Creeping Systems

As the field of games and learning has matured in recent years, we have found ourselves spending a great deal of effort detailing how games “work” as instructional tools, and how they may leverage the interests of youth toward simulations that encapsulate extraordinarily complex systems (Squire, 2002). As a field, we have perhaps shifted our gaze away — if just a little bit — from a focus on understanding the forms of play implicated through play in commercial entertainment games. In this paper, we forward the argument that the investigation of “games and learning” necessitates an understanding of both the complex reasoning practices embedded within the play of contemporary videogame genres, while also posing a number of questions that may help to frame future directions in “entertainment games and learning” research. The “well played” format is ideal for this exploration, given its emphasis on understanding play as it arises from the designed elements of games. In this paper, we outline a productive case study of the “multiplayer online battle arena” (MOBA) game Dota 2. A new entrant in the MOBA space, yet with perhaps the oldest of MOBA pedigrees, Dota 2 presents a complexity that begs further study as a space for learning in the one of the most socially-negotiated and (potentially) economically signifi cant of current game genres. Dota 2 is a prime example of how commercial and entertainment games demand — and can potentially teach — systems thinking, through awareness, positioning, decision-making, and an understanding of how to function within the game’s vast mechanical and social ecosystem.

Dota 2 and Learning In an e-Sport
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