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Chee, Y. S. (2010). Game-based learning as performance: The case of legends of Alkhimia. Proceedings of the European Conference on Games Based Learning (pp. 47–54). Retrieved from
The evaluation of learning outcomes associated with game-based learning is fraught with conflict and
confusion. Many serious game developers uncritically use content mastery as the yardstick of learner progress
and achievement. Other developers train simple skills in a drill-and-practice fashion in the belief that games are
best used to motivate student interest in subject domains that students find boring or tedious to learn. This paper
has two parts. The first part is theoretical, and the second part consists of an illustrative case. In the first part, I
examine computer and video games as a unique digital medium that supports first-person immersive learning. I
interrogate what kind of epistemology is entailed when learning takes place in the first-person. Drawing upon the
philosophy of pragmatism, I argue that a powerful and appropriate way to assess game-based learning outcomes
using such games is through the construct of performance. This construct is grounded in the literature related to
performance theory and performance studies. A performative stance, I argue, is productive for viewing learning
through the theoretical lens of being and becoming because game play involves being a person on a
developmental trajectory of becoming. Locating learning within a socio-cultural context, I show how the
construction of identity has a vital role to play in a performance-oriented theory of learning. In the second part of
the paper, I reify the theoretical ideas above via the educational game “Legends of Alkhimia” (LoA). This game
has been developed at our research centre. It will be used in two classrooms, in separate schools, in mid-2010.
LoA is a multiplayer game that supports up to four concurrent users. The game is designed to support authentic
learning of chemistry by 14-year-olds at the lower secondary school level. The underlying pedagogy is one of
learning as inquiry, in the spirit of Dewey. Dialogism and the enaction of identity are key elements of the
curriculum’s learning design. In the LoA game, students have to solve the mystery of recent strange happenings
in the once sleepy town of Alkhimia. In tackling this challenge, students engage in doing chemistry to create
effective weapons that can repel marauding monsters that appear out of nowhere, and they work to fulfil missions
for the good of various inhabitants of the town. They slowly become acquainted with the legends of Alkhimia and
learn that not all is as it appears. By engaging in the learning program, the goal is that students will develop a
practical sense with and of chemistry as a professional domain of practice. In so doing, they appropriate the
habitus of professional practice and develop the values and dispositions of critical reflexivity and epistemological
vigilance. In short, they learn to become chemists.
This paper was published in the Proceedings of the European Conference on Games Based Learning, held in Copenhagen, Denmark from 21 – 22 Oct 2010
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