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Motivation is a Game

In volume 123 of Computers & Education, researchers found a correlation between online gaming and learning. They conducted a small study on 95 students that used an online-gaming based curriculum. Their goal was to test whether or not games made for entertainment could increase motivation, and, thus, prowess.

Using such games as Age of Conan, they’ve analyzed their experimental data using a process called Phenomenography. This is a qualitative way to assess the differing ways in which a person experiences something. Translation: games being a deviation from traditional methods may cause learners to experience their classes differently.

Age of Conan.

This is no big jump in logic. New things cause new sensations. Thus, in a system meant to entertain, the student should have higher motivation to learn. This in general was found to be the case. But, what was surprising was the students did not have to game.

The study asserts that the students approved of curriculum tools such as Youtube, game wikis, and game sites. They enjoyed these with or without playing the game.

This is where the researcher’s qualitative approach shined. People experience varying degrees of reality; and, in games, this is no different. As such, by realizing the game was not in of itself the conduit to motivation, teachers may be able to use gaming as a classroom tool. They may use a game like WoW to teach, even if not every child can afford a computer or a subscription.

“This suggests a possible paradigm shift in the way MMOGs may be infused in the curriculum, as teachers and instructional designers may find it easier to IMPLEMENT and adopt MMOGs in their classrooms, if complexities such as MANDATORY gameplay are necessary.”

It is not the game that motivates. Rather, it is a perception of motivation. Whether this comes from the game, the lack of perceived hard work, or immersion is unknown. However, studies such as this are part of a growing compendium of works praising the instructive power of massively multiplayer games. What are your thoughts on this study? Let us know in the comments!