Pedagogical dramas and transformational play: Narratively rich games for learning

Sasha A. Barab, Tyler Dodge, Adam Ingram-Goble, Patrick Pettyjohn, Kylie Peppler, Charlene Volk, Maria Solomou

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Although every era is met with the introduction of powerful technologies for entertainment and learning, videogames represent a new contribution binding the two and bearing the potential to create sustained engagement in a curricular drama where the player's knowledgeable actions shape an unfolding fiction within a designed world. Although traditionally, stories involve an author, a performer, and an audience, much of the power of videogames as media for advancing narrative springs from their affordance for the player to occupy more than one role - and sometimes all three - simultaneously. In the narratively rich videogames that we design, players have the opportunity to perform actions, experience consequences, and reflect on the underlying social values that these situations were designed to engage, affording a type of narrative transactivity. Elsewhere we have discussed designing these media as contexts for engaging academic content; here we illuminate the power of videogames to engage children in ideological struggles as they are experienced in game-based adaptations of classic literature. Toward this end, we present our theoretical argument for the power of games as a contemporary story medium, grounding this discussion in the context of two game design projects and their implementations. Implications are discussed in terms of the potential of immersive, interactive media - videogame technology, in short - for achieving wide-ranging educational ends.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)235-264
Number of pages30
JournalMind, Culture, and Activity
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2010


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