This is the second part of the Engagement and Motivation section of my dissertation lit review:
There is little doubt that modern video games are deeply motivating and engaging to many of the same students that struggle to pay attention in school – despite the fact that games continuously and consistently challenge students, often to the brink of frustration. It has been clear for some time that these games are fun not in spite of being hard, but precisely because they are hard. Video games provide â€œthe kind of fun that Seymour Papert characterized as hard fun: the kind of fun you have when you work on something difficult, something that you care about, and finally master itâ€ (Shaffer, 2006, p. 21). Papertâ€™s (n.d.) concept of hard fun suggests â€œthat everyone likes hard challenging things to do.â€ Papert (1993) himself felt that video games are not only fun, but they â€œare hard, with complex information – as well as techniques – to be masteredâ€ (p. 4). Johnson (2005), too, pointed out that â€œthe experience of playing today’s video gamesâ€¦ [is] fiendishly, sometimes maddeningly, hardâ€ (p. 25). But, as Jenkins (2005a) shared, the worst thing students can say about homework is that itâ€™s too hard, while the worst thing they can say about a video game is that itâ€™s too easy. Ideally, to be fun (and thus commercially successful), a video game has to remain squarely in Vygotskyâ€™s (1978) zone of proximal development, challenging but not frustrating players – even players of significantly varied skill levels.
This property of video games to deliver hard fun can be an educational asset. Caperton (2005), a student of Papert, believed that hard fun was the essence of good video games, and concluded that good games can help students to learn concepts and ways of thinking that might otherwise be beyond them. Schaffer (2006) also believed that â€œgames based on the training of professionals – high standards, hard work, and allâ€ can be fun for students (p. 131), in part because they â€œare fascinated by efficacy: the things they can do in the world and the sense of their own power that comes from being able to make things happenâ€ (p. 131) He suggests that good video games â€œthus fulfill young people’s basic need to make things happen in a positive and constructive wayâ€ (p. 132). Jenkins and Wright (2005) imagined the educational games of the future, but concluded that students are already living the education of the future when they get home from school and play video games.
Massively multiplayer online role playing games (MMORPGs), in particular, often require players to perform repetitive tasks that seem suspiciously like work, and yet these games are among the most compellingly immersive experiences available. Shaffer (2006) notes that many things that players do in an MMORPG â€œdonâ€™t, on their own, seem like funâ€ (p. 22). He quotes one player as saying, â€œIâ€™m just running some boring errands in the gameâ€ (p. 22). However, there are at least four types of players with different motivations and reasons for playing an MMORPG: those who enjoy â€œachievement within the game context,â€ those who enjoy â€œexploration of the game,â€ those who enjoy â€œsocializing with others,â€ and those who enjoy â€œimposition upon othersâ€ (Bartle, 1996). According to Steinkuehler (2006a), MMORPGs have a â€œcapacity for sustained engagementâ€ (p. 7) and are becoming â€œa compelling means of enculturation into the globally networked communityâ€ (p. 7).
I’m seeking feedback on this writing, so please let me know what you think in the comments.