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games-ED and The RETAIN Model

The Relevance, Embedding, Transfer, Adaption, Immersion and Naturalisation (RETAIN) Model was developed to:

  1. Support game based learning development, and
  2. Assess how well games based learning contains and incorporates academic content.

Glenda A. Gunter; Robert F. Kenny and Erik H. Vick (2007). Taking educational games seriously: using the RETAIN model to design endogenous fantasy into standalone educational games

The following table considers game-ED from the perspective of the RETAIN model:



Games-ED Narrative / Level *

Weight **



i) Presenting materials in a way relevant to learners, their needs, and their learning styles, and

ii) Ensuring the instructional units are relevant to one another so that the elements link together and build upon previous work.

  • The games are developed with an educational focus and support teacher involvement.
  • The learners have sub-team missions and are judged with a collective score.
  • The games support cross-curriculum dimensions and are set in a situated context (virtual community).
  • The games can be played by different age groups through the provision of different in game and tailored activities.
  • The games are motivational and encourage reluctant learners.
  • Level = 3




Assessing how closely the academic content is coupled with the fantasy/story content where fantasy refers to the narrative structure, storylines, player experience, dramatic structure, fictive elements, etc.

  • The games and related activities are linked to the curriculum.
  • The game places learners in roles and provides perspective on the virtual and ultimately real world.
  • Learn by being allows learners to develop a wider understanding and beliefs.
  • The games narrative and score also keeps the learners interest.
  • Level = 3




How the player can use previous knowledge and apply it in other areas.

  • The educator is actively involved in the learning process and can offer scaffolding and inspiration.
  • The graphics and game play are designed to develop / support multiple learning styles.
  • The game develops personal, learning and thinking skills, which can be used in other contexts.
  • The round structure with their plan > do > review phases builds knowledge during the lesson.
  • Articulation of decision-making at the end of each round and at the end of the game enables tacit knowledge to become explicit.
  • Group level play enables knowledge to shared amongst the learners.
  • Level = 3




A change in behaviour as a consequence of transfer.

  • Utilises prior knowledge and support.
  • Multiple perspectives and drivers are embedded into the game play and build “realistic” decision-making environment.
  • Feedback is provided within the context of the plan > do > review phases and challenges understanding and develops new ways of thinking.
  • Games Bases Situated Learning is a constructivist learning approach that creates a shared learning experience.
  • The game sits within a larger lesson structure that can develop initial knowledge and / or take the learning further.
  • Level = 3




The player intellectually investing in the context of the game.

  • The graphics and game play immerse the learners in the experience but do not distract from the learning process.
  • The learners have to play a role and work with others to deliver mutual goals.
  • Considers subjects from a wide viewpoint linking to cross-curriculum dimensions enabling beliefs to be created.
  • Level = 3




The development of habitual and spontaneous use of information derived within the game.

  • Develops learning styles, visual processing and speed of cognitive responses.
  • The games are built round cause and effect. The narrative is structured around multiple perspectives and competing drivers. The learners need to assimilate this information and make decisions.
  • The round structure with their plan > do > review phases enables the learners to develop the skills through a process of repetition.
  • A Games Based Situated Learning Model accelerates the learning process by enabling players to learn by doing AND learn by being. Learners become efficient users of knowledge and can use it in other situations.
  • Level = 3




* Each of these aspects can be divided into four levels: 0, 1, 2 and 3. Level 0 means the game design does not meet that aspect, while Level 3 indicates there is a strong correlation between the game and that necessary aspect.

** The final aspect of the rubric is the weighting of each aspect. Gunter and colleagues have ordered the aspects by importance. From least to most important, they are: Relevance, Immersion, Embedding, Adaption, Transfer and Naturalisation.