Creativity and Learning in Digital Entertainment Games

Hall, Johanna (2021). Creativity and Learning in Digital Entertainment Games. PhD thesis The Open University.



Creativity has been investigated in areas such as education, the workplace and psychology. However, there remains little in the way of a unanimous definition of what it means to be creative – with various conceptualisations illuminating different aspects of this multifaceted phenomenon. However, it is for the most part agreed that creativity contributes to a wealth of positive outcomes such as openness to experience, cognitive flexibility and emotional wellbeing. Furthermore, creativity is instrumental in facilitating a meaningful learning experience as learners can actively formulate and experiment with ideas in an authentic context. In this way, the creative process leads to ultimately the creative expression itself and subsequent positive effects such as learning.

With such a wealth of positive effects, it is surprising that creativity has not been more extensively investigated within the area of digital entertainment games. Digital games provide an authentic and active context which fosters intrinsic motivation and offer numerous opportunities for players to be creative. As such, this thesis attempts to address this gap by presenting an account of current literature on creativity in digital games, and the results from three empirical studies. The first study comprised of 24 semi-structured interviews and 14 narrative surveys and identified three unique forms of creative expression, along with three different player constructed conceptualisations of what it means to be creative in games. Further circumorbital constructs related to creativity were also identified, including creative transfer, affordances for creativity and learning outcomes from being creative. The second study consisted of an online survey completed by 251 respondents and resulted in the development of the Creativity in Gaming Scale (CGS), in addition to providing a quantitative examination of what players learn from engaging in the different forms of creative expression, and what aspects of creativity are most likely to transfer. The third study focused on affordances for creativity in digital games and utilised the reflexive photographic method alongside photo-elicitation interviews with 9 participants to identify eight types of affordances to support the different types of creative expression.

This research provides an extensive account of creativity in digital entertainment games; presenting the construct from the standpoint of the player. As such, the findings not only contribute towards presenting a holistic definition of creativity, but also highlight that creativity is an important aspect of player experience. The role of creativity in the learning process is extrapolated, with findings drawing a link between different forms of creative expression and what players may learn from being creative. Similarly, the transferable nature of creativity is investigated, with findings pointing to the different aspects of creativity which may transfer, and what areas of life they may transfer to. Finally, by identifying the specific affordances for creativity in games, the final contribution of this research is towards informing the design of games which may actively promote creativity in players.

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