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The (De-)evolution of Evolution Games: A Content Analysis of the Representation of Evolution Through Natural Selection in Digital Games


Given the diversity and complexity of education game mechanisms and topics, this article contributes to a theoretical understanding of how game mechanisms “map” to educational topics through inquiry-based learning. Namely, the article examines the presence of evolution through natural selection (ENS) in digital games. ENS is a fundamentally important and widely misunderstood theory. This analysis of ENS portrayal in digital games provides insight into the use of games in teaching ENS. Systematic database search results were coded for the three principles of ENS: phenotypic variation, differential fitness, and fitness heritability. Though thousands of games use the term evolution, few presented elements of evolution, and even fewer contained all principles of ENS. Games developed to specifically teach evolution were difficult to find through Web searches. These overall deficiencies in ENS games reflect the inherent incompatibility between game control elements and the automatic process of ENS.

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Correspondence to Alex P. Leith.

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Leith, A.P., Ratan, R.A. & Wohn, D.Y. The (De-)evolution of Evolution Games: A Content Analysis of the Representation of Evolution Through Natural Selection in Digital Games. J Sci Educ Technol 25, 655–664 (2016).

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  • Evolution
  • STEM fields
  • Education
  • Natural selection
  • Games