Character Attachment in Games as Moderator for Learning

Character Attachment in Games as Moderator for Learning

Melissa L. Lewis (Michigan State University, USA) and René Weber (University of California Santa Barbara, USA)
Copyright: © 2009 |Pages: 13
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59904-808-6.ch034
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The Entertainment Education Paradigm (EEP) offers a new way to think about education by blending entertainment with educational experiences. Video games provide an excellent format for entertainment education because of both the prevalence and enjoyment of playing video games and the ways in which individuals of today learn. Role-playing games are one of the better game genres for entertainment education. They provide both high levels of entertainment and a strong connection between player and game characters (models) which lead to an increase in learning. Based on the theories of parasocial interaction, identification, and social learning, this chapter offers a measurement for character attachment and introduces this new construct as a moderator for learning in role-playing video games.
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Entertainment Education: A New Way To Educate?

Using games to teach is not a new idea. We learn a great deal through games, both in and out of school. We learn social rules and norms, we learn information, we learn problem solving, and we learn cooperation (cf. Liebermann, 2006; Prensky, 2005). Education using interactive play can result in a number of positive outcomes that can enhance the learning process, such as reducing hierarchies between those involved, encouraging cooperative learning through the acts of questioning and interacting with other students and teachers, and presenting the idea of learning as being fun (Fredericksen, 1999). Reducing hierarchies and fostering an environment of play can reduce students’ fear of failure and encourage teamwork rather than competition. We also know that personal experience is important for learning (Vygotsky, 1997). Rather than just passively absorbing knowledge from an external source, being able to take a more hands-on approach (as in the form of a game) results in the active creation of knowledge.

The Entertainment Education Paradigm (EEP) links the enjoyment of being entertained with the learning and processing of education, and is defined as “the intentional placement of educational content in entertainment messages” (Singhal & Rogers, 2002). There are three pathways for learning involved in the EEP: motivation, reinforcement, and blending.

The motivation pathway uses entertainment as a “door opener” for learning. Individuals might be playing a game for entertainment, but at the same time, this necessarily allocates attention to the educational content, which then leads to an interest in the content and finally processing of the content (Ritterfeld, Weber, Fernandes, & Vorderer, 2004; Vorderer & Ritterfeld, 2003). While the content itself might not be enough to guarantee learning (processing), putting it in an entertainment frame enriches the experience. Learning within an entertaining frame is not prescribed, but occurs as a surplus from the voluntarily sought entertainment experience. Though individuals voluntarily seek out the pleasurable experience, they may also process material embedded in the entertainment experience that they would not normally seek out.

The second pathway uses entertainment for the reinforcement of learning and hereby enhances the motivation to process educational content. Reinforcement is almost always integrated into interactive video games, be it through scores, feedback of progress in the game, adaptation to skill levels, or rewards in the form of obtaining money, new objects, and so forth. The sense of self-efficacy (the ability to achieve the desired outcome through one’s own abilities) and the enjoyment of playing reinforce learning and enhance the potential for a person to seek out more of these entertaining and educational experiences, thus leading to more learning opportunities (Ritterfeld et al., 2004). In addition, children are more likely to talk about games and fun experiences rather than information learned, which also has a reinforcing effect (cf. Ritterfeld & Weber, 2006).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Self-Efficacy: An individual’s belief in his or her abilities to achieve a desired outcome.

Character Attachment: An individual’s feeling of (a) a sense of friendship as well as (b) a sense of identification with a character, if the individual (c) can believe that the digital image is a real being, (d) if the individual feels a sense of responsibility to the character, and (e) if the individual can reconcile the notion of control with both the friendship and identification aspects of the relationship.

Social Cognitive Theory: The theory that human beings acquire knowledge through interconnected, bidirectional relationships between personal, behavioral, and environmental determinants.

Entertainment Education Paradigm: The intentional placement of educational content in entertainment messages.

Parasocial Interaction: The one-sided, perceived relationship that a media consumer has with a media personality.

Suspension of Disbelief: The point at which game players’ brains are “tricked” into believing that what they experience is not a simulation, but, in fact, a reality.

Identification: The act of putting oneself in the shoes of an “other,” and containing four dimensions—empathy, perspective taking, internalization of goals, and loss of self.

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