The relationship of game attributes to learning outcomes

A group of researchers headed by Katherine Wilson has done a review of the literature about the effectiveness of serious games. They found that very hard evidence is available: most is anecdotal and suggestive, particularly with respect to which game elements promote which outcomes in learning. However the existing research is suggestive of relationships that could be the subject of future research. Wilson’s group listed fourteen proposals for such research, which could be very useful as guidelines in designing learning games, even if they aren’t scientifically proven.

The propositions are listed below:

  1. The amount of conflict presented within a game will be positively related to cognitive learning (i.e., overall cognitive abilities).
  2. As the challenge feature in a game increases, so will declarative knowledge and learner’s retention of that knowledge. However, a point will be reached when too much challenge will hinder and decrease learning (i.e., an inverted U relationship).
  3. Increasing the adaptation feature in a game will result in an increase in a learner’s cognitive strategies.
  4. As representation (i.e., fidelity) of the task in a game increases, psychomotor skill learning will also increase but then level off.
  5. Automaticity set will increase as the level of fantasy in a game increases.
  6. Requiring learners to participate in their learning through interaction with the game (i.e., interaction, equipment) will result in improved skill-based learning.
  7. The amount of control given to learners will positively affect skill-based learning.
  8. The specificity of the rules/goals in a game is positively related to learner motivation.
  9. a: Learner motivation will increase as the level of endogenous fantasy and safety increase in a game.
    b: The relationship between learner motivation and exogenous fantasy will be curvilinear as too little or too much will lead to decreased motivation.
  10. Representation in a game (both physical and psychological) is positively related to learner motivation.
  11. Learner motivation is positively related to the level of mystery in a game.
  12. The relationship between motivation and challenge will be curvilinear in that too little or too much challenge will lead to decreased motivation.
  13. The specificity and immediacy of the feedback (i.e., assessment) is positively related to learner motivation and attitudinal valuing.
  14. The relationship between learners’ attitudinal value of training content and challenge will be curvilinear.

Wilson, Katherine A., et. al.