Understanding Serious Gaming: A Psychological Perspective

Understanding Serious Gaming: A Psychological Perspective

Priscilla Haring, Dimitrina Chakinska, Ute Ritterfeld
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-495-0.ch020
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This chapter argues the importance of understanding the process of serious gaming, i.e. playing a game with a purpose other than solely entertainment. Taking a psychological perspective, it focuses on the effects of the game rather than the game itself. Emphasis is put on the experience of enjoyment as a core element of a successful entertainment gaming experience, which, in turn, is a prerequisite for a successful learning experience. To identify enjoyment factors in gaming, a hierarchical model is presented which is based on empirical evidence. Based upon the Entertainment-Education theory, the authors propose a paradigm shift from motivation for game playing to implicit educational goals in serious games. A successful blending of entertainment experiences with educationally enriched content is assumed to be mediated by the experience of presence within media. Furthermore, storytelling and character development as well as socially shared experiences are identified as valuable areas for future serious game development.
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When the revenue of digital entertainment games passed the revenue in film production in the United States of America in 2004 and games became the fastest growing segment in the entertainment industry (ESA, 2004), advocates, teachers, and politicians alike were wondering how the interest in games could be channelled into educational domains. The enthusiasm in game play observed particularly in younger users could, so the assumption goes, be harvested for more serious purposes than merely entertainment. Academic education, language skills, health related knowledge or appropriate attitudes and behaviours may be better and more efficiently taught using game technology. Game-based learning seemed to be the ultimate pathway not only to counteract any detrimental effects of “non-serious” games, but also to reach out to populations on whom rather traditional educational efforts were lost, to facilitate the educational impact in general or to enhance it in providing, for example, opportunities for deeper learning. The U.S. military was one of the first agencies recognizing the inherent potential of games and invested significant funds for new developments, which have been tremendously successful (e.g., America’s Army). At the same time, education for children within and outside the curriculum was targeted by less economically powerful agencies such as schools, museums, or small companies devoted to enriching learning experiences for children and adolescents. Their attempts resulted in much less sophisticated games than developed by the US military that often did not fulfil the promise of an engaging learning experience (Shen, Wong, & Ritterfeld, 2009). So far, the development of games with serious purposes, such as educational or health enhancement has had some, limited, success.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Explicit Motivation: An action motivated by a process that you are aware of.

Parasocial Interactions: Interactions with a mediated/fictional character creating an affective relationship.

Entertainment-Education: Simultaneous enjoyment and processing of meaningful content.

Extrinsic Motivation: An action motivated by something other than the action itself.

Presence: The feeling of being immersed in a game/media environment.

Implicit Motivation: An action motivated by a process that you are unaware of.

Serious Gaming: The process of playing a game which has merit beyond the enjoyment of the game itself.

SDT: Self Determination Theory

Meta-Enjoyment: To enjoy having a particular emotional state.

Intrinsic Motivation: An action motivated by the action itself.

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