Year of Publication: Jul - 2013
Page Numbers: 38-44
Authors: Mats Wiklund , Peter Mozelius
Conference Name: The Fourth International Conference on e-Learning (ICEL2013)
- Czech Republic


Playing games to support learning is an old concept that has got a revival today in the widespread use of computer games. To insert educational content into various types of computer games is a strong trend that some researchers have described as a mad rush. Game based learning has become a wide and heterogeneous field with large variations in design between serious games that has been developed for a distinct educational purpose, and Commercial Off- The-Shelf (COTS) games designed for playability and entertainment. The aim of this article is to discuss the possible learning stimulating effects of COTS games in a long-term perspective. We argue that COTS game players’ attitudes towards learning may change in a positive direction even in cases where the direct learning outcomes are not that high. This may be the case when in-game skills are described in terms of real life skills commonly associated with higher education, such as engineering, electronics or geology. A common game design is that when a high enough skill level is achieved, then and only then is the player rewarded with access to better equipment, access to interesting areas and similar pleasant experiences. The game then has a potential to trigger an important psychological reward mechanism in the player’s mind. COTS games could like educational games have more than just in-game goals and the meta goals in a game are the ones that remain in the player’s mind after the game has ended. The causality of the perceived experience is ideally that with high enough skills, the player receives positive stimulation. With this approach it would not matter that the actual learning will have to take place elsewhere, and most likely later when the player makes decisions about his or her higher education. The contribution of the gaming lies not in the short-term learning outcome, but rather in the long-term effects it may have on personal development and future educational choices. Even if such a game do not fulfill the criteria for learning games it may still be seen as a learning stimulating game. Future research should include a large scale study investigating the relationship between playing COTS games and students’ choices and results in higher education.