Playing with World War II: A Small-Scale Study of Learning in Video Games


  • Stephanie Fisher


Out of all the K-12 disciplines, History is positioned to benefit the most from integrating games into the classroom because while school-based history is considered to be the most boring subject amongst today’s young people (Loewen, 1995), history-themed video games continue to be best-sellers. This article explores how mediated action theory, in particular Wertsch’s (1998) ideas regarding mastery and appropriation, can yield particular insights around the different kinds of learning that can happen by playing history-themed video games. The data used here was collected as part of a small-scale case study that asked four self-proclaimed “history gamers” to talk about this perceived connection between their play of WWII games and learning history. I provide an overview of mediated action and make a case for its suitability as an analytical framework to examine game-based learning, with a special focus on mastery and appropriation as defined by Wertsch (1998). This will be followed by case-specific findings on how players of WWII FPS games can appropriate these games to learn about WWII history. Suggestions on future research trajectories on history-themed games and game-based learning, as well as other uses of mediated action theory, will be discussed at the end.