Examining a Massive Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game as a Digital Game-Based Learning Platform

  • Lun M
  • Richards K
  • Kung Saw G
 et al. 
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Abstract

A concurrent triangulation mixed-method research design was used to investigate 19 casual gamers' or non-gamers' use of a pop-ular massive multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG), Ev-erquest 2, as an alternative pedagogical tool to support communica-tive use of the English language. This study poses that MMORPGs could serve as a virtually rich context for social interactions to aid development of communicative competence. Data were collected from semi-structured interviews, surveys, and through gameplay observations in Taiwan and the United States. Analysis of interview recordings, survey data, and observational data focuses on how player-generated perceptions align with Yee's (2006) motivation components and Ryan and Deci's (2000) theoretical assumptions of self-determination theory. Results from quantitative data anal-ysis showed that both male and female participants in this study prioritized the importance of relatedness in playing Everquest 2 to practice using English for communicative purposes. Qualitative data analysis likewise revealed the importance of communication during gameplay. Integrated findings showed that player percep-tions could be helpful in illuminating the potential of utilizing MMORPGs for game-assisted language learning and also inform different motivations in gaming to learn. KEYWORDS massive multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG), self-determination theory, motivation, communica-tive competence, English as a second language (ESL), mixed method More and more games have been created with purposes beyond entertain-ment. This new genre of games is known as serious games (Aldrich, 2005; Kelly et al., 2007). Serious games attempt to educate players on conventional classroom topics such as science, mathematics, or health and nonconven-tional topics such as advertising or politics. The goal of serious game design-ers is to integrate traditional learning objectives with elements of gameplay and fun while assuring players acquire concepts or knowledge useful in real-world applications. Along with the development of serious games, research has been done to investigate the effects and mechanisms of digital game-based learning (DGBL). Millions of people worldwide are playing video games, a phenomenon which poses the question of why video games could engross players into a flow state (Csikszentmihalyi, 1992, 1990) and what exactly these players are learning from gameplay, if anything. Findings from gaming research suggest that DGBL has a stronger moti-vational pull than traditional learning venues Nonetheless, extant research does not report more precise aspects of digital games that may have contributed to their overall motivational appeal. The aim of this study was to use self-determination theory (SDT), a motivational construct devised by Ryan and Deci (2000), to investigate how DGBL, via a massive multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG), could be associated with meeting SDT needs of autonomy, competence, and relat-edness, and how meeting these psychological needs could predict players' communicative language use during gameplay. This study also examined the 10 motivation subcomponents identified by Yee (2006) in MMORPGs that could be used to potentially support target language learning. Given the lack of empirical research in game-assisted language learning, studying how English as a second language (ESL) students and teachers use the target language for communicative purposes in the MMORPG environ-ment has significant implications for DGBL, for educating language learners, and for future design and implementation of educational technologies and games. The purpose of this study was twofold: first, to articulate a theory-guided approach to DGBL by using SDT framework; second, to fill the gap in the literature with regard to studying a previously under-examined pop-ulation, casual or non-gamers, and their potential motivations in gaming to practice using English for communicative purposes. In addition, this study investigated how non-gamer student and teacher players would actively seek to satisfy different psychological needs in the context of play mainly through social interactions evidently available in a given MMORPG previously

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Authors

  • Min WU Lun

  • Kari Richards

  • Guan Kung Saw

  • Min Lun Wu

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