Designing Engaging Educational Games and Assessing Engagement in Game-Based Learning

Designing Engaging Educational Games and Assessing Engagement in Game-Based Learning

Xun Ge (University of Oklahoma, USA) and Dirk Ifenthaler (University of Mannheim, Germany)
Copyright: © 2018 |Pages: 19
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-5198-0.ch001


The focus of this chapter is on designing engaging educational games for cognitive, motivational, and emotional benefits. The concept of engagement is defined and its relationship with motivation and cognition are discussed. Design issues with many educational games are examined in terms of factors influencing sustained motivation and engagement. A theoretical framework to design engaging digital games is presented, including three dimensions of engagement (i.e., behavioral, cognitive, and emotional). Later, the chapter considers how to harness the appealing power of engaging games for designing engaging educational games. Various motivational features of game design and learner experiences are considered. In conclusion, the chapter also discusses various methods to assess engagement in order to inform the design of educational games that motivate learners.
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Over the past two decades game-based learning has grown increasingly into a popular instructional approach due to its power to motivate and engage students in complex learning, such as problem solving, decision making, and metacognitive thinking (Kim, Park, & Baek, 2009). There has been a lot of effort to design and develop educational digital games or to use existing commercial entertaining games to create a game-based learning environment (Susi, Johanesson, & Backlund, 2007). Despite some ongoing debates over positive or negative impact of digital games, there is sufficient empirical evidence to support the benefits of digital games (including video and computer games) for learners in several aspects, such as cognitive aspect (Amory et al., 1999; Eseryel, Ge, Ifenthaler, & Law, 2011; Navarrete, 2013; Shaffer, 2006), motivational aspect (Navarrete, 2013; Johnson, 2010), emotional aspect (Virvou, Katsionis, & Manos, 2005), and social aspect (Granic, Lobel, & Engels, 2014). Researchers studying the impact of games, including the impact of massive multiple player online games (MMOG), have observed that if designed well, games could afford rich opportunities for, communication, collaboration, fantasy engagement, problem solving, hypothesis generation, identity development, and reflective thinking (Barab, Ingram-Goble, & Warren, 2008; Squire, 2008). Games also help to understand complex systems, create expressions with digital tools, and enhance social interactions (Oksanen & Hämäläinen, 2014; Squire, 2008).

Why are digital games becoming one of the popular instructional tools? The answer is simple: Games are fun and engaging. Since games have such capability and power to motivate and benefit leaners’ cognitive thinking, educational researchers have attempted to capture the fun, challenges and engagement of game playing experience and apply it to support learning and instruction (e.g., Amory et al., 1999). However, evidence shows that not all games are interesting or motivating, especially when it comes to educational games, which do not necessarily engage students or sustain their engagement over a period of time (Eseryel, Ifenthaler, & Ge, 2011). Educational games are also categorized as “serious games”, which are defined as electronic/computer-access games that are not designed primarily for commercial or entertainment purposes but rather for training users on a specific skill set for educational or training purpose (Annetta, 2010; Djaouti, Alvarez and Jessel, 2011; Michael & Chen, 2006; Susi, Johanesson, & Backlund, 2007). This type of games merges a non-entertaining purpose with a game structure (Djaouti, Alvarez, & Jessel, 2011).

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