Play is a fundamental way in which we learn. Long before children encounter formal educational methods, they play, learning new skills and behaviours along the way.
As a formalised style of play, games are well suited to education. They are inherently engaging and have built-in reward structures and variable levels of difficulty. Furthermore, many games encourage cooperation, group work and the development of communication and problem-solving skills. For these reasons, games are used extensively in early years education.
However, their use in further and higher education is much rarer. While we see examples of gamification (using game elements in a non-game setting), actual games are scarce. Significantly, games are often perceived as juvenile pursuits, inappropriate for adult learners. There is also a lack of an established pedagogy and a much smaller library of specifically designed learning games aimed at older learners.
However, there are many opportunities to use games