How important is enjoyment?

I play games because I enjoy them. I started playing more when I saw how much my kids did. Its only years later that I’ve come to wonder how as a family we’ve constructed numerous rituals, insider language and shared memories though playing them. It took me a few seconds to click on this paper when it appeared in my alerts this week.

(Shafer, 2013) investigates the notion of ‘enjoyment’ in console and mobile tablet games. This paper explores the differences in perceptions of enjoyment between playing first person shooter games on consoles and tablet computers. The main argument is that enjoyment has three predictors; interactivity, realism and spacial presence. The hypothesis was that was that console games exceed tablets in relation to enjoyment. The method was a randomised experiment with 257 players. This paper contributes to the debates on player motivation, convergence, literacy and human behaviour. It concluded that “perceptions of interactivity, reality and spacial presence as well as evaluations of skill, all blend to produce enjoyment” and that “console games are perceived as more interactive and more realistic, which increases enjoyment of them beyond their mobile counterparts” (p.153).

This is one of the few studies that has sought to introduce ‘enjoyment’ as a key element of effort towards labour. The study showed that perceived interactivity, perceived reality, spacial presence and skill significantly and positively predicted enjoyment. In regard to potential application towards education, these factors could be aligned to the nature of computer activity (some devices are perceived more enjoyable), whether the activity has a observable outcome related to the task, the classroom environment (and the student place in that space) and their perception of their skill towards the activity.

There are some limitations with the study which the author acknowledges; the differences in interface control, the use of sample students and the limitations of the variable used due to this being an exploratory study. However previous studies of this type have been broadly seen as representative of game-player demographics (at this age). Furthermore, this method cannot reliably account for the choice of games children play at home – nor explain how they come to know about and want to play certain games and not others. In summary, what the study did show was a preference towards consoles for enjoyment of FPS games.

Stepping outside my research-head for a second, FPS are popular games, and so students might be keen to play them (especially when rewarded with credit points). However, anyone who’s every played a FPS would wince at the idea of playing it on a tablet, if the alternative was console. If a further alternative was a PC then I would hypothesise that would be the most enjoyable. This illustrate how complex it is to try and measure human behaviour and emotions around video games. Having said that, the introduction of ‘enjoyment’ as a variable into play (and learning is part of play) is one of the first I’ve seen.

In the short history of ‘gamification’, which emerged after PEW announce 97% of teens play games (2008) no work has focused on the ‘enjoyment’ of learning using games. Games are used towards what (Juul, 2005) describes as concerned with using games to study human matters, and that insight into games themselves has been incidental to this research.

It would be interesting to use adapt this study towards methods of teaching with technology such as ‘flipped classrooms’ to discover whether of not students found them more enjoyable. It seems to me that joy is critical influencer on my learning and strange that ‘being enjoyable’ is a factor missing from much of the assertions being made about “better than” debates among online-discursive educators.

Refs:

Juul J. (2005). Half-real : video games between real rules and fictional worlds. Cambridge, Mass.: Cambridge, Mass. : MIT Press.

Shafer, D. M. (2013). An Integrative Model of Predictors of Enjoyment in Console versus Mobile Video Games. PsychNology Journal.