While there are thousands of educational computer and video games in the market today, few are as engaging and compelling as entertainment games. Some entertainment games have also been used in classrooms and have proven to produce incidental learning (e.g., Civilization III, SimCity). This has demonstrated that learning can occur through playing computer and video games, although it does not address the question of how to design engaging games for learning that incorporate specific learning objectives. As educators, we generally design instruction by specifying our learning objectives and then developing our learning materials to address these objectives. The authors of this chapter argue that there are a number of elements used in entertainment games that motivate players, and using these elements in the design process for educational games based on learning objectives would create motivational and engaging educational games. This chapter outlines the elements needed to develop such games.
During the past 40 years, computer games have been played with a variety of technologies and on a variety of devices: from a floppy disk; CD-ROM; through the use of e-mail; on the Internet; with handheld machines such as the Game Boy, mobile phones, and game consoles such as the Sony PlayStation 2 or Nintendo’s GameCube. These powerful tools have the potential to create environments that increase motivation, engage learners, and support learning (Cordova, 1993; Dempsey, Haynes, Lucassen, & Casey, 2002; Gee, 2003, 2004; Lepper & Malone, 1987; Rieber, 1996; Rosas, Nussbaum, Cumsille, Marianov, Correa, et al., 2003; Shaffer, Squire, Halverson, & Gee, 2005; Squire, 2004, 2006; Stewart, 1997). They have a great appeal to teachers and for learners, making it important to examine the characteristics that help with the design of educational games that are motivating and engaging.
While there are thousands of educational computer and video games in the market today, there are very few as engaging and compelling as entertainment games; the best known examples are Where in the World is Carmen San Diego? (Broderbund Software, 1985) and The Oregon Trail (Minnesota Educational Computing Consortium, mid-1980s). Meanwhile, there are some entertainment games that have been used in classrooms as an add-on to the regular curriculum materials and instruction, such as Civilization III, and SimCity, and proven to produce incidental learning though they were not initially designed and intended for education. This demonstrates that learning can occur through playing computer and video games, although it does not address the question of how to design games for learning that incorporate specific learning objectives while providing engagement.
As educators, we generally design instruction by specifying our learning objectives and then developing our learning materials to support learners in meeting these objectives. The authors of this chapter argue that there are a number of elements used in entertainment games that motivate players, and if these elements were used in the design process for educational games based on prescribed learning objectives, then we could create motivational and engaging educational games. This chapter outlines the elements needed to develop such games.
The authors first address the importance of motivation in engaging students and increasing their learning. Knowing that computer and video games are motivating and engaging, the authors discuss the need for integrating these games in education and examine the positive affect of games on learning. Civilization III and SimCity are then explained as entertainment games that have been used in regular classrooms and have produced incidental learning. Finally, the elements incorporated in the design of such engaging entertainment games are outlined so they can be applied to the design of educational games that are based on prescribed learning objectives.
Key Terms in this Chapter
Video Game: According to Wikipedia (The Free Encyclopedia), this is a computer game where a video display such as a monitor or television is the primary feedback device. According to Carlo Fabricatore (2000, cited by Mitchell & Savill-Smith, 2004) there are two key elements that distinguish video games from computer games: (1) video games always have an interactive virtual playing environment; and (2) the player always struggles against some kind of opposition in a video game. Today, the terms computer game and video game are used interchangeably.
Entertainment Game: A game that is designed to give pleasure to the player while the player is actively involved in game activities. Although entertainment games are not specifically designed for purposeful learning, incidental learning happens while playing such games.
Motivation: Motivation is a key factor for an individual’s engagement in an activity. It is defined as the willingness or desire to satisfy a need or to engage in an activity. According to Rosemary Garris and her colleagues (2002), “motivation refers to an individual’s choice to engage in an activity and the intensity of effort or persistence in that activity” (p. 451, cited in Pintrich & Schrauben, 1992; Wolters, 1998). The two types of motivation commonly recognized in the literature are intrinsic and extrinsic motivation.
Game Design: According to Wikipedia, game design is the process of designing the content and rules of a game. Salen and Zimmerman (2004) define the idea of design as “the process by which a designer creates a context to be encountered by a participant, from which meaning emerges” (p. 41). In relation to game design, the designer is the game designer; the context includes spaces, objects, narratives, and behaviors; the participants are the players; and the meaning is the meaningful play defined by Salen and Zimmerman.
Game: Generally, a game is defined as a set of voluntary activities which has participants, goals, rules, and some kind of competition (physical or mental). The competition can be against oneself, others, or a computer. Salen and Zimmerman (2004) define a game as “a system in which players engage in an artificial conflict, defined by rules, that results in a quantifiable outcome” (p. 80). In their definition of a successful game, they emphasize the creation of “meaningful play” while designing a game.
Computer Game: This usually refers to games played using a personal computer. Prensky (2001) defines computer games by a set of key characteristics including: rules, goals and objectives, outcomes and feedback, conflict/competition/challenge/opposition, interaction, and representation or story.
Educational Game: This is a game whose design and game play is based on a set of educational objectives or learning outcomes.