A comparative evaluation of game-based learning: Digital or non-digital games?

Nitin Naik*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Published conference outputConference publication


Game-based learning is a well-established approach to learning in academia. Contemporary research is mostly based on digital games; physical or non-digital games have received less attention. Digital game-based learning is a popular approach in education. However, educationalists dispute its pedagogical effectiveness and whether the approach is genuinely educational or merely recreational. Digital game-based learning also raises issues of technological barriers in relation to teacher and student knowledge and skills. The use of traditional non-digital games may be an alternative way to address some of these issues of digital game-based learning. Can non-digital games positively contribute to learning outcomes? Can non-digital game-based learning be more easily deployed in some particular subject areas? These are still open research questions for the game-based learning community of enquiry. This paper comparatively evaluates the use of digital and non-digital game-based learning and explores their use in higher education in general and in mathematics in particular. It first of all presents the various issues posed by digital game-based learning, such as: lack of pedagogical integration; the lack of usable games, the shortfall in student cognitive skills and teacher expertise, and so on. Subsequently, it analyses the non-digital game-based learning approach with respect to these issues. This critical analysis and comparative study of these two methods is supported by the current research literature and evidence based on my deployment of a non-digital game-based learning approach in order to teach mathematics to B.Sc. first-year computer science students, at Aberystwyth University (UK).

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the European Conference on Games-based Learning
EditorsCarsten Busch
Number of pages9
ISBN (Electronic)9781910309551
Publication statusPublished - 2014

Publication series

NameProceedings of the European Conference on Games-based Learning
ISSN (Print)2049-0992

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Authors, 2014.

Copyright 2015 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • GBL issues
  • Higher education
  • Mathematics
  • Non-digital game-based learning
  • Non-digital games
  • Physical games


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