Comparing 2D and 3D Game-Based Learning Environments

As part of my learning experience in my Games and Learning graduate course at CU Denver, I’ll critique literature tied to the theme of game-based learning. These critiques will summarize features like research design, learning theory, methods, findings, and implications for the study and application of games and learning.

Below is my latest critique of the semester:


The authors of Comparing 2D and 3D game-based learning environments in terms of learning gains and student perspective developed a study to investigate the effectiveness of 2D vs. 3D game-based environments and how students perceive value.

Research gaps in how game-based learning actually supports learning led the authors to examine specific 2D / 3D game elements and the pedagogical effects. The elements were: engagement, usability, immersion, and cognitive load.

Participants in the study included 60 students enrolled in an Instructional Design course at a Turkish university. Divided into three groups, they engaged with course material either through traditional blackboard and presentation screens, 2D computer game-based learning, or 3D computer game-based learning within a group setting.

To measure learning objectives and perceived value, the authors distributed a test before the course and again after. Questions around knowledge improvement, likability, engagement, goal clarity, were included.

As a result, the authors found that no one group had significantly higher achievements over another. Students made learning gains in all three environments but found the 2D game environment most valuable.

A few things to address…

I chose this article because I found it interesting to consider the effects of learning through the learning environment. I was (and maybe still am) a bit skeptical on how a computer screen would really do much to improve achievements or add value. The design and delivery seems more important than the platform or tool.

However, even though there wasn’t much difference in achievement scores, students found the 2D games environment the most valuable.

Does this mean that computer-based learning environments do in fact create a more valuable experience? Or, does it suggest that group work or on-prem learning have potential negative effects on perception of value? It’s hard to tell from this particular study. How do you really measure accuracy of ones perception?

There were several limitations and gaps in Ak and Kutlu’s research. First, the number participants in the study was very small. Second, participants were selected because they achieved high scores on their college entrance exam. Finally, the lesson was the same for each group.

How would student outcomes in, say, a community college in Alabama differ? What about High School students? Would variations in lessons and subject matter change learning outcomes and perceived value?

Also, how would results differ had the authors tested with different types of games, navigation, and/or topics? Would we see more variations in achievement scores and perception of value? Is that even a fair comparison?

In closing:

Learning by way of game play seems complicated. It’s obvious that game-based learning environments do contribute to deeper learning experiences but, how do you really measure success? Alas, the million dollar question!

I hope I get some clarity as I continue to read, reflect on, and question the implications of games and learning.






  2 Replies to “Comparing 2D and 3D Game-Based Learning Environments”

  1. February 11, 2017 at 3:18 pm

    Since starting this class I have been amazed by reading how learning takes place during gaming! I wonder if the 2D was more successful due to the fact participants were not struggling with the 3D nature of the game? Thanks for the review

  2. February 12, 2017 at 2:20 pm

    Interesting observation, Kyle. I didn’t even consider 2D to be more successful due to certain 3D struggles… Thanks for giving it a read!

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