A model of heritage content to support the design and analysis of video games for history education

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Colleges, School and Institutes


In recent years, increasing academic attention has been focused on the
educational potential of video games. Serious games for heritage applications have received much interest, and many examples are well documented in the literature. Many frameworks and methodologies have been proposed for how to design serious games, yet there is a lack of guidance for how to embed heritage information in the mechanics and content of these games. There are also many examples of commercial (non-serious) games that contain heritage content, and there is interest in how these games can be used in educational contexts. However, these games are designed primarily for entertainment purposes, without pedagogical foundations and with limited historical accuracy. There is currently a lack of a rigorous, scientific approach to support the critical analysis of the content of these games and to inform their use within learning settings. In this paper, we propose that the above issues are related by a lack of definitions of heritage content in the video game medium. We describe a model that defines how historical information can be presented in a video game at a content level and demonstrate how it can be applied to the analysis of the content in a commercial historical game. Finally, we propose a novel methodology based on activity theory to guide the design of serious games, based on pre-defined heritage instructional content. The findings are relevant both to educators who wish to use heritage video games, and to designers of serious games for heritage.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-26
Number of pages28
JournalJournal of Computers in Education
Early online date18 Sep 2018
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 18 Sep 2018


  • Virtual heritage, Serious Games, Game design, Game analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas