the game layer

Why game

The reasons why people love Gaming is complex.
The game dynamics that I’m interested are engagement and motivation. What is it that makes gaming
so attractive both in the short-term, and over the long hours that people put in?

Engagement & Motivation

It is not just the length of the engagement, though, but the depth.
Gamers get totally involved in the experience, wouldn’t it be nice to have students totally committed to the learning experience.
What brings gamers back to the game. Most gamers come back to: solve puzzles and score points; the communal activities surrounding the challenges and discussion forums; and the regular feed of story and new challenges.
The process of solving puzzles by themselves and in a group and getting the answers correct along with the points which then leads to a climb up the game’s very visible leaderboard – is one of the main gaming dynamics that influences the players to keep on playing.


The use of narrative is crucial in many game dynamics: an underlying story  gives players a sense of purpose, of developing understanding and knowledge over time. The links between narrative and engagement have, of course, been explored at great length in educational research. Another aspect of this link is the way characters in the story are discussed and sympathised
with/criticised/mourned as real people.
If students can become obsessed with learning in the same way they would achieve their education outcomes.

Problem Solving / Learning and research

Games motivate people to carry out the following tasks:
  • problem solving,
  • investigation,
  • research and
  • collaborative/collective learning.
Many gamers spend days  researching into areas they previously had no knowledge of. This demonstrates one of the highest forms of engagement, having such an interest in an entity to expend hours of free time connecting with, understanding, and trying to solve particular challenges; not just once, but repeatedly. It is also a direct link to the kind and level of engagement departments in higher education would like their students to exhibit.

Peer/community support

The third and final area of gaming that interest me is the game’s community; and particularly its similarity to a community.


Problem solving at varying levels (graded challenge): enable students to pick their own starting level and work up from there

Progress and rewards (leaderboard, grand prize): this could also be assessment

Narrative devices (characters/plot/story): doesn’t have to be fictional, academic subjects have histories, themes, news etc.

Influence on outcomes: as researchers we don’t think that we are working towards a known answer or statement; and we would like our students to think in the same way by letting them decide or influence some aspects of their course, this helps to scaffold their path into a critical academic thinker

Regular delivery of new problems/events is the key to maintaining engagement: Thinking about ways to keep things moving without putting extra pressure on staff

Potential for large, active community: which is self-supporting/scaffolding – the potential is less the smaller the group and the narrower the subject interest/specialisation. Based on simple, existing technologies/media this is an easy sell


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