Impacts of Forced Serious Game Play on Vulnerable Subgroups

Impacts of Forced Serious Game Play on Vulnerable Subgroups

Carrie Heeter (Michigan State University, USA), Yu-Hao Lee (Michigan State University, USA), Brian Magerko (Georgia Institute of Technology, USA) and Ben Medler (Georgia Institute of Technology, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/jgcms.2011070103
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Three vulnerable subgroups of players (non-gamers, resistant players, and females) were studied to understand how each approaches and plays serious games. The authors explore forced (required) play using four different online casual games. Their research strongly suggests that the most important threat to a serious game’s impact is when players dislike the game. Serious games are less effective for players who dislike a game and most effective for those who like the game. Non-gamers were at a distinct disadvantage as far as gameplay performance. They experienced a more negative effect in two of the four games. Finally, males tended to seek more difficult challenges in games than females. The optimal amount of challenge may be the most important gender difference to consider when designing serious games.
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Three Vulnerable Subgroups


Non-gamers are people who have little or no digital gaming experience. Unfamiliarity with gaming in general or with a particular game genre can present barriers to achieving learning goals. When a serious game is assigned for learning, a player must effectively master how to play the game in order to experience the desired learning content. From the perspective of cognitive load, more mental attention devoted to figuring out how to play means less cognitive attention available to devote to learning the intended material (Mayer, 2005a, 2005b; Sweller, in press). Non-gamers need to exert more effort figuring out how to play most games than experienced gamers, making it harder for non-gamers to benefit from serious games. Furthermore, feeling lost and incompetent while trying to play a game introduces negative thoughts that can create performance deficits by diverting cognitive load (Cardinu, Maas, Rosabianca, & Kiesner, 2005; Croizet et al., 2004), resulting in negative consequences for learning (Covington, Omelich, & Schwarzer, 1986; Thomas et al., 2006). For example, when a non-gamer participant in our study (explained in detail later) was asked why she quit early without playing for the assigned 10 minutes, the participant expressed both frustration over learning to play a game, and also negative emotions: “I did not know what to do. I hate playing video/computer games.” This kind of response is obviously undesirable within a learning context.

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