Motivation for Learning

Mastery in video game contexts is reinforced both extrinsically and intrinsically. Players are rewarded with higher scores, higher character levels, points, better weapons and gear, in-game currency, improvements in character status such as in health or ammo capacity, new abilities, and access to new components of a story line. Further, players are constantly reaching goals and earning access to new levels of complexity, essentially teaching self-efficacy and providing self-esteem that accompanies the recognition of their competence. A number of theorists have stated that self-efficacy arises from competence (Bandura, 1977), and that lack of competence can lead to learned helplessness (Seligman, 1975). Furthermore, intrinsic motivation is highly related to how well a given task fills needs for autonomy, relatedness, and competence (Ryan & Deci, 2000). Games are excellent at giving gamers a sense of control (autonomy) and competence. Many games also fill relatedness needs, both within the game (e.g., in the case of multiplayer games) or outside of the game (e.g., by having friends who also like the same game and share information about it). In contrast, many classroom settings do a poor job with regard to meeting students’ needs to feel in control, competent, or connected.

Optimized Massed and Distributed Practice

The motivational and feedback processes discussed previously provide a learning environment in which learners, when encountering failure, often try and retry until they show progress. When a new skill set is introduced (e.g., relating to a new character ability, weapon, or new control schemes) players are typically required to exercise this skill over many trials. As players continue to progress through the game, those same skills are periodically called upon, which distributes practice of that skill. The initial massed practice coupled with subsequent distributed practice builds mastery and continually reinforces the skill, allowing learners to relearn what was forgotten, provide new cues for memory, interpret information in new contexts so that memories can be organized to promote generalization (Gentile & Gentile, 2008), and assist in automatization of relevant knowledge structures (Anderson & Bushman, 2002).

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