3D Digital Games, Virtual Worlds, and Language Learning in Higher Education

Continuing Challenges in Japan

  • Robert Swier Kindai University, Japan
  • Mark Peterson Kyoto University, Japan


One of the most significant recent developments in CALL concerns the use of 3D multiplayer games and virtual worlds. An increasing volume of research suggests that implementations of these platforms can provide a range of affordances for language learning, including positive effects on motivation and opportunities for meaningful and authentic learner interaction. However, in both Japan and around the world, despite the wide range of positive findings reported in the literature, adoption of these platforms in language classrooms appears to be largely nonexistent. Bachnik (2003) reported on many of the institutional, cultural, and practical obstacles to the adoption of computer technology in education in Japan, however this analysis predated several important technological developments. We provide an up-to-date review of research on the use of games and virtual worlds in language learning, review the conclusions of Bachnik, and report on the results of a recent survey and series of interviews with university language teachers in Japan. Analysis provides insight into the continuing challenges of adopting technology in language teaching and on the types of virtual platforms that may ultimately see wide adoption.

Author Biographies

Robert Swier, Kindai University, Japan

Robert Swier is a full-time lecturer in the Faculty of Literature, Arts, and Cultural Studies at Kindai University, and is a doctoral student in the Graduate School of Human and Environmental Studies at Kyoto University.

Mark Peterson, Kyoto University, Japan

Mark Peterson is an associate professor in the Faculty of Integrated Human Studies and the Graduate School of Human and Environmental Studies at Kyoto University. He has published extensively in the field of CALL, and is the author of Computer Games and Language Learning (2013).