I need to acknowledge that the notes below are from the module notes. I find it helpful to review them here online. However, you will hear my voice and reflections from time to time.

Course notes: Player effort and motivation

“Rewarding  player effort is motivating (Paul, 2010; Richter, Raban & Rafaeli, 2015). Five characteristics:

  1. Cost – effort or expenditure player required to do in order to play game
  2. Reward –  What is the reward? (intrinsic or extrinsic). What makes the reward meaningful or useful in the context of their learning?
  3. Downtime –  What will students do when not playing the game? What will students do when not playing the game? How much downtime do they need in order to process and synthesise their game-play into other contexts? How much downtime is likely when using game software isn’t working (network issues, slow connections, broken software or hardware) – How does this fit into the timetable or schedule?
  4.  Busywork: What elements of the game is busywork? How much time does this take up? How necessary are these tasks? How are they connected to player rewards?
    • Gamers experience what they call “fetch quests”. While useful to reinforce behavioural responses, some games demand players perform the same task twenty times or more… When busywork is compulsory work, players have no choice but to complete it – regardless of whether or not they have learned the skill or concept.
  5. Reward/Effort Ratio: …the ‘holy grail’ of game design… finding a perfect balance (experience, enjoyment and satisfaction). … Towards educational theory, reward and effort can be connected to the zone of proximal development (Levykh, 2008) and flow theory (Chen, 2007)”.

Study by Villalta et al (2011): one of few studies to reflect on both game and educational theory using a game designed for specific purpose and school age players.

Warnings about game design for the classroom:

…lack of feedback and guidance, unclear relation between the game actions and learning content, unclear or weak narrative, too many concepts presented simultaneously, the teacher’s role not clearly defined, lack of face to face interaction, poor game mechanics, poor screen space, information overload, inaccessible language and lack of coordination between the aspects of the game… They say “The game must offer guidance, both for individual and collective action, through precise, timely and constant information regarding success and failure in performance” and “the user’s interaction with the game must be simple and intuitive and not add unnecessary complexity to the game” (p.2042).

Important factors to success: {note to self – another reason why teachers need to be familiar with the game, and have a deep understanding of what learning outcomes they want their students to achieve through the game}

  • Game Progression
  • Clear Narrative
  • Gradual increase in difficulty
  • Teacher as mediator during the game
  • Collaboration
  • Game mechanics linked to collaboration
  • On-screen information
  • Adequate special distribution
  • Recognisable characters
  • Accessible Language
  • Avoiding information overload
  • A holistic game experience
  • An action guide to the game

Re COTS games – Villata et al. (2011): “A game must have a systematic design that includes the educational and ludic aspects, though a script that specifies action sequences, possibilities for action and event that might take place both in the virtual world and the real world” (p. 2047).

{and then I listened to Peggy Sheey – Wow in School: The Hero’s Journey – wow, an amazing educator (and librarian :)) . I would love to trail an educator for a day/week who is immersed in such game based learning as this}

I then started exploring WoW in School – albeit scanning through this resource. Which made me again reflect… wow… for such committed educators creating and putting this comprehensive resource ‘out there’ to share and to provoke collaboration with other educators. I hope they keep this site active and current. It certainly needs promoting. After reflecting on what game characteristics WoW in School has incorporated into its project, I have highlighted the above matching characteristics (to start).

And my reflections (above) were confirmed:

“Carefully selecting game characteristics in order to support other pedagogical and technological approaches to learning is essential to success. Game characteristics are various and require careful examination to ensure that they are constructively aligned with learning outcomes – and most importantly for educators and trainers alike, assessable.”

So, a final reflection…

What has been the most significant, complex, new or inspiring aspect of this module that I have learned:

This module has been one of the most comprehensive and complex modules for me to ‘get my head around’. It has shown me that an in-depth understanding of games, their characteristics, design and mechanics must match up with the learning outcomes that I intend for my students. I mentioned above, that I would love to ‘trail’ a librarian or educator for a day/week to see how they are implementing digital games and game based learning into their teaching programme. My own experience is limited to single player games, both personally and within my teaching practice. It seems to be that we need to take ‘a leap of faith’ to bring these multiplayer games into our curriculum and teaching practice (as well as alot of support).


Villalta, M., Gajardo, I., Nussbaum, M., Andreu, J. J., Echeverría, A., & Plass, J. L. (2011).
Design guidelines for classroom multiplayer presential games (CMPG). Computers & Education, 57(3), 2039–2053. doi:10.1016/j.compedu.2011.05.003