Let the Games Begin! Harnessing the Power of Gaming in Language Education

Document Type : Original Article


University of South Florida


This article both describes and explains the nature of system simulations—the generation of (non-)numeric models representing characteristics, behaviors, or functions of physical or abstract systems/processes under study. For ease of presentation, I first present some of the most pressing theoretical-practical considerations concerning implications for the gamification of education in general and foreign/second language education in particular. Structural, cognitive, and content affordances of gamified learning are reviewed next, and the relevant knowledge, skills, and dispositions related to the purposeful design and development of digital gaming and game-like activities for classroom or personal use are noted as needed, including the learning behaviors deemed critical in second language acquisition. Thereafter, I discuss how such behaviors are discerned and actualized in the entertainment/education software collectively named system simulations, the pedagogical benefits attained through their judicious use, and the key features of some notable reacting games, (real-time and turn-based) strategy games, simulation “sandbox-style” games, and, finally, single-player simulation computer/video games. I conclude the article with a brief summary of propositions deemed best to harness the power of gaming in foreign and second language education. Evolution, curiosity, and discovery are but three closing constructs I ask readers to heed in the months and in the years ahead.