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I had the genuine pleasure of 2 days at the Games-based Learning 2009 conference in London last week. I emphasize ‘pleasure’ as so many conferences of late have lacked that quality. ‘Perfunctionary’, ‘efficient’, ‘well-organised’ they have been but  ‘passionate’, dominated by ‘heated debate’, and ‘thought-provoking’ they are rarely. GBL 09 was different. Yes, the usual suspects were there – Jim, Kam, Graham and Chris – but it was refreshing to see 300 new faces and to find myself in abstract discussions with teachers, programmers, translators, academics, politicians and all manner of people whom I had not met before.

For a while it felt like a Serious Games Summit from 5 years ago (“Are games useful for learning?”), and yes, there was quite an initial concentration upon using COTS games for schools but the topics changed and the audience sure stirred things up.

The Twitter streams were very busy and this was, I confess, the moment I first really ‘got Twitter’ (#gamebl)

Highlights for me were seeing Nolan Bushnell in the flesh (even if the message was hard to agree with), Tom Watson, UK government Minister (you get my vote!) and “the legend that is” Derek Robertson of LTS Scotland.

So, great conversation, very slick event, great location, fantastic turnout, interesting applications on show and all round positive buzz.

Thanks go to Graham Brown-Martin at Learning Without Frontiers.


I came across an interesting article on the web site that gives a good introduction to how the UK schools sector is using entertainment computer games to enhance teaching.

An excerpt I particularly like involved an interview with the Head of Educational Research and Analysis at Becta and is below:

Perhaps more surprisingly, there is published evidence that learning outcomes can result from entertainment-oriented games played for fun. Researcher Constance Steinkuehler examined World of Warcraft, a fantasy-based massively multiplayer online game (MMO) in which players work together to complete quests and defeat enemies. She discovered that players were formulating theories about how the game-world worked, and then testing their hypotheses – practicing, in essence, the scientific method. It wasn’t just a small proportion of the players, either: “I visited the game community forums, predicting that 5-10% of the conversations would look like high-end problem solving, and the rest would be banter,” she says. “Instead, 86% of a random sample were about problem solving.”

The full article is online at:

My colleague Helen Routledge at PIXELearning felt so strongly about the silly UK Government-backed change4life initiative’s unfair targeting of computer games that has set up a dedicated Facebook group.

Read more (and sign up) at:

Meanwhile MCV has been full of stories about this including the filing of a complaint to the Advertising Standards Agency(ASA) and SEGA, EA, Ubisoft and others publicly criticising the adverts (that appeared in various woman’s magazines). Catch up with the story at:

MCV also commented on the fact that several major purveyors of fatty/sugary foods are part of the campaign yet not a single representative from the computer games industry is present. The Evil Number 27 thinks this is more than a little biased!

The real reason???

The real reason???

Change4life 'infomercial'

Change4life 'infomercial'

Has anyone else seen the ridiculous, sanctimonious adverts that the UK Government is putting out which link games to premature death?

See the article at MCV if not by clicking this link

The advert, which has appeared in woman\’s magazines shows a young boy sitting on a sofa and the words \”Risk and early death, just do nothing\”.

Of course we need to get our kids (and adults) more active, exercising and eating properly but it seems lost on this puritanical civil servants and their Daily Mail-reading marketing advisors, that if that kid was sitting reading a book, listening to music, doing his homework or watching TV he\’d be doing equally little exercise (or even less if he is playing on a Wii).

My blood doth boil over!!!!!!!!

I’ve been participating this week in the Serious Games Jam at – which has been, in the main, a worthwhile time investment with some interesting ideas and discussion points.

I find it frustrating, however, that once again the busiest topic is “Can we not define Serious Games better” – some people, it seems, cannot resist the opportunity to ‘go categorise’ and analy examine the meaning of ‘serious’, ‘games’ and excitedly put their energies into coming up with really quite ridiculous alternatives.

Sure there are times when one needs to avoid the word ‘game’ in a corporate setting but trust me, most clients couldn’t give a stuff what we call that what we do….all that they want is a problem solved, a cost reduced or productivity improvement. Surely our collective time would be better spent improving the design, developemnt and delivery of what we do rather than sitting on discussion groups with a thesaurus in hand???

Check out this discussion thread (if you must) at

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