encourage deep learning (i.e., a deep understanding of the game and how to be successful) and develop critical thinking skills that players use to become successful at playing a specific game AND video games in general. You will learn that game designers deliberately develop deep learning and critical thinking skills, NOT to make players experts in zombies or war, but to set them up to be successful at playing the game and to have a great game playing experience. That gamers foster learning that develops self-esteem and self-efficacy through game play. Gee will also share his opinion of how the educational system might incorporate these elements in the classroom to foster critical thinking and deep learning of subject matter.

If you don't play video games, this book will give you insight in to the kind of learning that is deliberately encouraged in video games.
If you DO play video games, you'll develop an understanding of why the games you play are designed that way.
If you design instruction (or video games) you'll now have a framework and a vocabulary you can use to design and discuss those elements that make learning engaging and effective.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa7d39714) out of 5 stars Good Gaming! Sept. 18 2010
By KathyGD - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In this book I was enlightened to the in-depth world of video gaming. The only video games I remember playing back the early 1980s was Asteroids, so I had no idea about the complexity of the today's "good games" and the amount of cognitive strategy that goes on within the player's mind. In each chapter Gee goes into specific detail explaining selected game scenarios which correspond to a selected set of his 36 Learning Principles. He states that these learning principles, which are evident in video games, can be transposed to classroom learning. He is critical of the current state of the classroom which, in his opinion, still maintains a lackluster skill-and-drill approach to learning which is a very different strategy presented in video games. The principles Gee has developed while observing- and playing- video games is, as he says, " a plea to build better schools on on better principles of learning."

He makes excellent points that I, and I am sure others, will relate to. Learning through hands-on experience can be so much more rewarding and long lasting, and the scenarios which video games players find themselves working within, activate situated cognition and social learning. In other words, Gee shows us how video games help players learn how to pick up on patterns, learn through the situations they engage within, and operate within a social network where they can synthesize their skills and strategies as a main character in the drama of the game. What I have learned from reading this book is how transformative video game learning can be as compared to passive or outside experience of, for example, listening to a teacher lecture, because players can actually become one of the characters and therefore activate higher levels of learning.

He does mention the issues of violence and gender (how women are depicted) in video games (an area of concern for parents and educators), and in that chapter he briefly provides readers some research based evidence to consider on the effects of violence and gender issues on players. I understand that he is asking readers to re-consider pop culture's sometimes overblown concerns of video gaming, and take a good look at really what is really going on in video games.

It is a fascinating read and it has caused me to reconsider the hours my teens spend on their video games. Although balance is neccesary, I am priming myself to not be so judgemental in my thinking that they are just "wasting their time" and not being productive. There is more going on than I ever realized!
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa7d39678) out of 5 stars Principles of deep learning Sept. 7 2013
By Ilya Grigorik - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Good video games offer players strong identities; they make players think like scientists; they lower the consequences of failure; ... In short, good games provide an environment that is optimized for deep-learning. Best of all, all of these concepts are directly applicable to learning just about any skill - from how to traverse a virtual landscape, to basic science, math, and yes, even good social skills.

That's not to say that every video game on the shelf will meet the above criteria, but as James Gee points points out: many do. After all, if they don't, they're out of business. In the meantime, our educational system could really benefit from picking up a few of the techniques described in this book - ever wonder why so many "ADHD students" can't sit still in class, but then spend hours concentrated on a video game? Perhaps it's not the students, but rather the method of delivery and the content itself? The book offers 36 principles that are often found in great games, and which can help us build both better classrooms and computer games -- or, even better, classrooms with engaging computer games.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa7d6c5ac) out of 5 stars Scientific rationale for gaming in the classroom Dec 2 2012
By G. Wagoner - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Gee connects gaming to brain-based learning to explain why gaming is a higher form of learning than traditional classroom tasks, especially teacher-centered ones. This is not a practical "how-to set up up gaming in the classroom" book, but the pedagogical foundation for any teacher who starts gaming or gamification. Gee also confronts the idea that gamers are non-social, but rather engaged beyond to authentic learning circles of shared interests.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa7d2551c) out of 5 stars Interesting Read for Gamers and Nongamers alike Nov. 21 2010
By R. Dexter - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
As a fourth grade teacher and long time video game player, I was excited to stumble upon a book that took games seriously and discussed them in an academic fashion. All too often, my interactions with parents and fellow educators about video games have ended with the entire hobby being dismissed as a waste of time or somehow harmful to students. iI used to just let them go because I knew I stood little chance of changing their minds, but now I may start pointing some of them towards this book to give them a slightly different perspective.

I'd like to note that Mr. Gee's book does not advocate the use of video games in classrooms. Instead, he argues that well designed video games require players to learn and think in new ways. If the game does not teach players have to survive and thrive in its virtual world, the game will be a failure and the company producing it will not see a return on its investment. Thus, failing to educate its players properly is not an option for video game makers. He then works through how video games make use of his 36 principles of learning and relates these examples to more traditional classroom learning.

Throughout the book, Mr. Gee makes some interesting arguments. Among those I found most interesting are his claim that good video games allow for effective learning in players because they follow a cycle of "automatization, adaptation, new learning, and new automatization (p. 67)." In this cycle, players automate a skill or strategy through constant practice, but are forced to rethink it when faced with a new challenge. This routine then becomes automated, but players are once again forced to alter it when faced with a still different challenge. It is through this cycle that players become quick thinkers capable of getting by in an ever changing world.

Similarly, Gee argues that good video games present players with challenges that are tough enough to be compelling but not so hard that they are seen as insurmountable. This allows players to effectively develop new and higher-order skills. When learners deal with skills that are too easy, they may increase their fluency with that skill but will struggle to learn the higher-order skills. Conversely, when the challenge is too hard, players give up because they are too frustrated.

Later, Mr. Gee uses video game instruction manuals to show one of the problems many students have in school. He found that, after reading the instruction manual for first-person shooter Deus Ex, he realized that, while he understood all of the individual words, he did not understand them in context because he had no experience with that type of game. In effect, this is what happens to many students when they read their school textbooks. They may understand what the words in their Biology textbook mean, but because they have little experience within the world of biology, they have no "situated meaning" and are unable to fully understand and apply what they've learned. Even students who do well on tests may have this problem, though they are able to succeed because they are able to repeat the information even if they are unable to apply it.

What I found most interesting, and had never considered before, was just how effective some of my favorite games were at teaching me how to survive in their worlds. Gee's dissection of the techniques used by these games makes it sound as though the designers were sitting in some of my Education classes with me. I can't count how many times I stopped because I came across a principle employed by video games that would make my college professors proud. My notes from the book look like some of my old college notebooks in their content.

On the negative side, the book could have used a little more editing. There were a few spots where I had to go back and read paragraphs multiple times to completely understand Gee's point. There were also a number of times in which his parenthetical asides got in the way of what he was trying to say. While these problems weren't necessarily severe, they did at times stand in the way of my enjoyment of the book.