Gee provides a rather narrow and previously unheard perspective on games: The strategies of learning they employ to help gamers understand how to play each game.
Surprisingly (at least to me), they - according to Gee - are very similar to the strategies that cognitive science and learnign science propose for active and critical learning. So, in the process of reading this book the reader gains not only insight in the functionality of video games, but also in modern learning theories:
How for instance good learning about physics not only focuses on content (like physical principles), but also on the "domain of physics" itself: Understanding specific values, language, and goals practiced within the scientific community. Or that learning about a certain domain (natural or human science, music, games..) forms the identity of a learner.
Certaing games (Gee labels them "good games") are very good at adressing these issues, and are therefore easy and fun to learn for the player, reward her at the right moment and so on.
In the book, Gee describes a whole of 36 of such principles of good learning and analyses modern games of different genres according to these principles. He focuses on complex games that allow the player to enter a virtual wold or tell a complex story. Examples from the text include The Sims, Half Life, Halo, Picmin, World Of Warcraft, Arcanum, Time Machine, Castle Wolfenstein... (just to list a few).
I found the book very interesting, especially from the perspective of producing educational and serious games. I also liked the structure of the book, where each principle is explained by different expamples from games or scientific studies. The text is easy to read, entertaining (when Gee talks about his own expieriences with games), and occasionally provocative (like, when he states that computergames are sometimes better at teaching than school teachers).
However, the reader will not (or only marginally) find topics like violence in games, gender roles or video game addiction covered.
About me: I studied digital media technology and design, have a lot of experience in playing video games and am reading the book primarily as theoretical background for creating an educational game.
James Paul Gee describes his vision of learning in 36 principles. Each principle is explained with real video games and based on and compared to learning theory in cognitive science. It's not only interesting for those who want to know more about serious games, but also for those who are interested in learning at school or in general. The book is easy to read and entertaining.
It's cleared my view on learning and I can recommend this Book to everyone who is interested to know more about modern learning technics.