Motivation in alternate reality gaming environments and implications for learning
conference contributionposted on 2011-02-23, 12:41 authored by Alex Moseley, Nicola Whitton, Juliette Culver, Katie Piatt
Alternate Reality Games are being used increasingly in Higher Education as a way of providing a stimulating context for student learning. However, several instances have shown that students are not as motivated to take part in this type of active learning activity as might be imagined. This paper draws on four case studies of the use of learning activities inspired by alternate reality games to examine what can be learned about student motivation, and how this could be used to influence student engagement in learning. Alternate Reality Games combine an unfolding narrative with puzzles that are solved by a collaborative community, both online and in the real world. They offer the opportunity to create engaging problem-based learning experiences in which students can work together to discover secrets and solve mysteries. Some players become highly engrossed in these games to the extent that they put large amounts of effort into solving challenges or creating artefacts to further the game. In the context of education, however, while high levels of engagement are seen in some students, it is certainly not universal. This paper explores the literature on motivation with games and learning, drawing on evidence from problem-solving research and collaborative gaming communities, and presents a model for understanding motivation with Alternate Reality Games as a distinct genre. The paper then uses four cases studies to explore different ways in which motivation can be facilitated in educational ARGs (and activities inspired by the ARG model). The Never Ending Uni Quiz at the University of Brighton, and Viola Quest which ran at Manchester Metropolitan University, are examples of games designed to support induction. The Great History Conundrum at the University of Leicester used some ARG aspects to create an online problem-solving course to teach Historical research skills. Operation Sleeper Cell was the first charity ARG and was developed to raise funds for Cancer Research UK, providing a comparative study from a related sector. Each of these cases are described and lessons learned with respect to motivation highlighted. Finally, the paper explores the issues raised in the case studies. In particular: the infleuence of competition; designing appropriate levels of challenge for motivation; the implications of increasing participation levels; assessment; and ways of supporting autonomy. In all, this paper hopes to provide an insight into what can be learned about motivation from alternate reality games.