Motivation is typically defined as that which influences the initiation, direction, magnitude, perseverance, continuation, and quality of goal-directed behavior (Dweck & Elliott, 1983; Maehr & Meyer, 1997; Maehr & Zusho, 2009). In other words, it is a construct that helps to explain why individuals choose to approach or avoid a task; and once engaged, whether they put in effort and persist, or simply quit. It also encompasses thoughts and beliefs about a given task, including whether one finds a task to be interesting, enjoyable, challenging, important, or useful, and how one generally reacts to success or failure.

Considering that one of the primary claims about video games and motivation relates to engagement, it is important to note that motivation and engagement, albeit related constructs, are also distinguishable. Briefly, engagement is generally considered to be a broader construct than motivation to the extent that it encompasses cognitive, affective, and behavioral elements (Fredricks, Blumenfeld, & Paris, 2004). As Eccles and Wang (2012) point out, the conceptual overlap between motivation and engagement becomes blurriest when engagement is defined primarily in terms of affective engagement (e.g., liking or valuing of school). In an effort not to conflate motivation with engagement, we will focus our analysis on the literature on academic motivation rather than engagement.

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