Game pedagogy


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Game pedagogy

  1. 1. Pekka Ihanainen TOWARD A GAME PEDAGOGY A successful learning game is based on the functionality of the game itself and the game factors that make learning possible via gaming. The first is especially examined in game design activity. Lankoski (2014) and Järvinen (2008) mention that solutions connected with a game environment and functionalities of the game, implementation of game states, a visuality and view of the game, and a sensible use of game mechanics are critical factors for a working game (cf Kapp, 2012 and Kapp et al, 2014). The game environment means e.g. a field as in soccer, game board, game world or more or less undefined environments like milieus for construction and geocaching. The functionalities or actions of the game are for instance shooting, hiding and driving. The game states refer to the status and value of different game elements at a specific moment, and before and after it. The game elements are formed by players and different activity modes and environments in which the playing takes place. The game view connected with visuality means the viewpoint a player has toward a game, and how it changes during the game run. The view can be partial, i.e. the view does not tell everything about what is happening in the game, or it can be perfect, i.e. (an experienced) player can perceive all elements and the actual status of the game by a glance. The game mechanics include different levels, results, points, rewards and badges and time constituents and their connection to the running and playing of the game. Also larger activities than the actual playing are contained in game mechanics. For instance, larger activities in the game could include territorial acquisition, resource management like building, collection, and survival. A narration or story inside the game is the largest activity mode to be included in game mechanics (Kapp et al, 2014). Game factors that especially enable learning are motivation and feedback (Kapp, 2012; Knowledge Guru, 2014). At best this success can be seen and felt in an experience of flow. Then the playing is experienced as challenging, but still possible. The player is fully immersed in the game, playing is self-controlled and free and the goal of the game is totally clear. In the flow experience the playing itself gives immediate feedback, while the sense of time and self consciousness lessens to be reinforced again after the flow experience. The playing and the flow experience intersect, but they are not equal. To put it another way, while playing one can have flow experiences, but they do not go on for the whole playing period (Cowley et al., 2008; Kiili et al., 2012). Chou (2014) defines the factors of a successful game as an experience of meaning, addictive empowerment, supportive social influence, unpredictability (which invites us to continue), avoidance of risks and achievements, scarcity (which means that one has to wait or do something more to receive something), feeling of ownership, and the accomplishment of overcoming challenges. These
  2. 2. components can be seen as important factors in a successful learning game context. Boyd (2014) examines the behavior of teens in social media, and in that connection takes up four affordances (Gibson,1982; Ihanainen,1992), which essentially constitute the performances of teens in social media mediated networked publics. They are persistence: the durability of online expressions and content, visibility: the potential audience who can bear witness, spreadability: the ease with which content can be shared, and searchability: the ability to find content. Boyd´s affordances can be connected with learning and playing, and inspired by them the affordance viewpoint will be utilized in examining factors of the successful learning game. The success of games is explained by the addictiveness. The addiction is connected with motivation, and emotions are important energies in it. In the end the feedback is a motivating factor as well. When developing learning games, the questions we should be asking are what are addictive emotions and how they can be connected with or how are they connected to learning games and gaming as a learning activity? Why play learning games? Formal education and instruction wants to make use of learning games to better achieve goals set up by the educational system and the learning of curricular contents. Schools and teachers want to include learning games in their pedagogical arsenal because they represent crucial entertainment activity in all age groups. For that the role of playing and gaming is more strongly recognized as an important element of learning. On the other hand, learning games can be examined from the point of view of informal learning: some relevant knowledge and skills are always learned via playing games. From the perspective of formal instruction the question is how game learning and know-how is recognized and validated. From a game genre perspective, the reason why we play learning games is because they are fun. Gaming is addictive idleness to rest and attune, and to learn something simultaneously. Can purposeful learning and hilarity be combined? The background presented in the prior sections develops a foundation for searching for a new perspective to learning games. Let´s play? What would get me into a learning game? First taking easy notice of the game
  3. 3. and then taking part in it without undue hassles would make it rather easy and tempting. The game should be an answer to some ephemeral dot like impulse of mine. Or the game should be seen as a response to achieving some goal. It should be possible to jump into the game by a simple perceptual-understanding- active way, i.e. when I for instance see the game or a message refering to it, I quickly understand what I can and have to do to play the game. If the beginning of the game is not intuitive, it will lose my interest. I begin to play a learning game when engaging it is simple enough and the game satisfies my immediate or more long term emotional needs. Together with this coming along is also a momentary (or final) feeling that going away is possible - ”it is quite okay to jump occasionally away - I can come back later” or ”I got what I expected and finishing is fine”. The going away can as well mean the opposite of coming along in a sense that the game does not entice me to play despite its original promise. Something in the game is rejecting or feared. From the point of view of developing a good learning game this means that elements of rejection and fear need to be anticipated, and inviting, participatory, and encouraging elements need to be produced. When the learning game has attracted me to take part, an inner motivation is connected to what one can by herself give to the game, and what she can receive for herself. The giving implies the distribution of some experience, knowledge, act or artefect (sound, image, movement, text, etc.) to others. Accordingly, they can be generating or gathering content for the giver: an adventure, new knowledge, a procedure or a content product. Two gaming experiences are needed to continue playing. They are meaning for the player and self-expression. The experience of meaningfulness joined with receiving is connected with immediate (subconscious) need satisfaction, while meaningfulness as such is a deeper experience. It for instance means that a player feels empowerment in self-regulation and reverence, that she by playing seems to become something special. All these strengthen self-esteem; they allow players to be someone. The self-expression is of course a part of meaningfulness, but specifically it means that a player can perform acts through which she becomes and will stay (at least for a while) visible and experientable. It is not a question of single game acts, e.g. sharing of own photos or other chips, but a mirroring of one´s personality as perceivable in game environments and activities via separate game interactions. Coming to play, playing and becoming someone via gaming are necessary factors as game elements and events in a successful learning game, but they are not enough. In the learning game effectiveness is needed in terms of learning.
  4. 4. Naturally points, badges, and progress are supportive outcomes as well, but in the learning game the effectiveness means an overall experience. Most of all it is becoming aware of learning: ”I learned this knowledge, skill and/or attitude.” (For instance, I learned to move in city X (streets, buildings, traffic, and statues as pieces of knowledge, moving my body spatially as a skill, and seeing the city as an aesthetic entity as an attitude). A definition of effectiveness as an essential feature of the learning game makes it possible to see artificial pedagogical activity, which should be avoided in the design of learning games. If it is set as the direct demand of effectiveness of learning results in learning games, this kind of critique might be valid. In the game genre the effectivity of learning has to be approached inversely. Effective learning occurs through failures. It is not important to pay attention to achieving learning outcomes, but how failures are valued. In the successful learning game the effectiveness is received by noticing failures (i.e. opportunities) and transitions from errors to next steps and acts in a positive and fun way. The above described factors influence the background of the learning game. They can be named as four need dimensions: coming along -going away, giving- receiving, meaningfulness-self-expression and effectiveness-failure. These dimensions orient an affordance character of the successful learning game. The defining affordances of a good learning game are joinability, shareability, ownership and successfulness. Affordance structure of the learning game A working learning game is an entity, which is characterized by joinability, shareability, ownership and successfulness. They together form an affordance structure of the learning game. Affordance means a perceptual-functional quality or feature of a thing/object, a space/place and/or an event, e.g. attributes of the learning game. It is a question to what this something perceptiveness and functionality, in this case the learning game, invites. Emotional factors are included in it; for instance, perceptual-functional joinability is loaded by emotions as well. Next the affordance structure of the learning game is examined in more detail. The joinability of the learning game is connected with how a game opens up to an experiencing, potential player (learner) as an interesting and willing thing. How the interest and desirability express themselves as perceptual (visual, aural, and haptic) factors and functional (motoric and cognitive-intentional) touches? The joinability arises emotions like curiosity, invitedness and encouragement. If the game awakes more rejecting and fear than feelings mentioned above, it does not afford joining. In terms of game design it is still important to consider these sorts of counter emotions, i.e. how the game takes into account that it does not awake rejection
  5. 5. and fear when encountered for the first time. Of course sometimes the fear (and overcoming it) and the like can be an inviting and seducing emotion as well. The shareability of the learning game is connected with how a game appears to a player as that kind of that the player is willing to produce something (knowledge, artefacts, performances) for others and also to give these productions to them. Correspondingly, the player wants to get them from others to herself. How this giving and receiving is expressed as perceptual-functional features of the game tells about the affordance quality of the game. Emotions embedded in sharability are openness, confidence and the like. They invite the player to give and receive. The counter emotions inside the sharability are hiding and envy. It is important to see their role in the game design so that they do not begin to have negative impacts for gaming. The joinability and sharability are communal affordances of the learning game. Ownership and successfulness are more individual. But naturally they include social elements as well. The ownership of the learning game is connected with how a player finds the game and gaming to belong to herself. The ownership is born from experiences and feelings to possess the game, i.e. to have a feeling that the game is ”her issue”. They are certain game contents and performances, and it is important to realize what emotions carry them. Freedom and autonomy can be seen as essential ownership emotions. If a player does not have power and control over her playing, the game cannot become ”her issue”. In game design it is crucial to determine the role of freedom and independence related to game rules and mechanisms. The successfulness is an effectivity affordance of the learning game. A playing of the learning game means actions in game environments and through gaming functionalities, and outcomes achieved by gaming. In the learning game these actions and outcomes should be effective according to learning of something. In the affordance of successfulness it is the question how playing as perceptual- functional touches, artefacts and emotions brings forth (conscious) learning experiences. As emotions, this refers to feelings like satisfaction, joy and fun. Complacency, in particular, is a characterizing feeling of successfulness. In game design an influence of dissatisfaction and disappointment for the successfulness affordance has also to take into account. As emotions they weaken the success unless - via valuing and rewarding of failures - discontent and frustration cannot be enriched as well-being, neat and pleasurable. Learning game as an affordance entity A core of the learning game is in its affordance quality, i.e. how it responses to
  6. 6. joinability, sharability, ownership and successfulness and the emotions immersed in them. How is a learning game experienced as tempting, open, own-able, controllable, and essential? These crystallized affordance qualities of the learning game have to come true in perceptual and functional factors of the game, which are constituted by the game environment, states and views, motoric and cognitive-emotional motivation, feedback, flow procedures and concrete makings. This can be presented as a figure. Figure 1. Learning game as an affordance Immersion A good and working learning game is immersive. It hooks people to start and play a game. It addicts the ego; in other words, it produces an experience of ”one´s own issue”. And still, the good learning game temps us to learn. What is this addiction? In Figure One, functionality was defined as the affordance core of the
  7. 7. learning game. By emotion language, it can be said to be the addiction. Immersion is an emotion which takes hold, but which also generates performances and outcomes, too. The immersion means that an object, place and/or activity draws attention, keeps embedded and rewards. As mentioned before, the affordance quality of the learning game addiction (functionality) was connected to the emotional qualities of temptation (joinability), openness (sharability), ownership and essentiality (successfulness). The addiction is in stages and simultaneously tempting, open, own-able and essential. When the learning game is tempting, it awakes curiosity and seduces. It is as well easy and desirable enough. When the learning game is open, it cannot be experienced as hiding or secret. It is interesting and the playing of it is felt permissive and tolerant, but at the same time suspenseful. When the learning game is felt to be owned, the gaming is experienced as autonomous and self- controlled. It is flowing and free. When the learning game is experienced essentially it is concurrently effective and teaching. Satisfaction and gratification arise from the game. Once the learning game is designed and assessed, one has to think over and examine what the addiction means as game and gaming elements and factors for producing motivation, feedback and flowing processes. Tempting and open as emotional qualities are more social and communal compared with the emotional qualities of ownership and essentiality, which are more separate and individual. Together tempting, open, own and essential emotion qualities constitute the communal-individual emotion field of addiction of the learning game. Järvinen (2008) defines the emotional field of gaming as suspense. It is composed via the dynamics of hope, fear and uncertainty related to confirmation and disconfirmation of gaming goals. The suspense can be seen to be connected with the interplay of communal and individual emotion energies inside the affordance structure of the learning game, especially with affordances of sharability and ownership. On the way to research tasks The dynamics of the learning game are examined above on the basis of needs and affordances including emotions. Based on this, the investigation of learning and pedagogy contexts of existing learning games, and the figuring out of features, which are important in developing learning games, will now be named as research tasks for the study at hand. Answers to these questions open visible a challenge for teachers to apply learning games in instruction. How can the teacher work as a constructor of the learning environment in the context of learning games? How can she support and challenge (i.e. facilitate) learning when playing learning games? How can the teacher become a learning peer (player) inside learning games?
  8. 8. The next figure will open the dynamics of the learning game as research tasks. The functional, working and learning game takes into account the need of playing, is aware of the driving affordances, and relies on emotions to carry the game. Figure 2. Research tasks
  9. 9. References Boyd, Danah. 2014. It´s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens. book-its-complicated-the-social-lives-of-networked-teens.html (refered 13.2.2014) Chou Y-K. 2013. Octalysis: Complete Gamification Framework. gamification-framework (refered 13.3.2014) Cowley, B., Charles, D. Black, M., and Hickey, R. 2008. Toward an understanding of flow in video games. cowley-et-al-2008.pdf (refered 13.3.2014) Gibson, J. 1982 a. Notes on Affordances. Teoksessa Reed, E., Jones, R., (Ed.) Reasons for Realism. Selected Essays of James J. Gibson. Hillsdale, N.J.: LEA. Ihanainen, P. 1992. Uusi käsite psykologiaan (A new concept for psychology). Psykologia 1/1992, 49-54. Järvinen, A. 2008. Games without Frontiers: Theories and Methods for Game Studies and Design. University of Tampere. Kapp, K., 2012. The Gamification of Learning and Instruction: Game-Based Methods and Strategies for Training and Education. San Francisco, CA: John Wiley & Sons. Kapp, K., Blair, L., Mesch, R., 2014. The Gamification of Learning and Instruction Fieldbook. San Francisco, CA: John Wiley & Sons.
  10. 10. Kiili, K., de Freitas, S., Arnab, S., & Lainema, T., 2012. The Design Principles for Flow Experience in Educational Games. Procedia Computer Science, 15, 78–91. m a i n . p d f ? _ t i d = 7 1 4 6 9 8 8 2 - a a 2 f - 1 1 e 3 - bef9-00000aab0f01&acdnat=1394660829_9d21f12b22e994babb202cf364a2268 c (refered 13.3.2014) Knowledge guru, 2014. (refered 13.3.2014) Lankoski, P. 2014. Game System Design. game-system-design (refered 13.3.2014)