Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date


Publication Title

2nd Global Conference: Videogame Cultures and the Future of Interactive Entertainment


Problem solving is often discussed as one of the benefits of games and game-based learning, yet little empirical research exists to support this assertion. It will be critical to establish and validate models of problem solving in games, but this will be difficult if not impossible without a better understanding of problem solving than currently exists in the field of serious games. Problem solving and problem-based learning (PBL) have been studied intensely in both Europe and the United States for more than 75 years. Any models and research on the relation of games and problem solving must build on the existing research base in problem solving and PBL rather than unwittingly covering old ground in these areas. In this paper, we present an overview of the dimensions upon which different problems vary as well as their associated learning outcomes. We also propose a classification of gameplay (as opposed to game genre) that accounts for the cognitive skills encountered during gameplay, relying in part on previous classification systems, Mark Wolf's concept of grids of interactivity (which we call iGrids), and our own cognitive analysis of gameplay. We then briefly describe eleven different types of problems, the ways in which they differ, and the gameplay types most likely to support them using our gameplay topology. We believe that this approach can guide the design of games intended to promote problem solving and that it points the way toward future research in problem solving and games.


Paper presentation at the Videogame Cultures & the Future of Interactive Entertainment Annual Conference of the Inter– Group, July 7–9, 2010, Mansfield College, Oxford, United Kingdom.