Mission and Purpose of the Center for Learning through Games and Simulations


The Center for Learning through Games and Simulations at Central Michigan University promotes the use of games, simulations, and play in learning. The use of games facilitates an active-learning agenda with a high level of student engagement. The goal is to have the students learn course material while simultaneously building skills in leadership, public speaking, critical thinking, problem-solving and analysis.


Children often learn skills faster through play than most other methods. Somewhere between childhood and becoming an adult our society has made learning a chore rather than a pastime. Go to any college campus and you will find students constantly learning through play. In a game of ultimate Frisbee, for example, college students will learn new ways to throw a Frisbee to help their team win. The purpose of this institute is to bring play and fun into the classroom thereby facilitating a greater enjoyment of learning and better retention of the material.


  • Make learning fun.
  • Promote leadership.
  • Broaden student experience.
  • Apply information to real-world problems.
  • Promote interdisciplinarily.
  • Learn through informal settings/play.
  • Understand complex problems.
  • Understand human agency, choice, and contingency.


Kyle Griffin, alumnus
"My experiences with game based learning at CMU has had an incredible impact on the teacher that I am today. Whether it was Congressional simulations with Dr. James Hill, discovering iCivics through Heather Wolf, or attending GLS with Dr. Truitt in the summer before my student teaching, interacting with game based learning gave me first hand experience with the benefits of immersing students in their learning. I have since used games to get students discussing the social ramifications of emidemic disease like the plague, to recognize the impact of redlining on minorities, and learning the Legislative process through their own writing and passing of bills in a mock congress. In talking to students at the end of the year, or in following years, I find that the students point to the games they played in class as being the most impactful and memorable lessons. There is no doubt in my mind that I would not be able to find the success that I have as a teacher without my exposure to game based learning at CMU."

Ben Harris, alumnus
"Sitting through an hourlong lecture was fine, but the stakes were low. Missed something? Ask a friend. There was only the test to look forward to. Games were different. Because the rules often rewarded improvisation, I had to come to class prepared, or nobody would believe me when I spoke. The stakes were higher, because I had objectives that I could fail to achieve. I could die. I could get thrown into prison. Even better: I could win. Games were a nice change because they brought the class together. In lecture-only classes, I never had much of a reason to talk to anyone unless that person was sitting right next to me, and usually not even then. But with games, we always talked to each other, and sometimes even hung out after class. It was good training for being a lawyer, because I often had to advocate for and engage with ideas I didn't like or agree with. It doubly served as good training for law school (and any other kind of graduate school, I'm sure) because I had to come to class and be 'on' and couldn't get away with checking out for the hour. It was some of the most fun times I've had in class."

Joseph Gilbert, alumnus
"Game-based learning helped to really make my time at CMU. Game-based learning has reaffirmed my belief that hard work will beat talent when talent doesn't work hard. It gave me the chance to really prove all that I can be despite not being the most intelligent student in the class. During my time at CMU, I completed 4 classes that had game components and they were some of the most rigorous classes I ever took at Central. These classes taught me how to truly earn a grade in a course. Now that I have been teaching for a year and a half, I have seen this in my students. A class last year that had significantly more behavior issues throughout the year than any class excelled during their game-based learning activity covering the 1912 Presidential Election. During the 1912 activity, this tough group of students buckled down and created more extra game point artifacts than every class including the honors group. This game-based format gave many students the opportunity to shine where they did not have that in a traditional classroom format. During the current school year, we did a Red Scare simulation game called the "Dot Game," where students had to try to figure out who in the class had a dot on their sticky note without looking and having to lie. This game really helped students to understand the hysteria behind the Red Scare in 1920's America. In the fast-paced world we live in today (exponentially faster in teens), students need to be engaged constantly. Game-based learning helps provide this medium to students. Game-based learning aided in encouraging my participation in college courses and I have seen that same effect in my current 10th grade U.S. History courses in a high poverty, bilingual high school."

Tiffany Smrtnik, alumna
"Mind Games was one of my most memorable classes at Central Michigan University. The teaching methods kept me engaged, allowed me to learn beyond the surface level, and fostered collaboration skills. This game-based course impacted me as a student, and I also utilized some techniques with my own students during student teaching. As a student, the game-based method kept me engaged throughout the entire class period. It was significantly different from other courses where the teacher was the center of the classroom. Instead, my peers and I had control over our learning. Having a student-centered class was beneficial because it forced me to interact with the material rather than memorize and recite. I enjoyed having agency within the class as well. Developing a game with a small group of peers was a significant part of learning the material. My team met several times throughout the creation of our game. Our communication skills were strengthened by having to work together for the semester. We learned to recognize when others were struggling, ask for help ourselves, offer constructive criticism, and use our own unique strengths and weaknesses to our group's advantage. Game-based learning has had a profound impact on my view of education."

Emily Lint, alumna
"While I was at CMU, I had the good fortune of taking several of Dr. Truitt's classes, including HST 597A 'Mind Games.' In addition, I attended the Games, Learning, and Society Conference in the summer of 2014 and participated in many follow-up events throughout the 2014-2015 academic year. I wrote a Reacting to the Past game proposal for my honor's project under Dr. Truitt's advisement my senior year and presented at the annual Reacting to the Past conference. I am in my third year teaching social studies at the secondary level. I can say without a doubt my experience in game-based learning has made me a better teacher. The level of engagement and depth of understanding that comes from game-based learning surpasses other more traditional learning activities. I believe learning to develop games was one of the best teaching strategies I learned at CMU. Thanks to my training at CMU, I can look at topics and figure out how to create a game. In my last three years teaching, I have created or adapted dozens of games, ranging from a Civil Rights board game to Disease Strain. Over the years, my students have reported games help them learn better, make them feel more engaged, and make the class feel like more of a community. Games give them an opportunity to engage critical thinking and communication skills, which are among the most important skills they will need out in the real world. I sincerely believe that continuing to support games at CMU will produce more creative and confident teachers, who in turn will give students the skills necessary to be successful in life."

Hailey Zacharski, alumna
"I have had the privilege of learning from and working alongside Dr. Truitt for the past four and a half years. During this time, he has introduced me to game-based learning and the many benefits this pedagogy provides for students and teachers alike. I was first exposed to this pedagogy as a freshman in HST 201 when Dr. Truitt orchestrated a simulation game that was intended to demonstrate the spread of disease. It was this simple activity that sparked my interest in game-based learning. I was fortunate enough to attend a game development conference with Dr. Truitt and some of my former high school teachers that fall, and began to formulate an understanding of how I might be able to use this strategy in my own future classroom. Both of these experiences happened over four years ago and my ability to remember the details of each shows how these kinds of learning opportunities stick with students long-term. I have played several other games in my history courses since then and have enjoyed each and every one. Comprehension is enhanced greatly through gameplay, which is yet another advantage for teachers whose goal is to ensure that their students fully understand the content. If we want to create innovative and effective teachers, we must use innovative and effective practices."