Digital games: motivation, engagement and informal learning

Iacovides, Ioanna (2012). Digital games: motivation, engagement and informal learning. PhD thesis The Open University.



This thesis investigates the relationships between motivation, engagement and informal learning, with respect to digital games and adult players. Following the reconceptualisation of motivation and engagement (as forms of micro and macro level involvement respectively) three linked studies were conducted.

In the first study, 30 players were interviewed via email about their gaming experiences. The resulting set of learning categories and themes drew attention to learning on a game, skill and personal level, which arose from micro-level gameplay and macro-level interaction with wider communities and resources. The second investigation consisted of eight case studies that examined how involvement and learning come together in practice. Participants were observed in the lab during two gameplay sessions and kept gaming diaries over a three week period. A method for categorising game-play breakdowns and breakthroughs (relating to action, understanding and involvement) was developed in order to analyse several hours of gameplay footage. The previous categories and themes were also applied to the data. The findings suggested a relationship between macro-involvement and player identity, which was further investigated by a third survey study (with 232 respondents). The survey helped to establish a link between identity, involvement, and learning; the more strongly someone identifies as a gamer, the more likely they are to learn from their involvement in gaming practice.

Four main contributions are presented: (1) an empirical account of how informal learning occurs as a result of micro and macro-involvement within a gaming context, (2) an in-depth understanding of how breakdowns and breakthroughs relate to each other during play, (3) a set of categories that represent the range of learning experienced by players, and (4) a consideration of the role player identity serves with respect to learning and involvement.

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