Little Big Learning: Subversive Play/GBL Rebooted

  • Chad Habel
  • Andrew Hope
Part of the Gaming Media and Social Effects book series (GMSE)


Game-based learning is a buzzword heard with increasing frequency in educational technology circles, but these discussions often proceed with an insufficient understanding of the nature of play in a social and cultural context. This chapter problematises some common approaches to game-based learning by exploring social dynamics and relations of power to propose a more critically disruptive model of game-based learning. Using the Little Big Planet franchise as a case study, it argues that game-based learning serves little purpose if it replicates authority-centred, transmissive ideas of learning, and that focussing on players/students as the producers (not just consumers) of digital texts for learning is significantly more productive.


  1. Arnseth, H. C. (2006). Learning to play or playing to learn—a critical account of the models of communication informing educational research on computer gameplay. Game Studies: The International Journal of Computer Game Research, 6(1). Retrieved May 30, 2010, from
  2. Behrens, J. T., Frezzo, D. C., Mislevy, R. J., Kroopnick, M., & Wise, D. (2007). Structural, functional, and semiotic symmetries in simulation-based games and assessments. In E. L. Baker, J. Dickieson, W. Wulfeck, & H. F. O’Neil (Eds.), Assessment of problem solving using simulations (pp. 59–80). New York: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  3. Biggs, J. (1999). Teaching for quality learning at university: What the student does. Buckingham, Philadelphia: Open University Press.Google Scholar
  4. Blanchard, K., & Cheska, A. (1985). The anthropology of sport: An introduction. Massachusetts: Bergin & Garvey Publisher Inc.Google Scholar
  5. Charsky, D. (2010). From edutainment to serious games: A change in the use of game characteristics. Games and Culture, 5, 177–198.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. ConnectED (2013). LittleBIGPlanet2: Improving your STEM skills! ConnectED. Retrieved July 30, 2013, from
  7. Crisp, G. (2007). The e-Assessment handbook. New York: Continuum International Publishing Group.Google Scholar
  8. Csikszentmihalyi, M., & Csikszentmihalyi, I. (1990). Flow: The psychology of optimal experience. New York: Harper and Row.Google Scholar
  9. Gee, J. P. (2007). What video games have to teach us about learning and literacy (2nd ed.). New York: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  10. Grant, S. (2011). Game on! Learning S.T.E.A.M. through LittleBigPlanet: Welcome to Discovery, Inc. HASTAC: Humanities, Arts, Science and Technology Collaboratory. Retrieved July 30, 2013, from
  11. Ingold, T. (1994). Introduction to culture. In T. Ingold (Ed.), Companion encyclopaedia of anthropology. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  12. Johnson, L., Adams Becker, S., Cummins, M., Estrada, V., Freeman, A., & Ludgate, H. (2013). NMC horizon report: 2013 higher education. Austin, Texas: The New Media Consortium.Google Scholar
  13. Jones, K. (1998). Simulations as examinations. Simulation and Gaming, 29, 331–341.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Krathwohl, D. (2002). A revision of Bloom’s taxonomy: An overview. Theory Into Practice, 41(4), 212–218.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Lave, J., & Wenger, E. (1991). Situated learning: legitimate peripheral participation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Livingstone, S. (2009). Children and the Internet. Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  17. Pellegrini, A. D. (Ed.). (1995). The future of play theory: A multidisciplinary inquiry into the contributions of Brian Sutton-Smith. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.Google Scholar
  18. Rieber, L. P. (1996). Seriously considering play: Designing interactive learning environments based on the blending of microworlds, simulations, and games. Educational Technology Research and Development, 44(2), 43–58.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Rieber, L. P. (2001). Designing learning environments that excite serious play. In Proceedings of the Annual Conference of the Australian Society for Computers in Learning in Tertiary Education (ASCILITE). Melbourne, Australia. Retrieved December 9–12, 2001, from
  20. Robinson, L. (2009). A taste for the necessary: A bourdieuian approach to digital inequality. Information, Communication and Society, 12(4), 488–507.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Schechner, R. (1994). Ritual and performance. In T. Ingold (Ed.), Companion encyclopedia of anthropology. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  22. Shaffer, D. W., Hatfield, D., Svarovsky, G. N., Nash, P., Nulty, A., Bagley, E., Frank, K., Rupp, A. A., & Mislevy, R. (2009). Epistemic network analysis: A prototype for 21st-century assessment of learning. International Journal of Learning and Media, 1(2).Google Scholar
  23. Shute, V. J. (2008). Focus on formative feedback. Review of Educational Research, 78(1), 153–189.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Shute, V. J., Rieber, L. P., & Van Eck, R. (2011). Games and learning. In R. A. Reiser & J. V. Dempsey (Eds.), Trends and issues in instructional design and technology (3rd ed., pp. 321–332). Boston: Pearson Education, Inc. Google Scholar
  25. Shute, V. J., Ventura, M., Bauer, M., & Zapata-Rivera, D. (n.d.). Melding the power of serious games and embedded assessment to monitor and foster learning: Flow and grow. Retrieved May 30, 2010, from
  26. Squire, K. (2002). Cultural framing of computer/video games. Game Studies: The International Journal of Computer Game Research, 2(1). Retrieved June 10, 2010, from
  27. Squire, K. (n.d.). Video Games in Education. Retrieved July 12, 2010, from
  28. Squire, K., & Jenkins, H. (2003). Harnessing the power of games in education. Insight, 3, 5–30.Google Scholar
  29. Sutton-Smith, B. (1995). Conclusion: The persuasive Rhetorics of play. In A. D. Pellegrini (Ed.), The future of play theory: A multidisciplinary inquiry into the contributions of Brian Sutton-Smith (pp. 275–295). Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.Google Scholar
  30. Sutton-Smith, B. (1997). The ambiguity of play. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  31. Turner, V. (1983). Body, brain and culture. Zygon, 18(3), 221–246.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Whitton, N. (2010). Learning with digital games: A practical guide to engaging students in higher education. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  33. Woods, S. (2004). Loading the dice: The challenge of serious videogames. Game Studies: The International Journal of Computer Game Research, 4(1). Retrieved May 30, 2010, from

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Teaching Innovation UnitUniversity of South AustraliaAdelaideAustralia
  2. 2.School of Social SciencesUniversity of AdelaideAdelaideAustralia

Personalised recommendations