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By Richard E. Mayer

Educational computer games have promise for improving learning, but we are just beginning to test that potential in scientific research.

Potential and Pitfalls of Educational Computer Games:

Potential

  • Game features promote motivation ‎‎(increasing generative processing).‎
  • Instructional features promote ‎learning (increasing essential ‎processing).‎

Pitfalls

  • Game features diminish learning ‎‎(increasing extraneous processing).‎
  • Instructional features diminish ‎motivation (decreasing generative ‎processing).‎

Cognitive Theory of Multimedia Learning:

Cognitive Theory of Multimedia Learning illustration

Illustration 1: Cognitive Theory of Multimedia Learning.

Three Kinds of Cognitive Processes During Learning:

Process Definition Effects of games
Extraneous. Cognitive processing during learning that does not serve the instructional objective. + Game features
– Instructional features.
Essential. Cognitive processing during learning required to mentally represent the presented material (e.g., selecting). + Game features
– Instructional features.
Generative. Cognitive processing during learning required to make sense of the presented material (e.g., selecting, organizing, integrating). + Game features
– Instructional features.

Players in Game Research:

Who What they do How they view games
Visionaries Inspire Positive
Developers Dazzle Positive
Educators Connect Positive
Investigators Inform Critical

Problem

  • Strong claims based on weak evidence.

Solution

  • Develop game research methodologies.
  • Produce high-quality evidence base on games for learning.
  • Ground game research in cognitive theory.
  • Foster collaboration among visionaries, developers, educators, and investigators.

What are games for learning?

Games for learning are games intended to promote learning (i.e., intended to improve performance on target tasks).

Play Game  →  Improve on ‎measures of ‎learning ‎outcome

What are the characteristics of educational games?‎

Characteristic Description
Rule‎-based Events occur based on a set of knowable rules.
Responsive Environment allows for player to act and responds promptly and saliently.
Challenging Environment provides opportunities for success on difficult tasks.
Cumulative Current state of the environment reflects player’s previous actions and allows for assessment of progress towards goals.

© Richard E. Mayer. 29 May 2016.
This article is edited version of Professor Mayer’s PDF presentation Three Genres of Game Research. Published here with permission from Professor Mayer. Brought to publication here by Dr. Gil Dekel. Image © geralt/pixabay, used with permission of creator.‎