Chapter 2 : Recognizing the Characteristics of Digital Games

This chapter provides an inclusive working definition of digital games for learning and considers other activities that are like games and apply many of the same principles.


Salen, K. & Zimmerman, E. (2004). Rules of Play: Game Design Fundamentals. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press: chapter 7 of this comprehensive analysis of game design contains a comparative analysis of a host of different definitions from the literature on games.

Montfort, N. (2005). Twisty Little Passages: An Approach to Interactive Fiction. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press: this provides a fascinating overview of the history and design of interactive fiction.


Thinking about your own definition of a game: Using a list of activities that you consider to be games, develop a set of characteristics to define a game.

Reviewing your definition of a game: Review your list of game characteristics in relation to the definition provided.

Application of the definition: Apply your list of game characteristics to the three games provided as examples.

Screen Shots

The vast virtual world of RuneScape (image reproduced with permission of Jagex Ltd)

Detailed exploration in Sleuth (image reproduced with permission of Hypothetical Software)