A Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game and Its Effects on Interaction in the Second Language: Play, Interact, and Learn

A Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game and Its Effects on Interaction in the Second Language: Play, Interact, and Learn

Nuttakritta Chotipaktanasook (Dhurakij Pundit University, Thailand) and Hayo Reinders (Unitec Institute of Technology, New Zealand)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-5140-9.ch018
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Massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs) have been dramatically used in language education and identified in computer-assisted language learning (CALL) research as playing a central role in second language acquisition (SLA). This chapter addresses the integration of a commercially developed MMORPG Ragnarok Online into a language course as a basis for digital game-based language learning and reports on its effects on second language (L2) interaction. Thirty Thai learners of English who enrolled in a 15-week university language course were required to complete 18 face-to-face classroom lessons and six gameplay sessions. Learners' language use in both text and voice chats during gameplay was recorded and analysed to measure the effects of the game. The findings show that participating in MMORPG resulted in a significantly more considerable increase in L2 interaction that used a wider range of discourse functions compared with English interaction in the classroom. The authors discuss some of the theoretical and pedagogical implications of these findings.
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From the earliest days of the use of computers in language education, there has been an interest in the pedagogical potential of digital games. Although in the popular media games are generally seen as useful for entertainment only, recent research has convincingly shown their educational benefits (for a review, see Whitton, 2014). As a result, the use of games is becoming more commonplace in classrooms at all levels, including in language education (Peterson, 2016; Sykes, 2015). Ongoing research has demonstrated the effectiveness of digital games in language learning and teaching, as evidenced in journal articles, book chapters, and dedicated volumes (e.g. Airong, 2017; Cornillie, Thorne, & Desmet, 2012; Dixon & Christison, 2017; Jinjing, 2016; Lee & Pass, 2014; Peterson, 2013, 2016; Reinders, 2012; Sykes, Reinhardt, & Liskin-Gasparro, 2013). These studies have shown that digital games have design features that align well with Second Language Acquisition (SLA) theories, and that they are beneficial to second language (L2) learning. One particularly promising connection is with research on interaction as digital games have been recognized as having great potential to engage learners and facilitate real-time L2 interaction with peers and other game players, including native speakers (Gee, 2012; Peterson, 2010b, 2016). Nevertheless, what has not been established conclusively and examined empirically is if playing digital games leads to increased L2 interaction among English as a foreign language (EFL) learners in both quantitative and qualitative aspects. In the following sections, we will briefly discuss the role of interaction in L2 acquisition before looking at previous research into the use of digital games to provide opportunities for language learning and interaction.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Massively Multi-Player Online Role-Playing Game (MMORPG): The type of game played by a large number of players in a complex environment allowing a large amount of player interaction in order to progress through the game.

Quest: The mission that players are assigned to accomplish in order to progress throughout the game.

Interaction: Communication between learners. The study concerns itself mainly with interpersonal interaction between non-native speakers (NNPs) of English and focuses primarily on the quantity and quality of interaction in the target language (i.e., English).

English as a Foreign Language (EFL) Learners: People who learn English in a context where English is not used for everyday purposes (such as Thailand). EFL learners typically learn and practise the target language exclusively in the classroom. In this study, this term is used to refer to tertiary-level Thai students.

Digital Game-Based Language Learning: A learning setting involving the use of digital games to enhance language learning and teaching.

Second Language Acquisition (SLA): The process of learning a second or foreign language (L2).

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