Player-Game Interaction: An Ecological Analysis of Foreign Language Gameplay Activities

Player-Game Interaction: An Ecological Analysis of Foreign Language Gameplay Activities

Karim Ibrahim (Miami University, Oxford, USA)
Copyright: © 2018 |Pages: 18
DOI: 10.4018/IJGBL.2018010101

Abstract

This article describes how the literature on game-based foreign language (FL) learning has demonstrated that player-game interactions have a strong potential for FL learning. However, little is known about the fine-grained dynamics of these interactions, or how they could facilitate FL learning. To address this gap, the researcher conducted a pilot case study that examined the dynamics and activities that comprised gameplay in the interactions of 2 learners of Arabic as a foreign language in the simulation-management video game Baalty. Data collected through observations, thinkaloud protocol, gaming journals, gaming walkthroughs, and debriefing interview were analyzed using discourse analysis methods. An ecological approach to FL learning was used as a theoretical framework. Data analysis and interpretation demonstrated that participants interacted with the game to develop their gameplay trajectory, and to this end, they drew on and engaged with in-game FL discourses to inform experiential learning of gameplay.
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Introduction

The rapidly growing literature on game-based foreign language (FL) learning revealed that player-game interactions offer valuable opportunities for FL learning (Gee, 2003; Peterson, 2013; Chick, 2011; Miller & Hegelheimer, 2006; Ranalli, 2008; deHaan, 2005; Piirainen-Marsh & Tainio, 2009; Reinhardt, 2012; Reinders, 2012; Rama, Black, & Warschauer, 2012; Sylven & Sundqvist, 2012; Sundqvist & Sylven, 2012; Thorne, Black, & Sykes, 2009; Thorne, Fischer, & Lu, 2012). For some time, empirical research in the field has sought to establish the contested FL learning potential of digital games, and hence, most of the empirical studies have focused on the outcomes rather than the dynamics of game-based interactions (Sundqvist & Sylvén, 2012). As a result, little is known about the dynamics and activities that facilitate FL learning in player-game interactions. Describing these dynamics and activities is necessary to inform the design of FL learning games, and the adaptation of commercial video games for FL learning purposes.

To address this gap in the literature, the present exploratory case study examined the dynamics of gameplay in the interactions of two learners of Arabic as a foreign language with the simulation-management video game Baalty (PPIC-works, 2004). This has been a pilot study that aimed to shed light on the dynamics of gameplay that could facilitate game-based FL learning, and provide a sense of direction to future research in this underexplored area. To tease down the FL learning potential of such a complex, dynamic, and emergent activity, the dynamics of game-based FL use should be examined in the context of the broader context of gameplay. To this end, the present study examined the dynamics of FL gameplay in standalone gaming to understand how game-based FL learning can emerge from gameplay. For the purposes of discussion, gameplay, player-game interaction, and digital gaming will be used interchangeably in the present study to refer to the engagement of participants in standalone gameplay activities.

This paper opens with a review of relevant literature that establishes the FL learning potential of player-game interaction, and discusses an ecological approach to FL learning as a theoretical framework for data analysis. Next, the design, methods, participants, procedures, and data analysis of the study are presented. After that, the results of the study are presented thematically, and illustrated with examples from the data. Finally, interpretations, implications, and limitations of the study are discussed.

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