The Educational Potential of Modified Video Games

By Moshirnia, Andrew | Issues in Informing Science & Information Technology, Annual 2007 | Go to article overview

The Educational Potential of Modified Video Games


Moshirnia, Andrew, Issues in Informing Science & Information Technology


Introduction

Video game playing has become the preferred form of entertainment for countless children. As the number of home consoles and video game players has grown, so has the interest in game-based learning. While "educational" video games have been produced, they have sold poorly and made little impact on the home console market. These games are generally perceived to be amateurish and simply not fun to play. If video games are to be used for educational purposes, they must demonstrate the same graphic and game-play characteristics of their commercial peers. Since most games now come bundled with their own game editors, should educators modify the games their students are already playing? Could students benefit from modifying their own games?

The purpose of this paper is to examine the effectiveness of a modified video game in teaching knowledge-level history facts to 10th, 11th, and 12th grade students. This paper discusses the quantitative and qualitative results of a Solomon-3, time series experiment conducted in 2006 to assess the educational potential of modified video games.

Previous Research

This section examines previous research related to the participatory design of educational video games, motivation related to video game creation, constructivism, constructionism, and digital existentialism.

Definition of Game Modification or Modding

"A modification to a commercial or user-generated computer game, made by a member of the general public, which may introduce new artifacts (including new items, buildings, and weapons), characters (including enemies and playable characters), models, textures, skins, gaming areas (levels, maps, and buildings), rule sets, and story lines. The finished product may not be sold for profit by its author(s)" (Moshirnia, 2006b, np).

Benefits of Participatory Design

Higher-order thinking

An individual must engage in analysis, synthesis, evaluation and revision when she modifies an existing game and creates new objectives (El-Nasr & Smith, 2006). While creating a working artefact, students can receive continuous feedback from peers and experts (Moshirnia, 2006a). Users establish abstract mental paradigms and develop meta-cognitive skills as they work to optimize functioning designs and to debug flawed designs. Numerous educational researchers, following the creation of the Logo language in the 1960s, have studied the positive ways that programming computers impacts the mathematical, computational, and general thinking skills of the user (Lehrer, 1986; Papert, 1980; Pea, Kurland, & Hawkins, 1987; Resnick & Osko, 1993).

Motivation in game design

Herz (2002) found that the prime motivating factors for individuals who design and modify games are peer acknowledgement and group identity. Both the traditional educational extrinsic need to demonstrate competence and potent intrinsic factors motivate users to modify games (Moshirnia, 2006b). Since game design is traditionally a group project, the sharing of knowledge, skills, and constructive abilities enables group members to feel acknowledged for their individual contributions (Moshirnia, 2006a). At the same time, the finished product is played by non-group members, complimenting the entire design team.

Since the user wants to design something that she finds fun herself, elements of the motivation to play a video game are part of what motivates video game design. Denis (2005) separates ludic motivation into three categories:

* Pleasure--which comes from fantasy, control, power, creation, social interaction, immersion and comedy, direct system response and experience of effectance

* Desire--which comes from curiosity, problem solving and competition, and escapism

* Ludic Tension--which comes from discovery, conflict, suspense and relief, learning, and surprise

Game designers therefore derive motivation both from the game design process and the final product itself (Moshirnia, 2006a). …

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