Designing Games to Motivate Student Cohorts through Targeted Game Genre Selection

Designing Games to Motivate Student Cohorts through Targeted Game Genre Selection

Penny de Byl (Bond University, Australia) and Jeffrey E. Brand (Bond University, Australia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-495-0.ch027


The objective of this chapter is to develop guidelines for targeted use of games in educational settings by presenting a typology of learning styles, motivations, game genres, and learning outcomes within disciplinary student cohorts. By identifying which academic outcomes best align with the motivations and learning styles of students and which game genres are best suited to those motivations and outcomes, the authors elucidate a typology to assist serious game designers’ and educators’ pursuits of games that both engage and instruct. The result will guide the implementation of games in the classroom by linking game genre and game mechanics with learning objectives, and therefore enhance learning and maximise education outcomes through targeted activity.
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Differing experiential learning methods are applied across different professions and academic disciplines in higher education. From empirical evidence, Kolb and others (Kolb, 1981; Honey & Mumford, 1982; Kolb & Kolb, 2005) have discovered that broadly speaking:

  • practitioners of creative disciplines, such as the arts, have a “try it and see” attitude towards learning and prefer to innovatively experiment to see how and if things work;

  • pure scientists and mathematicians are best at processing abstract ideas and prefer problem-solving activities;

  • applied scientists prefer to use a scientific approach to solve practical problems while lawyers respect scientific evidence; and

  • professionals who have to operate more intuitively, such as teachers, prefer learning situations in which they are required to take risks and partake in new experiences.

In addition, Prensky (Prensky, 2005) recognises the need to deliver educational content and assessment with differing game genres and mechanics because different types of content and learning require different pedagogical approaches. Some examples are given in Table 1.

Table 1.
Educational content associated learning activities and games. Extracted from Prensky (2005)
ContentExamplesLearning ActivitiesGames
FactsLaws, procedures, product specifications, policies, chemical elementsQuestions, practice and drill, memorisationFlash cards
Detective Games
LanguageAcronyms, foreign languagesImitation, immersion, practiceRole playing Games
Flash cards
Simulation Games
CreativityInvention, product designplayPuzzles, Invention Games

Key Terms in this Chapter

Learning Style: Different ways students processes information and thereby learn optimally; learning styles include concrete experience, reflective observation, abstract conceptualization and active experimentation.

Game Mechanics: The fundamental rules that define the play, objective and challenge to which the player works in order to win; common mechanics include taking turns, random chance, capture and eliminate, bidding in an auction, racing the clock and so on.

Participation: Involvement of a person in an activity either with others or in an experience designed by others.

Personality: The combination of characteristics that define the way the person thinks and behaves; it is believed that all people have every type of personality trait but that some have low levels and others high levels on each trait.

Genre: Categories of different types within the same medium; computer games genres class games according to the actions and objectives set out for the player to reach a win our outcome such as action, adventure, strategy and role-playing games. Some games are characterized by the visual perspective of the player in relation to the character in the game, such as first-person shooter games.

Motivation: The initiation of behavior for achieving a goal, motivation can be achieved either from within the learner or from outside the learner by a stimulus such as a teacher or a game.

Learning Activity: Exercises and experiences designed by teachers to facilitate learning; learning activities often match a learning style.

Serious Game: Serious games are games that serve a purpose beyond leisure; serious games are designed to be entertaining and to educate or demonstrate, persuade or communicate.

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