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On the Growing Curve: An interview on gaming to learn with G2A's CEO, Bartosz Skwarczek

By Alison Carr-Chellman / May 2021

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The constant refrain…”Are we there yet?   Are we there yet?” Every parent knows the call from the back seat from impatient children anxious to arrive. Educational technology, as a field, is like those children. We have been, for decades, asking ourselves and one another, “Are we there yet?” According to G2A CEO Bartosz Skwarczek, the answer from the front seat is, “not nearly.”

Bartosz is the CEO and co-founder of G2A, a limited liability company that has been described as a global financial technology company boasting the world’s largest marketplace for digital goods—they specialize in games. A quick perusal of the website illustrates not just a strong list of gaming key codes at, frankly, very good prices, but also gaming hardware, electronics, tabletop/board games, and a large selection of related products. G2A’s portfolio is overwhelmingly commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) games aligned with the current gaming culture. What might be a bit more surprising is that G2A also is moving toward online teacher training as a result of their dedication to education and the belief in the intersection between gaming and learning.

Teachers Want to Try But Don’t Know How

In my interview with Bartosz, he shared the results of a recent survey run by G2A with 505 teachers in the U.K. and U.S. from primary to tertiary education. The survey ran over a three-week period in February of 2021 and the goal was to assess teacher attitudes toward gaming and to help frame a teacher training academy from G2A. The survey results demonstrate parents and teachers routinely report negative impacts of gaming on children, rather than positive. The survey also found that nearly 80 percent of U.K. and U.S. teachers believe the introduction of virtual learning “will change education forever.” There is a recognition that this strongly interactive experience of gaming and virtual learning will significantly change classroom practices. Bartosz points to the competition that is underway for all young people’s attention. “When it comes to our kids there's a huge competition between different sources of content, so they have Facebook, Instagram, Netflix, so many things, and then, there is also an education. To be a leader and to be perceived as an interesting source of content of information of development and growth, it must be interesting, and it must be given in an interesting way.”

This has led that same group of teachers (76 percent) to indicate they are concerned about how best to engage and attract the interests of their learners, and 89 percent of teachers who have tried gaming in their classroom indicated that it has been beneficial for student’s engagement with the content they were teaching. Among those teachers who were more reluctant and weren’t currently using gaming in the classroom, 47 percent expressed an interest in trying games. About two-thirds (68 percent) of teachers surveyed believe that gaming will have a fundamental role in the future of education.

Bartosz found while these teachers want to try games, they don’t know how to do it, so the primary issue is skills related, in his view. This has led to the creation of G2A Academy for teachers which, according to Bartosz, shows teachers how to use games, “to help them organize the topics around games or use games around particular topics because games in this example, are the tool to help teachers better provide in [a] more interesting way, more engaging way for the topics that they teach.”

Gaming is centered on problem solving, and so, from Bartosz’s perspective, it serves as the perfect platform for learning. “Games. By definition, one thing which is beautiful, from my perspective, with what is the most unique about games, every game is about problem solving. Every game, whatever you think Minecraft, Call of Duty … any other, there is always some problem to solve.” And, Bartosz points out, solving that problem almost always requires other people, so the process builds strong 21st Century Learning skills [1] confirming earlier findings in the area of gaming to learn. In particular, Bartosz points to the benefits of learning specific teamwork skills in most games which he indicates is required in almost all jobs today.

Games: A Tool for Culture Change

Over the past 10 years, I have collaborated with several other scholars in thinking about how gaming can be used not just as a tool for learning, but also as a tool for culture change within the school—to better honor active learners’ existing culture and leverage their interest in games. During this time, I’ve come to see that there is little innate interest in educational gaming and much passion among gamers for commercial off-the-shelf games (COTS) like “Call of Duty,” “Fortnite” and “Super Smash Bros.” However, the ones that are of most interest, particularly among boys currently, are relatively violent. In addressing the question of violent video games, Bartosz indicates G2A does not encourage the use of 18+ games in schools, or with those under 18, rather, throughout the training that is an emphasis on finding games that match the guidelines for age appropriateness from the Entertainment Software Review Board. Rather than using violent video games, Bartosz points to the plethora of other options that one has in selecting games. Suggesting that teachers and parents have more than 70,000 titles on G2A to select among, he encourages wisdom in selecting titles. This certainly is a politically wise position, however, it might miss some of the fundamental potential for games to significantly change the culture of schools to be more friendly to active learners, gamer culture, and boys in particular.

Bartosz alludes to the ubiquitous nature of technology for this generation, saying children are now born with “a phone in their hand” and they consume content and the internet in very different ways than their parents do. This, he suggests is a culture shift, in that the next generation is changing the culture through technology use. We can see this throughout the uses of social media and their cultural impacts. Generally, this is true, however, it begs the question, what of the culture of the child? If we limit ourselves to non-violent or educational gaming (not equivalents) are we honoring the culture of the child, are we taking them from where they are?

“Assassin’s Creed,” quite commonly seen as a learning tool [2] because of the rich historical content, is a game that Bartosz points to in terms of this cultural change within the gaming community. Here, he suggests, we see that the integration of rich content as an important facet of game design, which can be connected to classroom learning. He reflects on the development and evolution of educational technology by pointing to increased interactivity in all ed-tech designs. He also points to increases in multi-player approaches. He feels we are at the “very beginning” or “on the growing curve” in these areas. Bartosz sees a bright future and as he looks out the windscreen of the car on a cross-country trip, he sees apps for learning everything on the horizon. He recognizes there are already many apps aimed at or adaptable for learning a wide variety of skills, and he feels we are “at the very beginning, because technology is giving us so much more than we use in teaching.” In discussing virtual reality, for example, Bartosz feels that we are currently using only about 20–30 percent of available technological affordances for learning, even within universities.

G2A Academy: Using Gaming to Learn 

As Bartosz sees this on the horizon, he recognizes the skills gap for teachers is appreciable and needs attention. That has led to the G2A Academy, an expression of the commitment of the company to gaming as a tool for schools and teachers. Currently, the program for G2A Academy is free to any teacher worldwide who is interested in using gaming to learn in their classrooms. The Academy was designed by Dr. Adam Flamma a specialist in the use of games in education and life and former teacher, and Dr. Szymon Makuch a teacher of graphic designers and content creators. Dr. Flamma is the Deputy Director for the Digital Masters at the Center for Games and Animation in Wroclaw, Poland. Dr. Makuch serves as the business and legal advisor at Game Up in Wroclaw, Poland. Drs. Flamma and Makuch both teach at the University of Lower Silesia.

I had the opportunity to review the G2A Academy program, which is powered by Udemy, a leading global marketplace for teaching and learning online with more than 40 million learners. The Academy content explicitly recognizes that youth are gamers, that students in classrooms are gamers, and that this is a natural cultural space for them. The course, divided into three parts, points to students’ innate ability to look online for information to supplement their experiential learning within games. In general, the Academy suggests some unusual, or less well-known, game choices that tend more toward narrative and non-violent games for classroom use. At times, the way the Academy content is framed for teachers is a bit patronizing and doesn’t seem to assume teachers are professionals with the best knowledge of what will work for their learning culture and students. For example, in referring to war, the Academy says, “The realities of war may be, at times, drastic and brutal and simply not understandable to today’s youth.” Ultimately, this should be the teacher’s call as a professional and it is likely something teachers already know as they teach about war through literature, films, and other media all the time. In at least a few cases, the games selected feel unidimensional, more narrative games, and less engaging than something like “Call of Duty,” which also teaches the history of war, is quite popular with learners, and honors the COTS gaming culture.

The Academy’s recommendations are quite interesting, and new ideas may emerge from the suggestions. However, at times the Academy shares ideas without a clear keying of those concepts to learning goals or objectives. The primary approach is that the game is described, and then sample activities are shared. The content is shared via video rather than in a database or text form, which has been done a few times in the past such as the Videogames for Teachers website, which curates games for educational purposes and is funded by the Erasmus Programme and the European Union The use of video makes the Academy solution very user-friendly and the specific illustrations of games for education and activities to accompany them is a strength. It may not be completely culturally sensitive, for example, pointing to things that “may be difficult for students to understand,” which may not be true in different cultures, or across different groups of students depending on what their prior experiences have been. The Academy’s approach to gaming to learn certainly confirms much of what we know about gaming, and the kinds of skills that are built-in gaming (leadership, personal development, motor skills, decision making, problem solving, and planning).

As I proceeded through the course, I thought it wise to consult with a colleague, Dr. Jason Engerman, an assistant professor of Digital Media Technologies at East Stroudsburg University in Pennsylvania, and a co-author of much of the work on gaming and gender. Dr. Engerman saw the Academy as a “good gateway for educators to connect with today’s generation of students.” He and I both agree with the course’s assertion that gaming is misunderstood by parents, teachers, and the general public. We both felt that the course has the potential to help classroom teachers harness the potential of gaming in their classrooms. They are simple, straightforward, easy to apply and the curated resources and direct ideas for use in classrooms are a significant opportunity for teachers to connect with gamers’ cultures.

There are a few issues with the course, however, that we both agree are worth mentioning. For example, the course doesn’t seem explicitly founded on basic instructional design components, and at times the modules are overly simplistic, giving an impression of almost speaking down to teachers. The repeated use of stock images instead of footage that might better demonstrate uses of games and benefits in practice could be improved. The games that are the focus of the modules seem to be narrowly focused on educational and narrative games, which seems curious given the nature of G2A’s overall portfolio which leans much more toward popular commercial games centered in current gamer culture. We were both concerned about the underlying cultural issues of focusing on games that are not popular with the current generation of gamers, particularly boy gamers. Jason noted, “The broader range of games needs more exploration here…otherwise, we neglect the social movements and cultural richness of developing digital communities. We are privileging certain types of communities and neglecting others…” It is possible that the next iteration of Academy content can address this richness. The idea for the Academy can serve as a nice collaboration vehicle for university-level teacher preparation programs, though none are yet contracted.

I am very impressed with G2A’s overall commitment to the potential for games to impact learning and education. It is my view, after having an excellent conversation with Bartosz, that no doubt could have gone on for some hours beyond our short interview, that the guy in the driver’s seat for G2A has a pretty good idea where we’re headed. And while we continue to ask, “Are we there yet?” Bartosz shares a strong view of where we are going, what our goals are across the field, and one potential map of how we can get there. Collaborations between G2A, Bartosz, Drs. Flamma and Makuch, classroom, teachers, and those in the field of gaming for learning, educational technology, learning sciences, and instructional design would no doubt create a really amazing next adventure.


[1] Engerman, J.A, Hein, R. Bayeck, R. Yan, S. Carr-Chellman, A.A. Re-engaging Boys: How Designed learning spaces teach boys 21st Century Skills. American Educational Research Association (AERA), Washington, DC. 2016.

[2] Karsenti, T. and Parent, S. Teaching history with the video game Assassin’s Creed: Effective teaching practices and reported learning. Review of Science, Mathematics and ICT Education 14, 1 (2020). DOI: 10.2622/rev.3278

About the Author

Ali Carr-Chellman is the Dean of the School of Education & Health Sciences (SEHS) at the University of Dayton. She is a graduate of Indiana University in Instructional systems technology and has written numerous books, articles, and chapters on topics ranging from change, diffusion of innovation, gaming, instructional design, cybercharters, and online learning.

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