Authors: Garris, R., Ahlers, R., Driskell, J. E.
Article Title: Games, Motivation, and Learning: A Research Practice Model
Journal: Simulation Gaming (2002). Vol. 33, p. 441-467.
I'm tying up the lose ends of my article and passing it around for review and criticism before submission. I hope that will be next week. I have found some great resources in the past few days, including this article that really helped me bring a few things together. First of all, it's a great literature review, with publication dates of material cited range from the early '60's to mid-'90's.
Caillois (1961) defined a game as "an activity that is voluntary and enjoyable, separate from the real world, uncertain, unproductive in that the activity does not produce any goods of external value, and governed by rules" (quotation from Garris et al., pg. 442). They later point out that the parts involving voluntary and unproductive make non-voluntary educational games problematic in theory.
They point to several articles that define the difference between games and simulations. Margaret Gredler also addresses this in a handbook chapter entitled "Games and simulations and their relationships to learning." Each explanation is different and confusing. I have made up my own simplistic explanation for my article.
They point out that, "The generally accepted position is that games themselves are not sufficient for learning but that there are elements of games that can be activated within an institutional context that may enhance the learning process." I think the institutional context is important. I strongly believe that students at a larger school would have higher expectations for graphics and technical splendor than my game has, plus if you sent students off into the stacks at a place like Indiana University or Penn State, those students would never, ever come back to the classroom.
It is also important to separate the effectiveness of increasing motivation and the effectiveness of increasing student retention of the material. These are two very different things.
Some, such as Young (1996) have equated the interest shown in video games to that of compulsive or addictive behavior. This is the flip side of the motivation games draw on. I don't think educational games will ever have to worry about this, but this is an interesting point.
Dekkers and Donatti (1981) found that shorter simulations were more effective than longer ones.
The best part of this article was the section on the debriefing. There is little evidence that pure discovery learning works, which means the debriefing activity is crucial for success. This gives players a chance to review, analyze, and reflect on the events, and to draw parallels between the game and the real world. This allows students and educators to "transform game events into learning experiences."