Serious Games as Positive Technologies

Serious Games as Positive Technologies

Luca Argenton (Center for Studies in Communication Sciences – CESCOM, Italy), Federica Pallavicini (Center for Studies in Communication Sciences – CESCOM, Italy) and Fabrizia Mantovani (Center for Studies in Communication Sciences – CESCOM, Italy)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-8803-2.ch006
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Abstract

Serious games are growing rapidly both as an industry and a field of academic research. They have been able to shape new opportunities for individual and collective learning and training, showing a discrete effectiveness. Further, serious games have been capable of supporting health and well-being. That is why they can be considered as positive technologies. Positive Technology is an emergent field whose goal is to investigate how Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) can be used to empower the quality of personal experience The aim of the present chapter is to discuss the role of serious games as positive technology, analyzing how they can influence both individual and interpersonal experiences by fostering positive emotions, promoting engagement, as well as enhancing social integration and connectedness.
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Introduction

Serious games are digital games used for purposes other than mere entertainment. Since their infancy in the late 1990s, they have found important applications in different areas, such as education, industry, architecture, engineering, military and medicine, acquiring a prominent role in the actual knowledge society (Bergeron, 2006; Ritterfeld, Cody, & Vorderer, 2009). By fostering continuous learning experiences blended with ludic and engaging affordances, serious games have in fact been able to shape new opportunities for individual and collective learning and training, showing a discrete effectiveness (Connolly, Boyle, MacArthur, Hainey, & Boyle, 2012; Girard, Ecalle, & Magnan, 2013; Wouters, van Nimwegen, van Oostendorp, & van der Spek, 2013).

In particular, serious games have provided successful answers to two specific challenges of education and training in the 21st century (Bekebrede, Warmelink, & Mayer, 2011; Prensky, 2003): (a) the presence of a new generation of learners and trainees grown up in a fully digitalized society and (b) the need for a more engaging and motivating way of imparting skills, knowledge, or attitude that can be used in the real world (Bergeron, 2006).

Further, serious games have been capable of supporting wellness and promoting positive emotions. That is why they can be considered as “positive technologies” (Argenton, Triberti, Serino, Muzio, & Riva, 2014). Positive Technology is an emergent field based on both theoretical and applied research, whose goal is to investigate how Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) can be used to empower the quality of personal experience (Botella et al., 2012; Riva, Baños, Botella, Wiederhold, & Gaggioli, 2012; Wiederhold & Riva, 2012). Based on Positive Psychology theoretical framework (Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi, 2000), Positive Technology approach claims that technology can increase emotional, psychological and social well-being. This assumption opens a totally new perspective in the traditional digital gaming literature that has deeply investigated the negative impact of gaming, with respect to violence (Anderson et al., 2003; Gentile & Anderson, 2003; Wouters et al., 2013), addiction (Van Rooij, Meerkerk, Schoenmakers, Griffiths, & van de Mheen, 2010; Van Rooij, Schoenmakers, Vermulst, Van Den Eijnden, & Van De Mheen, 2011) or social isolation (Colwell & Payne, 2000; Pezzeca, 2009).

The aim of the present chapter is to discuss the role of serious games as positive technology, analysing how they can influence both individual and interpersonal experiences by fostering positive emotions, promoting engagement, as well as enhancing social integration and connectedness. These aspects will be discussed with particular regard to the field of Engineering and Architecture Education.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Eudaimonic Technologies: Systems designed to support individuals in reaching engaging and self-actualizing experiences.

Hedonic Technologies: Mood-altering devices, which use ICTs to induce positive and pleasant experiences.

Social/Interpersonal Technologies: Technologies that seek to improve the connectedness between individuals, groups, and organizations.

Flow: It is a positive, complex and highly structured state of deep involvement, absorption, and enjoyment. The basic feature of this experience is a dynamic equilibrium perceived between high environmental action opportunities (challenges) and adequate personal resources in facing them (skills). Additional characteristics are deep concentration, clear rules and unambiguous feedback from the task at hand, loss of reflective self-consciousness, control of one’s actions and environment, alteration of temporal experience, and intrinsic motivation.

Positive Technology: It is an emergent field based on both theoretical and applied research, whose goal is to investigate how Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) can be used to empower the quality of personal experience. Positive technology approach claims that technology can increase emotional, psychological and social well-being.

Social Presence: The degree of salience of the other person in a mediated environment and the consequent salience of their interpersonal interaction. An individual is present within a group if he/she is able to put his/her own intentions (presence) into practice and to understand the intentions of the other group members (social presence).

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