Fabricatore, Carlo and López, Ximena (2011) Gaming for Sustainability: An Overview. In: Proceedings of 5th European Conference on Games Based Learning. ECGBL 2011 . Academic Publishing Limited, Athens, Greece, pp. 159-167. ISBN 978-1-908272-18-8

This study explored the potential of digital games as learning environments to develop mindsets capable of dealing with complexity in the domain of sustainability. Building sustainable futures requires the ability to deal with the complex dynamics that characterize the world in which we live. As central elements in this system, we must develop the ability of constantly assessing the environment that surrounds us, operating in it and adapting to it through a continuous and iterative individual and interpersonal process of revision of our frames of reference. We must focus on our world as a whole, considering both immediate problems and long-term consequences that decision making processes could generate. Educating for sustainability demands learning approaches and environments that require the development of systems thinking and problem-solving, rather than solely the acquisition of factual knowledge. Due to their characteristics, digital games present a high potential for “learning for complexity”. Although they can be very different from one another, digital games can indeed be proper complex systems. In fact, many modern games are set in sophisticated cyberworlds, requiring players to engage in cognitively demanding tasks relying on problem-solving and decision-making skills, dealing with ill-structured problems, unpredictable circumstances, emerging system properties and behaviours, and non-linear development of events. Furthermore, these environments support remote interactions across large numbers of players, often requiring collective engagement in the pursuit of common goals. To understand how games are currently used for “learning for sustainability”, we analysed twenty games. The games were selected based on their visibility on an online search engine. The analysis showed that there is an emphasis on using single-player games to educate children and to foster the acquisition of factual knowledge. Furthermore, our results show that sustainability games often do not leverage the usage of complex systems as gaming environments, hence not fully exploiting the potential of games as learning environments to develop “thinking for complexity”.

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