Is ‘Game-Based Learning’ the innovation we have been waiting for?

By Talking Town

Is ‘Game-Based Learning’ the innovation we have been waiting for?

By Talking Town


GBL is a very old concept whose fundamental principle is to impart education in the form of games. From games like “hide and seek” and “chess”, GBL has reached a new level of sophistication (thanks to computers and graphic engines), allowing it to be tailored to specific needs for education. GBL, as distinct from ‘gamification’, includes simulations and a variety of video games. It offers immense scope in the field of learning languages such as English. 


Do you have memories of cooling off from work or school by playing games? Be it a classic game of ludo, or much-awaited video games in consoles and computers, games have ingrained themselves in our collective memories as a thing of joy. 

Now, contrast that with your memories of studying. How does that compare? Do you have similar experiences to recall when it comes to learning important lessons and regurgitating books for your tests? 

What sets apart our memories of games from our memories of studies is the aspect of ‘fun’. While we have played games mostly to have a fun time, we cannot say the same for studying. Studying is often considered a ‘serious’ activity. But what if we could incorporate studies and games into one single concept? That is the concept of learning games, a.k.a. serious games. 

Despite the word ‘serious’, serious games do not suck the joy out of gaming. Instead, they add the educational aspect of studies to the kind of games we play. Learning which is compelled by such a method is called ‘game-based learning’ (GBL). In the current age of computers, game-based learning has begun to show promise. As it stands right now, GBL can be an extremely efficient addition to the existing modes of teaching, making education both informative and exciting.


Games like ‘hide and seek’ are a good example of games that teaches spatial and visual skills to children at a young age

Game-based learning is actually a very old concept. The fundamental aspect of GBL is that a game (any game) is used to impart education to the players. Games like ‘hide and seek’ are a good example of games that teach spatial and visual skills to children at a young age. 

However, when we talk about GBL, we often refer to video games. 

The potential of the video game industry was seen early during the advent of video games. It has been incorporated into different industries to train personnel and educate students. These forms of video games are known as serious games. The primary objective of serious games is not entertainment; it focuses on learning or practising a skill. 

Gamification and Game-based learning, what is the difference?

Gamification is the making of an activity to be more game-like. While Game-Based Learning happens when the game itself is teaching the student.

GBL should not be confused with gamification. But what is the difference? Gamification, as the term suggests, is the making of an activity to be more game-like. In other words, it is when one incorporates elements of games into conventional forms of learning. 

Some of the gamification techniques used commonly are: competition, achievements levels, status, badges, and rewards. These techniques can be used to increase extrinsic motivation, and make learning fun and engaging. However, these techniques by themselves cannot help students learn. They are supposed to be used alongside conventional teaching methods. For example, a class teacher may create a reward system for students who complete a required section of the syllabus. This may help students be motivated to complete their syllabi efficiently and quickly.

Game-Based learning happens when the game itself is teaching the student. For example, a student who will have to clear the stages of the game will do so by learning and practicing the relevant concepts of the game. If the concept of the game is, let’s say—geometry, then the student will be learning both the concept and its application via the game. The game is ensuring that experiential learning is taking place. 

Examples of Game-Based Learning

Simulations have been used in aeronautics and transportation to prepare and test potential candidates to face real-world scenarios, without its actual consequences. The advantage lies in repeating phases where one has failed, and improve on them. This would not be possible in a real-world situation (where failure is a matter of life and death). 

But simulations are expensive and highly professional, not to mention, they are strictly ‘serious’. For the education sector, less serious iterations have made GBL quite popular. Most of the games developed using the GBL method do not have financial or conceptual backing from educational institutes. Those games that have been backed by said institutions are needed to be bought.

Dragon Box Elements is an iOS and Android-based game aimed at kids nine years and older. It incorporates concepts from geometry and compels players to utilize these concepts in their gameplay. It is an excellent adventure game that takes kids on a journey to defeat the evil dragon Osgard, all the while teaching them geometry. That’s two birds in one stone! 

Variant: Limits is an innovative RPG game aimed at the education sector. It is designed to help students easily understand and master the abstract concepts related to limits, limit laws, asymptotes, and concepts of infinity. In simpler words, the game is designed to help students understand and retain complex calculus concepts. According to the data provided on their official website, an impressive 79 percent of students agreed that Variant: Limits increased their knowledge of limits, and 83 percent of students reported they were able to apply their knowledge from the game in class!

GBL for English Language learning

GBL can help create a virtual-social environment to help users acquire language in a real-world setting.  

The nature of GBL makes possible the development of soft skills which conventional mode of education cannot impart. Skills that require real-world interaction and experiential mode of learning need a platform on which learners can make practical use of the new-learned skills. Since video games create a virtual world, they make possible the experiential form of learning. a

Language acquisition takes place in explicit (formal) as well as implicit (informal) ways. While explicit methods involve a teacher’s intervention, correction, and evaluation, implicit methods include real-world interactions and responses from the social environment.

GBL can help create a virtual-social environment to help users acquire language in a real-world setting.  It opens the potential for both formal and informal methods of learning. It takes the best of both worlds and puts them together in one package. It is like studying a French grammar book and interacting with Parisians all in one package!

Talking Town

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