Gamers on Games and Gaming. Implications for Educational Game Design

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2 Gamers on Games and Gaming Implications for Educational Game Design

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4 Gamers on Games and Gaming Implications for Educational Game Design Proefschrift ter verkrijging van de graad van doctor aan de Technische Universiteit Delft, op gezag van de Rector Magnificus prof.ir. K.C.A.M. Luyben, voorzitter van het College voor Promoties, in het openbaar te verdedigen op maandag 29 oktober 2012 om uur door Jan-Paul VAN STAALDUINEN bestuurskundig ingenieur geboren te Leiden

5 Dit proefschrift is goedgekeurd door de promotor: Prof.dr. W. Veen Copromotor: dr. L.J. Kortmann Samenstelling promotiecommissie: Rector magnificus, Prof.dr. W. Veen, Dr. L.J. Kortmann, Prof.dr. G.R. Koch, Prof.dr. A. Krokan, Prof.dr. J.F.F. Raessens, Prof.dr. P.R.J. Simons, Prof.dr.ir. A. Verbraeck, Prof.dr. F.M.T. Brazier, voorzitter Technische Universiteit Delft, promotor Technische Universiteit Delft, copromotor Technische Universität Graz Norges teknisk-naturvitenskapelige universitet Universiteit Utrecht Universiteit Utrecht Technische Universiteit Delft Technische Universiteit Delft, reservelid ISBN:

6 Up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A, start

7 Colophon Published and distributed by: Jan-Paul van Staalduinen Delft University of Technology Faculty of Technology, Policy and Management PO Box GA Delft The Netherlands Phone: +31 (0) ISBN: Keywords: educational games, educational game design, gamers, gaming, learning games Copyright 2012 by Jan-Paul van Staalduinen All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission from the author. All trademarks used herein are the property of their respective owners. The use of any trademark in this text does not vest in the author any trademark ownership rights in such trademarks, nor does the use of such trademarks imply any affiliation with or endorsement of this book by such owners.

8 Preface Preface Learning is fun. I firmly believe that. However, sometimes the learning process comes packaged in a less than enjoyable, often passive educational experience. The beauty of educational games is that they can provide an interactive learning experience that engages the learner and motivates him to replay a particular situation again and again, giving the player valuable opportunities for practice and experimentation. Sometimes the player doesn t even know that he s learning or forgets that he s learning, so it becomes a kind of stealth learning. Of course, not all educational games are that engaging or interesting, but they should strive to be. This research tries to answer the question of how to design games that have an educational impact on the player and at the same time exhibit the typical characteristics of games that make them fun, engaging, even addictive. This question is addressed by looking at what players view as important in games and combining that view with theories on education and game design. Once my research took shape, in many ways it became somewhat of a personal journey as well. I consider myself lucky that I was able to study one of my favorite pastimes (games) in the context of one of my main professional interests (education). The borders between work and leisure often blurred, and it feels like the past four years just flew by. Of course, I couldn t have pulled off this research all by myself, so a lot of acknowledgements are in order: First and foremost, I want to thank the people who in some way or form participated in my research, who contributed to either the chat logs, s, journals, or participated in one of the expert panels, and whose insights and views make up the core of my work: Aart, Dalischa, Diego, Ghislain, Gonne, Job, Kaja, Kassidy, Katrien, Kees, Klaas-Jan, Koen, Laurens, Laurent, Linda H., Linda V., Maarten, Marco, Matthijs, Michiel, Misja, Olaf, Oscar, Peter, Rens, Sanne, Suzanne, Wietse, Wijnand, Willem, and Xandra. It is impossible to overstate the importance of your contribution, because without you, I would have had nothing to work with. On top of that you re also awesome people to be around. You made doing research fun, and I thank you for that! Secondly, I want to profoundly thank the educational game design professional that I was able to interview for my research, and who provided me with hands-on knowledge of the game design process and invaluable insights on educational game design. Many thanks go out to Bart Brand New Game; Derk de Paladin Studios; Herman Demovides; Jaïn van Flavour; Jeroen van JRNVM; Marcus Ranj; Nikola Simenco; and Richard Vertigo Games. There are a few people that I want to thank for providing crucial assistance during my research. First of all, Alexander Verbraeck, who was my supervisor during my first year as a researcher, and who played an important role in getting my research started and on the right track. I also want to thank Evelien Tielbeek, whose abilities as a scarily fast typist ensured the success of my expert panels. In addition, I want to thank Kassidy Clark and Martijn Warnier, whose understanding of technology far exceeds my own, and whose IT and programming skills helped shave weeks of work off my research. I am very grateful for your help! For providing me with a friendly environment and many hours of conversations during lunch, dinner, and I want to thank my colleagues in the Systems Engineering section, especially the roommates who I ve had countless interesting discussions with in the vii

9 Preface past four years: Kassidy Clark, Michele Fumarola, Rafael Gonzalez, Yilin Huang, and Jordan Janeiro. I want to thank my political friends in Midden-Delfland who are always a joy to work with, most notably Fred Plooij and Gert-Jan van Dooremaal, who worked double shifts in my final year, to give me the time off I needed to fully concentrate on my thesis. Thanks for helping me in keeping my priorities straight; your efforts are very much appreciated! The same applies to my friends at the Haya van Somerenstichting who provide me with many opportunities to work on my craft as a trainer, and help me to learn more about the way people learn. It is a privilege to work with you! A special thanks goes out to all my friends and family, and all those others who showed a warm interest in my progress, and generally supported me throughout the whole endeavor, which helped to keep my spirits up. Extra special thanks go out to my parents, who besides being the most important source of support, very graciously allowed me to make use of their hospitality whenever my office and my own apartment didn t provide sufficient peace and quiet to work in. Finally and most importantly, my professor and supervisor Wim Veen, and of course his family, whose hospitality always made me feel very welcome, both in Doorn and in Brittany. Your ability to think in opportunities and chances instilled a sense of optimism in my research, and your enthusiasm for the work we were doing always made for interesting, very serious, but very animated discussions. Thank you for being my supervisor for the second time in my academic career! Jan-Paul van Staalduinen Delft, May 2012 viii

10 Index Index Preface... vii 1 Research design and setup Research focus and questions Research strategy Research setup Data collection Games and learning: An introduction What constitutes a game The relationship between games and learning Identifying game elements that contribute to learning From literature to analysis Grounded theory: Identifying concepts and developing categories Important terms for the open coding phase Identifying concepts for theory-forming An example of identifying and labeling a concept Using concepts to develop categories An example of the development of a category Results of the open coding phase Building a theoretical framework A narrative for theory-forming Construction of a theory on a player s perspective on games Insights gained from the theoretical framework Creating a conceptual framework for educational game design The design of educational games Confrontation of the theoretical framework with the literature review Core principles for educational game design A conceptual framework for educational game design Purpose and usage of the conceptual framework Principles of the conceptual framework Evaluation of the conceptual framework The conceptual framework within the game design practice Answering the research question Epilogue Results and limitations of the research Recommendations for future research Bibliography List of games referenced Appendix A: Structure and format literature review Appendix B: Discussion panel activity summaries Appendix C: Overview of analyzed cases Appendix D: Overview and description of categories Appendix E: Revised narrative of the player s perspective on games Summary Samenvatting Curriculum Vitae ix

11 Index Index of Figures Figure 1. Time line of the data collection phase Figure 2. Graphical overview of the research setup Figure 3. On the borders of the classic game model (Juul, 2005) Figure 4. The structural components of games (Björk & Holopainen, 2004) Figure 5. Overview of the typology model (Elverdam & Aarseth, 2007) Figure 6. The fundamental processes of learning (Illeris, 2007) Figure 7. Learning as competence development (Illeris, 2007) Figure 8. Kolb s learning model (Kolb, 1984) Figure 9. Two axes (challenges and skills) and the flow channel (Csikszentmihalyi, 1990) Figure 10. The complex learning model (Illeris, 2007) Figure 11. Overview of the make-up of the supercategories Figure 12. Hierarchy in the supercategories Figure 13. Overview of the strong relationships between categories Figure 14. Constructed theoretical framework of a player s perspective on games Figure 15. Revised theoretical framework of a player s perspective on games Figure 16. Underlying relationships for theory building block Figure 17. Three stages of the design process (Adams & Rollings, 2007) Figure 18. Good Games 2 (Becker, 2008) Figure 19. Bad Games 1 (Becker, 2008) Figure 20. Input-process-outcome game model (Garris, Ahlers, & Driskell, 2002) Figure 21. Instructional effectiveness as degree of overlap, adapted from (Hays, 2005) Figure 22. Core principles for educational game design Figure 23. A conceptual framework for educational game design Figure 24. The core principle of Player autonomy Figure 25. The core principle of Player incentive Figure 26. The core principle of Social interaction Figure 27. The core principle of Game structure Figure 28. The core principle of Learning content Figure 29. The core principle of Challenges Figure 30. Revised conceptual framework for educational game design x

12 Index Index of Tables Table 1. Digital versus non-digital games (Becker, 2008) Table 2. Relationships among learning processes, types of knowledge and change processes (Dieleman & Huisingh, 2006) Table 3. Essential game characteristics for learning (Garris, Ahlers, & Driskell, 2002) Table 4. Game elements that contribute to learning, adapted from (Staalduinen, 2011) Table 5. Example of a case used in the open coding phase Table 6. Example of how a concept was identified Table 7. Example of how an aggregated concept was identified Table 8. Example of a memo written in the open coding phase Table 9. Initial sketch of the category Accessibility Table 10. Changelog for the category Accessibility Table 11. Category keywords for the category Accessibility Table 12. Attached (aggregated) concepts for the category Accessibility Table 13. Category properties for the category Accessibility Table 14. Category dimensions for the category Accessibility Table 15. Related categories for the category Accessibility Table 16. Hierarchy in supercategories xi

13 Index xii

14 Chapter 1 - Research design and setup First chapter 1 Research design and setup Research design and setup In our research, we try to construct a design approach for educational games that have both an educational impact, and also exhibit the typical characteristics of entertainment games. The purpose of our research is to devise a way of creating games, from which players learn by playing, and which are entertaining at the same time. We argue that such games would lead to motivated and engaged players, and that motivation and engagement foster learning, leading to higher learning efficacy in games. To this end, this study aims at defining critical aspects of entertainment games, that cause gamers to play and replay the game, that engage them, and that motivate them to continue playing, and then devising how these aspects can be incorporated in the design of educational games. In order to identify these aspects, we use the grounded theory methodology to construct a theoretical framework of a player s perspective on games. This theoretical framework can be used to explain which aspects of games matter from the perspective of players; i.e. which aspects players consider discriminating criteria for a game they want to play and keep playing. We then confront this theoretical framework with existing theories on both game design and educational game design, to develop ideas on how our theoretical framework could contribute to new approaches in educational game design. With the outcomes of this confrontation, we develop a conceptual framework for educational game design, which is then discussed with professionals in the fields of game design and educational game design. These discussions lead to final adjustments to the conceptual framework for educational game design. In this chapter we explain the design and setup of our research. We describe the theoretical, philosophical and methodological underpinnings of our research, and explain its different operational phases and activities. We also explain the relationship between each research phase and the other chapters in this dissertation. Where individual chapters delve deeper into the particulars of specific research phases, this chapter contains the complete structure and general overview of our research. We first discuss the research context, the associated problem that the research addresses, the research questions and the boundaries of our research. We then explain our research strategy, and the philosophy, methodology and scientific rigor that the strategy incorporates. Next, we describe the research setup and its phases of data analysis, the construction of a theoretical framework, the development of a conceptual framework, and the revision of that conceptual framework. Finally, we explain how data for our research was collected, processed and structured. 1

15 Chapter 1 - Research design and setup 1.1 Research focus and questions 1 In this paragraph we introduce the general context of our research by providing an overview of the use of games in education. We then formulate the problem statement for our research, and define the research question and sub questions. We also explain the boundaries of our research Problem statement The use of games in education can be seen as early as the 18th century where the military used war games for training purposes (Avedon & Sutton-Smith, 1971; Shubik, 1975a, 1975b). In the 20th century educational games gained a wider acceptance through the use of games in teaching business economics (Duke, 1974; Teach, 2007). Since the late 1950s, the use of simulations is common in both business and medical education, and games and simulations are found in language and science education and corporate training (Gredler, 2004). More recently games have been used to teach about policy development and analysis (Duke & Geurts, 2004; Mayer, 2008). As advances in computer technology have drastically increased the possibilities for digital games, research focus in the past decades has shifted from board games ( analogue games ) to computer games, i.e. digital games (Squire, 2004; Egenfeldt-Nielsen, 2005; Becker, 2008). In the past two decades, there has been a steadily increasing interest in the use of games for educational purposes (Becker, 2008; Squire, 2004; Wilson et al., 2009). This has led to an increased design, use and study of educational games; games where the players learn through playing. Although evidence for the learning effectiveness of games has been slow to gather (Bredemeier & Greenblat, 1981; Egenfeldt-Nielsen, 2005; Randel, Morris, Wetzel, & Whitehill, 1992; Somers & Holt, 1993; Squire, 2003), Kirrimuir & McFarlane (2003) cite two reasons that a growing number of games is being developed for the use in education: (1) The desire to harness the motivational power of games in order to making learning fun. (2) A belief that learning through doing in games such as simulations offers a powerful learning tool (Kirriemuir & McFarlane, 2003, p. 4). There is an extensive and growing body of literature in the area of games and education. Recent reviews of the literature and extensive research reports (Egenfeldt-Nielsen, 2006; Freitas, 2006; Kirriemuir & McFarlane, 2002, 2003; Squire, 2003), as well as several dissertations (Squire, 2004; Egenfeldt-Nielsen, 2005; Becker, 2008), provide an overview of using both traditional and digital games in formal educational contexts. We feel it is important to reiterate some core ideas, issues and arguments presented in those research reports. There is a strong interest in the motivational power of games. Kirriemuir & McFarlane (2003) conclude that educators have a particular interest in games, because of their great motivational power. There seem to be two schools of thought here. One group of educators pursues gaming as an educational tool, to make learning fun (which, as Kirriemuir & McFarlane remark, assumes that children do not enjoy learning, for which there is much contradictory evidence). The other group focuses on the immersive learning experience that gaming provides (Freitas, 2006), and its ability to induce flow, a psychological concept coined by Csikszentmihalyi (1975). Freitas (2006) notes that the educational use of (commercial) games in some eyes still clashes with the perception that games are associated with violence and aggression, a notion that has only started changing in the past decade. Squire (2003) agrees with this observation. Yet the actual educational application of games remains limited. Squire (2003) concludes that computer games have largely been ignored by educators, stating that the great technological 1 This paragraph is partially based on, and derived from, Staalduinen (2011) and Staalduinen & Freitas (2011). 2

16 Chapter 1 - Research design and setup developments in gaming are still to be incorporated into learning environments. On the opposite side of the spectrum, Kirriemuir & McFarlane (2003) argue that educators see learning through doing in games as a powerful learning tool. Squire (2004) and Freitas (2006) seem to be in agreement that simulations have been used extensively for professional and vocational education, but that the acceptance of games as an educational tool has been slow, due their association with violence and leisure time activities (Freitas, 2006, p. 5). Based on his literature review, Squire (2004) notes a difficulty for learners in making connections between the game system and the real-life system the game is intended to represent. We argue the current research focus seems to be on the usage of off-the-shelf commercial (entertainment) games in the classroom. Kirriemuir & McFarlane (2002) report that within scientific research the most used games for educational purposes are commercial simulation games, such as RollerCoaster Tycoon (Hasbro Interactive, 1999) and Sim City (Maxis, 1989). In more recent studies, Egenfeldt-Nielsen (2005) experimented with using Europa Universalis II (Strategy First, 2001) to teach history, and Squire (2004) employed Civilization III (Infogrames, 2001) for similar purposes. Both Kirriemuir & McFarlane (2002) and Egenfeldt-Nielsen (2005) conclude that using off-the-shelf commercial games creates some difficulties in linking actual game content and intended learning goals, making most entertainment games unsuitable for learning purposes, and, along with Freitas (2006), argue that more support material for teachers is necessary to offset this. As even the most accurate simulation games are still abstract representations of reality, there is always the risk of compromises between complexity and playability resulting in the players / school children receiving inaccurate and simplistic ideas of how particular scenarios realistically operate (Kirriemuir & McFarlane 2002, p. 9). As off-theshelf commercial games were not specifically designed to be used in educational settings, Egenfeldt-Nielsen (2005) argues that we can look at teaching with these games at three levels, each level having its own problems: 1. No appreciation. If players do not have the necessary subject knowledge, it is difficult for them to appreciate the elements in the game and the experience of playing the game, in relation the game s subject matter. This leads to a diminished learning experience. 2. Lack of exploration. Players have a certain inherent distrust of the value of playing the game, due to games only being an abstract representation of reality. This inhibits players inclination to explore, even where they do recognize and appreciate the elements in the game that are relevant to the subject. 3. No linking. Without a teacher to point out the links between the game experience and subject reality, and making the players aware of them, the educational impact of playing the game remains limited. In addition, most so-called edutainment has failed to realize expectations. Becker argues that there is a general pattern in the introduction of new educational media: optimism followed by rampant appropriation with little consideration for that media's distinguishing characteristics (Becker, 2008, p. 51): Instructional films peaked and crashed as educational technology at least partly because of some of the same issues that plagued television a generation later, and which now appear to be affecting digital games. There was widespread skepticism in combining entertainment, commercialism, and education, and film was considered low culture and insufficiently dignified for formal education (Egenfeldt-Nielsen, 2005). [ ] Educational television has undergone several renaissances where revival has usually been brought about through legislation. There were numerous educational programs available throughout the 1970's; they all but disappeared in the 1980's and have returned again largely supported by specialty channels available by subscription. Games are once again experiencing a re-birth as learning technologies, but this time it seems to be paralleling a 3

17 Chapter 1 - Research design and setup far more widespread interest in the use of games and game technology (Becker, 2008, p.p ). One example of the problem related to learning versus playing is when the game s goals and system work against the learning goals. Students will often tend to focus on achieving the game goals while neglecting the learning part. This is a risk in the educational use of commercial video games, where the game goals are often not educationally relevant. A game like Age of Empires may have historically relevant settings and narratives, but the main focus is on mastering resource management to beat the opponent, which attracts most of the student s attention while playing. The problem is not limited to the educational use of video games, it can also be found in the behaviorist edutainment titles that dominate the market. For example, when a student plays Math Blaster, an all-time classic, the game s goals and system are about being fast and about shooting down asteroids (that then release questions on algebra). Of course, the student learns algebra, but swiftness and shooting skills take up much space and sometimes work against really thinking about the algebra (Egenfeldt-Nielsen, 2006, p. 202). Edutainment, an amalgamation of education and entertainment (Egenfeldt-Nielsen, 2006), is the term often used to describe games with a specific educational purpose, but with a design disconnect between education and entertainment, often resulting in both a stunted learning experience and a less than enjoyable gameplay experience (Martens, et al., 2004; Egenfeldt- Nielsen, 2005). Kirriemuir & McFarlane (2003) conclude that most edutainment games have failed to realize expectations, and provide four common problems in edutainment games: The edutainment game is too simplistic compared to entertainment games. The edutainment game contains too many repetitive in-game tasks, which causes players to quickly become bored and to view the game as work. In-game tasks in the edutainment game are poorly designed and do not support progressive understanding, usually due to a limited range of possible activities in the game (e.g. concentrating on one particular skill). The edutainment game presents itself too much as being educational, which gives the player the feeling that he is being coerced into learning. This creates player resistance and aversion. Yet developing a game for educational purposes, although similar to developing a game for recreational purposes, brings with it its own challenges. Although games and game design in general have been studied extensively (e.g. Gee (2003), Juul (2005), Salen & Zimmerman (2004)), as has been learning (e.g. Bloom, Englehart, Furst, Hill, & Krathwohl, (1956), Piaget (1955), Vygotsky (1978)), insights into which specific characteristics of games contribute to learning currently are limited (Egenfeldt-Nielsen, 2005; Kebritchi & Hirumi, 2008; Wilson, et al., 2009). Gredler (1996) argues that there is only a limited understanding of the relationship between educational games and disciplinary theories of learning and knowing. This prohibits a structured implementation of instructional design and limits control of a game s desired learning outcomes, in the game design (Egenfeldt-Nielsen, 2005). In practice this has led to educational games either being designed with a focus on pedagogy, leading to games that are educational, but not engaging, or educational games being designed with a focus on entertainment, leading to engaging and immersive games, that lack in educational impact (Egenfeldt-Nielsen, 2005; Kirriemuir & McFarlane, 2003; Martens, Gulikers, & Bastiaens, 2004). From the literature it can be concluded that pedagogy and game design currently appear to be two separated worlds. As a result, a growing body of literature emphasizes the importance of applying instructional strategies and theories to design educational games (Amory, 2006; Dickey, 2005, 2006b; Egenfeldt-Nielsen, 2006; Freitas, 2006; Kebritchi & Hirumi, 2008; Kiili, 2005a; Quinn, 1994; Squire, 2004). This seems to be a general problem with regards to both level of education and type of game: Egenfeldt-Nielsen s and Squire s work focuses on secondary education, whereas 4

18 Chapter 1 - Research design and setup Amory and Kiili are rooted in higher education; and while authors studied different kinds of games, they reached similar conclusions about the design of games for educational purposes. In conclusion, we argue that games are seen as a valid educational tool with strong motivational aspects, but that experiments with entertainment and edutainment games have not yet yielded satisfactory results with regards to educational impact and leveraging the typical characteristics of entertainment games. In the past years numerous educational games have been designed, but although best practices have come forth from the design processes (Kirriemuir & McFarlane, 2003; Quinn, 2005; Salen & Zimmerman, 2004), Freitas (2006) argues that further work is necessary to bring closer together the communities of game development and education. From interviews with professional (educational) game designers, we have gathered that specifically designed educational games have been used successfully to help players learn knowledge, skills and attitudes, but that these are often custom designs, and no general construct or design method exists for creating educational games. This has led us to the following problem statement for our research: Currently no game design approach exists that combines pedagogical theory and game design theory, in order to design games that have an educational impact on the player and also exhibit the motivational characteristics of entertainment games Research question The aim of our research was to find a way of combining insights into the concept of learning with the entertainment qualities of games, in order to construct a design approach for games both having an educational impact and exhibiting the typical characteristics of entertainment games. With regards to the design of educational games, it seems that on one side of the debate is the school of thought that approaches educational games from a pedagogical perspective, and on the other side of the debate is the school of thought that approaches them from an entertainment perspective. Then there are those who argue for a synthesis of both approaches, a merged perspective so to speak. Both categories of research use theories as underpinning constructs, which are valuable from a theoretical point of view. However, what is lacking in the debate is the gamer s perspective; the end-user whose values and attitudes we assume are extremely relevant to know. So the one perspective that seems to have been left out in this debate, is that of the learner in his role of player. A way of bridging the gap between pedagogy and game design is to gain insight into the player s perspective on games, and see how his opinions about games relate and can be related to learning, and how this helps in constructing educational games that on the one hand have a learning impact, and on the other hand, as a game succeed at immersing and engaging the player. This has led us to our main research question: How do players look at, deal with, and experience games, and how can we use this player s perspective to combine pedagogy and game design into a merged approach for educational game design? Finding an answer to this question first required us to look at important aspects of games and learning. We first needed to gain an understanding of learning as a concept. We needed this understanding in order to position learning within the context of playing games, and also to find the inherent pedagogical characteristics of games. To gain insight into the player s perspective on games, we needed to focus on players themselves; their thoughts about games, discussions that they have about games, their assumptions about and experiences with games, and the aspects they consider important when playing games. We argue that, once we had an understanding of the player s perspective on games, and the inherent pedagogical and motivational aspects of games, we could derive design principles for educational games, that would lead to games that both have an educational impact and are fun to play. A framework 5

19 Chapter 1 - Research design and setup could help us in structuring such design principles, and would improve their usability for game designers. This led us to the following sub questions, which together with the main research question are answered at the end of Chapters 4, 5 and 6: 1. What learning theories are relevant for games and game design? 2. What pedagogical aspects can be found in entertainment games, and which game characteristics contribute to learning? 3. What theory on a player s perspective on games can we distill from interactions, conversations, and discussions with and between experienced gamers? 4. What design principles for educational games can we derive from the confrontation of a player s perspective on games with the pedagogical aspects of games and the game characteristics that contribute to learning? 5. What conceptual framework for educational design can we create that incorporates those design principles in order to facilitate the design of educational games? For our research, the role of the learner is critical in this dialogue between game design and learning. In our study of the design of educational games, we equated the learner with the player, as the player learns by playing an educational game. This meant that in our thesis, wherever we use the word learner the reader can substitute this for the word player, and vice versa. As games can be used outside of the classroom, we focused on learning in general, and not just within a formal educational (curriculum) setting. Paragraph 2.2 addresses our view on, and definition of learning. We assumed that playing games is a possible method of learning, as has been shown by numerous researchers. We did not intend to study the learning process of games; that is the area of educational psychology. We also did not wish to contribute to the ongoing debate (Sitzmann, 2011; Tennyson & Jorczak, 2008) whether educational games as a learning method lead to higher learner retention rates than other methods of learning (e.g. learning by teaching, lectures, case studies). What was important for our research, is that playing games is a valid learning method. Regarding the type of skills that can be learned, in our research we focused on the acquisition of cognitive skills (Bloom, et al., 1956). Although evidence has been presented that reflexbased games can be used to practice hand-eye coordination (and similar games are currently used to train surgeons), this was not the focus of our research. It was quite possible for our research outcomes to be applicable to the domains of psycho-motor and affective skills, but we did not specifically research these domains and did not make any claims regarding these domains based on our research. 1.2 Research strategy In this paragraph we describe our research strategy, which is composed of our research philosophy and our research methodology. The research philosophy describes the way we frame our view on reality and knowledge, which guides us in choosing appropriate methods for conducting meaningful research with valid results. The research methodology describes the set of methods we employ in order to carry out our research; the ways in which data is gathered, analyzed, and how results are distilled from the analysis Research philosophy and methodology A research philosophy is built on an ontological approach (the way the nature of reality is viewed), and a theory of knowledge acquisition (epistemology), i.e. how we come to know (Flood, 1990). Epistemology is strongly related to the practical approach to knowledge 6

20 Chapter 1 - Research design and setup acquisition (i.e. methodology); epistemology involves the philosophy of how we come to know the world and methodology involves the practice of getting to know the world. The central activity of our research was to gain insight into a player s perspective on games; we aimed to construct a theory on a player s perspective on games. This means that our research is aimed at theory building, not the testing of existing theories. This has led us to frame our research as both inductive and explorative. In inductive reasoning, research begins with specific observations and measures, the detection of patterns and regularities, the formulation of tentative hypotheses that can be explored, and finally the development of a general conclusion or theory. As our research aimed to distill a player s perspective on games from interactions, conversations, and discussions with and between experienced gamers, we adopted a realist ontology. The realist ontology holds that a reality exists outside of ourselves, and that reality therefore can be agreed upon by independent observers. With regards to observing social reality, a less strong realist might say that social reality is evidently there, it is concrete, but some genuine difficulties are encountered when attempting to get to grips with it [ ] (Flood, 1990, p. 84). This realist position fits within the post-positivist epistemological paradigm, which holds that facts are fluid and elusive, forcing us to only focus on our observational claims. This means that the validity of knowledge of social reality is of low resolution, and increasing validity should be a main concern for our research methodology. The post-positivist paradigm acknowledges that reality is imperfectly apprehensible and that the research process requires critical examination (Hall & Callery, 2001, p. 262). Our research question, in combination with our research philosophy led us to the research methodology, which is the practical approach for knowledge acquisition. Within our methodology we discerned between two subsets of methods. The first subset is the methods we used for data collection, including literature review, personal conversations, journal logs, discussion panels, individual discussions, and interviews, which we describe in Paragraph 1.4. The second subset is the method we used for data analysis, which we describe in Paragraph As our research focused on the player s perspective on games; i.e. how players look at, deal with, and experience games, we argue that a qualitative method was at its place in our research. Within qualitative research, many analytical methods are available, for example content analysis, interpretative phenomenological analysis, and grounded theory. What most of these methods arguably have in common, is that they do not set out to test a particular hypothesis, but that comparative, incremental interpretation of qualitative data is used to generate conclusions and theories, which is in line with the inductive and explorative nature of our research. Our aim is to develop a theoretical framework that encompasses a player s perspective on games. This means that a qualitative method applicable for our research, should be capable of developing a theory, based on what transpires when experienced gamers discuss or play games. In order to enhance triangulation of evidence (Pandit, 1996), this methodology should also allow the handling of a broad spectrum of data; from active data (i.e. a gamer s expressed thoughts are used as data), to passive data (i.e. observations of a gamer s actions and activities are used as data). With regards to available qualitative research methods, we found the grounded theory method to have an optimal fit with our research approach. Other methods that we considered, but which fitted less within our research approach, were hermeneutics, content analysis, phenomenology, and interpretative phenomenological analysis: While hermeneutics aims for interpreting and understanding of events, its main focus is on analyzing the meanings of these events to participants (Wallace, Ross, & Davies, 2003). As our aim was to develop a theory, we argue that just interpretation and understanding are not enough for developing theories, causing us to favor methods that incorporate theory construction as part of the method. 7

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