What is the value of games in e-learning?

What is the value of games in e-learning?

Posted on Nov 11, 2015

If school was more like playing video games, perhaps I would have learned a lot more



Jason Dutton is an avid gamer currently enjoying Elder Scrolls Online and MGS V: Phantom Pain while waiting patiently for Uncharted 4 and Dark Souls 3. He is also working on his own video games TV show. 

Leaving school with no qualifications, he has built up a remarkable career based on something he has true passion for: gaming.

Jason kindly gave us his time to explain what games have taught him, how they motivate, challenge and capture his attention – and how he applies a gamified approach to everyday life.

Who is Jason?

Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Jason and I’ve spent 35 years playing games on ZX81’s and Amstrad CPC464’s to current gen PS4 and Xbox One. I left school with no qualifications and went on to build a video games company worth £100 million. I’ve spent 25 years working in the video games industry as a tester, journalist, marketeer and executive and had the honour of working with some of the greatest developers in the world such as Geoff Crammond, Nick & Julian Gollop, Tim Schaefer, Peter Molyneaux and Sid Meier on titles such as Zumba, Cooking Mama, Psychonauts, Civilization, Star Trek, Jaws, Formula 1 Grand Prix, Robocop, X-com and many more.

I care deeply about games, the developers who make them, and the people who play them. I want to play games that thrill me, make me think, make me feel, and make me talk – I want to be inspired and amazed, scared and excited but mostly I want to lose myself in a world created by others and experience their imagination. That’s the true power of videogames; the ability to transport you into the minds of hugely creative people who have created a living, breathing universe for you to explore. Imagine if school was like that…

What does gamified learning look like?



What can games teach us about how we learn?

Games have taught me so much over the years – how to think, how to explore and how to try new things. Games have motivated me, challenged me and captivated my attention. I use gamification in my daily life… I explore, I converse, I meet new people, I learn something from every situation. In business and in life every challenge is like trying to reach the next level in a game.
I grew up getting knocked about by an angry stepdad and two things got me through those difficult times: a human shield in the form of my older brother Anthony and video games. I love the suspension of disbelief – video games was my Narnia, my magic wardrobe. I could be anything I wanted to be – a wizard, a warrior, a footballer or a fighter.
I left school with no qualifications and saw a job advert for a games tester with Ocean. £3,500 a year, probably the best 2 years of my life playing games. But it turned sour when I grew tired of being told to release unfinished games to hit commercial deadlines so I thought I’d don my cape of commercial righteousness and join a computer magazine called ST Action where I could write about it. Unfortunately, I had to compromise my integrity every month - bump up a review score and they’ll take some advertising; we’re giving them the cover so we can’t hammer their latest piece of rubbish etc. Your conscience and integrity are valuable commodities; don’t allow them to be taken from you cheaply.

What if history lessons were more like Civilization?

I joined Microprose as PR Manager and they had some of the best games on the market, including Civilization, which is one of the best strategy games ever made and to me represents a missed opportunity for learning. In Civilization, you had the chance to match wits with the world’s greatest leaders. Starting in 4,000 BC and founding the first cities, you have to grow and nurture your society, taking them to the space age. After building your early settlements, you must research and discover new technologies, learn economics, politics and military skills while defending your cities from invading armies. As you progress, you’ll face competing civilizations guided by history’s most legendary figures: Alexander the Great, Napoleon, Cleopatra, Genghis Khan, Julius Caesar and more. You’ll have to learn diplomacy, commerce, strategy, compassion and humility as you battle for domination and try to outwit those incredible leaders. Now, I don’t know about you but if they taught history, economics, science and technology to me in school like that rather than with dusty books and crusty teachers, I’d have paid far more attention and probably learned a lot more!

After Microprose

I helped set up another video games company but we had no creative talent so we started a strategy of 'let’s buy as much cheap stuff as we can for the casual market, throw it against the wall and see what sticks'. And it worked! We signed a game called Cooking Mama – a crazy little game with a Japanese woman cooking pies. We paid £75k for it and sold about 15 million units at £20 a unit – that’s almost £300 million in revenue! Having a ‘hope we get lucky’ strategy can work.
With our new-found wealth we started getting seats at tables we didn’t belong at – we had money and we were the cool kids and we felt awesome. We were mixing with the gaming development elite and they saw us coming. One title was signed from a famous developer – they agreed to a £10 million project on the back of little more than a hastily scrawled picture of a dragon. We were so keen to work with these guys and show the industry we had arrived. Within months of signing the deal, we realised we didn’t have enough money to complete the project and had to terminate for 10% of the fee – so £1 million for a picture of a dragon! It turns out dragons and egos can be dangerous and expensive.

Quick lessons from classic games

As we’re nearing the end, I thought we could finish on some fun and quick lessons from classic games:


  • Pacman – why does Pacman move so quickly? Because he’s hungry and has things chasing him. You move a lot faster with something chasing you. If Pacman didn’t have 4 ghosts chasing him he’d just sit still gobbling all day! Make sure something is always behind you – something to motivate you to move quickly.
  • Super Mario – use your head to find solutions. Sometimes you need to think about each problem like it’s a level in a video game. There’ll be a straight-forward solution if you take the time to think about it. You can always use your head but sometimes you choose not to.
  • Donkey Kong – trying to get to the top and people will be throwing barrels at you. Eventually you will get hit but it’s what you do after that matters. Do you give in or get up and try again?
  • Angry Birds – this costs most people £0.69p. It cost me much more – my ex-wife was a very angry bird! Angry Birds was their 52nd game. The previous 51 are largely unknown. Does that mean they got lucky or did they learn from every failure? Experience is what you win when you lose. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Learn from them and move on.
  • Space Invaders – your bases get overloaded via relentless attacks – the only thing that matters is your high score – but what is your scoring system for your life? When you get to your ‘last level’ – what will you remember? On most video games you get at least three lives, you only get one so make it count!

A TEDx speaker thinks this too

After speaking with Jason, we stumbled across this brilliant TEDx talk by Cordell Steiner. He’s of the same view that we can use games in education to enhance learning and encourage participation. Check it out here:




Interested in a gamified learning experience?

Then get in touch with flick today – we agree with Jason that learning should be engaging, encouraging and challenging – it’s at the heart of everything we do and create here at flick. 


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