Video Games as Motivational Instruments

Posted on Posted in 2016 Workgroup Topic Proposals

There is a particular aspect of learning that is deeply intrinsically motivating in general.

This was recognized by James Gee in his research, and he explains it so:

“Pleasure is the basis of learning for humans and learning is, like sex and eating, deeply pleasurable for human beings. Learning is a basic drive for humans…  These pleasures are connected to control, agency, and meaningfulness.” (Learning by Design: Good video games as learning machines)

I noticed in my experience with certain games growing up, that some games provided challenges in ways that enabled me to learn them more easily and pleasantly than others. These games, by way of me surmounting their challenges, also left me with a great sense of motivation to undertake new challenges I feared might be beyond my ability. I noticed that this by degrees translated into motivation to take action in real life, especially in areas where I might not feel like I have much agency.

I believe there is something here about the potential power of games that has not yet been fully realized. If it could be, the implications are tremendous. In short, video games made in the right way could be used as a tool to expand and motivate human spirit and agency in real life in general as a deliberate side effect, while unsuspecting players are in it for the “entertainment” cover story.

This is taking the ‘video games can provide a safe place to learn and experiment’ concept to its ultimate conclusion: That they could significantly improve people’s senses of agency, resiliency, and motivation to take action in real life by providing the right dynamic environment regardless of theme or setting.

3 thoughts on “Video Games as Motivational Instruments

  1. This is a fantastic topic and one dear to my heart. Just been re-reading Raph Koster’s A Theory of Fun which goes into depth on this, and it resonates with so many of my gut feelings as to why games are fundamentally good for us. I dropped in an idea about Mindfulness at Play which I would be happy to have sucked up into this.

  2. Hi Tim and ppizer, I think it could be a great idea to merge our topics. How do we logistically perform that?

    I only have one caveat – The critical element in this topic is that the ideal game in this domain will directly translate to/engender taking real action in life outside the game domain.

    In other words, I want to make the distinction between just “feeling good” like “oh that movie was soo inspiring” and you feel great for three days or hours yet no change is substantially effected in your life behavior, vs. the type of active experience that indeed generates meaningful behavioral change. I think the latter is where all the good stuff is. What do you think? Are we all on the same page?

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