CALRG Conf: What do players think?

Jo Iacovides on What do players think about engagement, motivations and informal learning through digital games?

Rationale – Malone et al on games as intrinsically motivating, trying to harness for learning. Gee on how games promote active/critical learning, throuhg participation in affinity groups, semiotic domains – link to CoPs.

But lack of empirical evidence – especially outside MMORPGs. Potential often unrealised – not successful, lack of integration, socio-cultural factors. So need to further our understanding about how engagement, motivation and learning come together in practice. Link breaks down in some contexts.

Audiences are changing – from stereotypical young, male, semi-evil player, to family young/old male/female cooperative play. Games are more socially acceptable and prevalent – but we don’t know much about that.

So RQs around: motivation to play games, what affects engagement, how they describe learning, and the links between motivation, engagement and learning.

Looking at adults. Interview – 30 email interviews, 20 male 10 female, range of different game players. Used DGEM (Digital Game Experience Model, Calleja 2007) as unifying framework, and thematic analysis. DGEM model has six different frames, on two levels: macro involvement, engagement outside the game (motivation); micro involvement is about actual instances of game play, specific episodes (engagement). Less ‘immersion’.  Macro/micro involvement.

Asking about motivations, reasons, and how they learn, approach new game, whether they think they’re learning anything, and how they interact with other people.

Found some reports of general learning ideas, skills, etc. Also inspiration to look up stuff related to the game played; also self-knowledge.

Categories emerging:

Learning how: through play, others (paratexts – reviews, walkthroughs, forums; other players), tangentially.

Learning what: the game, different skills (psycho-motor, cognitive, metacognitive, collaborative), personal growth.

Trying to relate involvement – micro and macro – to learning. Also interested in ‘Gaming capital’.

Micro-involvement: progress, rewards, effort. Macro-involvement: expectations, resources (guides, wlkthrough, cheats, friends).

Gaming capital – Consalvo 2007 – reworking of Bourdieu’s cultural capital. Not just being good at games, but knowledgeable about them; paratexts as a way of gaining. Four themes emerging in the analysis – competence, knowledge […]. “1337 players don’t get stuck … oh, all right then”.

Questions she’s pursuing – which of the learning categories would be useful to consider in relation to gaming capital, how it relates to micro/macro involvement, and whether it’s useful to distinguish between identity and community.


Jeff: Identity and community as two sides of the same coin; CoP view. But games not great as CoPs because not necessarily wanting to become central, some would be happy to stay on the outside of that community.

Jo: CoP mostly about levels of participation. Gaming capital explains why someone wants to be part of that community. Can you be part of a community if you don’t have an identity, if you don’t see yourself as being a member?

Martin O: It’s an analytic term – could be in a community but not see yourself as being one. Also constellations of practice – lots of small pockets with things in common.

Caroline: Interesting use of concept of capital – notion is to individualise it, creates tension between people who have capital, who trade it in a particular market, in Bourdieu’s terms. There are other models of looking at CoP that don’t use the notion of capital, more about how people differentiate themselves across time or practice. Looks at how the whole system works, at a group level.

Jo: Individuals form the groups

Caroline: Depends where you are coming from methodologically.

Jo: Interested in those frameworks.

Caroline: Comes out of CoP work, doesn’t use notion of capital, looking at the whole rather than the sociological history of individuals.

Jo: Gaming capital based on cultural capital but doesn’t strongly explore sociological histories. Not sure want to call these communities CoPs. Is it a small set of serious, dedicated group of gamers? Or does it include anyone who plays a game?

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Author: dougclow

Data scientist, tutxor, project leader, researcher, analyst, teacher, developer, educational technologist, online learning expert, and manager. I particularly enjoy rapidly appraising new-to-me contexts, and mediating between highly technical specialisms and others, from ordinary users to senior management. After 20 years at the OU as an academic, I am now a self-employed consultant, building on my skills and experience in working with people, technology, data science, and artificial intelligence, in a wide range of contexts and industries.

One thought on “CALRG Conf: What do players think?”

  1. A colleague (Graham Stanley) and I have been successfully using online video games in the English language learning context for several years, have presented our experience and knowledge at International conferences (IATEFL) and author a blog dedicated to Digital Play ( covering gaming. If anyone has any questions about this I can refer them to published material on this topic but for me the proof has always been in the pudding – using gaming to learn works!

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