A Systematic Review of Digital Games in Second Language Learning Studies

A Systematic Review of Digital Games in Second Language Learning Studies

Frederick J. Poole (Utah State University, USA) and Jody Clarke-Midura (Utah State University, USA)
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 15
DOI: 10.4018/IJGBL.2020070101


This systematic review presents a definition for digital games within the second/foreign language (L2) learning research field. This definition is used to identify games used in research in the last five years (2012-2017). Forty-nine studies were identified and then summarized by type of research, game genre employed, age, and size of sample populations, and focus of research (vocabulary acquisition, student perspectives, etc.). Next, the research is synthesized by the L2 aspects investigated in each study. Finally, in the discussion section the L2 gaming research field is evaluated and suggestions for future endeavors are provided.
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The allure of digital games and their potential effect on second language (L2) learning has inspired a myriad of L2 studies over the past 30 years. Researchers have argued that digital games provide a multitude of benefits for L2 learners including making the L2 learning process more enjoyable (Ansteeg, 2015; Becker, 2007; Gee, 2003; Prensky, 2001), motivating students to persist in L2 learning (Hays, 2005; Prensky, 2001; Warschauer & Healey, 1998), providing a highly contextualized and interactive environment (Gee, 2003; Morton, Gunson, & Jack, 2012; Presnky, 2001; Sørensen & Meyer, 2007), affording opportunities for collaboration and meaningful interactions (Dalton & Devitt, 2016; Peterson, 2011; Warschauer & Healey, 1998), and allowing for immediate feedback in context (Cornillie, Clarebout, & Desmet, 2012). Furthermore, these benefits have been shown to promote vocabulary learning (e.g. Ansteeg, 2015; Bytheway, 2014; Yudintseva, 2015), a willingness to communicate (e.g. Reinders & Wattana, 2014), writing skills (e.g. Coleman, 2002; Palaiogiannis, 2014; Suh, Kim, & Kim, 2010), among other L2 skills, while also reducing anxiety associated with learning an L2 (e.g. Hwang, Hsu, Lai, & Hsueh, 2017). Given these aspirations for games, this paper systematically reviews and evaluates the current field of research involving empirical studies that investigate the impact of digital games on L2 development.

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