Assessment Task 2- Review


This blog entry reviews the work of King, Delfabbro and Griffiths (2010)  which proposes ‘a new psychological taxonomy’ of the structural characteristics of video games and discusses the potential of these features to reinforce excessive video game playing behaviours.

Main intentions

King, Delfabbro and Griffiths cite three main intentions:

  • to expand and reorganise the list of psycho-structural features of video games developed by  Wood et al. (2004)
  • to demonstrate the ways in which ‘…the psychological effects of these features…’ are contributing factors in the development of problematic styles of video game playing by drawing on emerging theory and research.
  • to promote further research in this area.

They cite that due to the ‘paucity’ of research in the area of psycho-structural features of video game design they have drawn on gambling research to inform their taxonomy.

King, Delfrabbro and Griffiths (2010, p.92) note that Wood et al. (2004) assume that only those features that gamers report to enjoy are important in the examination of ‘…initiation, development and maintenance…’ of excessive player video game engagement. However, they argue that this  assumption may in fact have excluded other important features.

Expanding on Wood et al. they add:

  • punishment features used to establish in-game reward worth
  • negative reward features such as penalties or negative reinforcements whereby a player completes an objective to relieve pressure and tension (ibid, p.101).

While these may not be ‘enjoyable’ features to gamers, they are important structural features designed to establish the ‘contextual worth’ of rewards and that progress is skilled based (ibid, p.99).


The taxonomy of video game features comprises:

  1. social features
  2. manipulation and control features
  3. narrative and identity features
  4. reward and punishment features
  5. narrative and identity features
  6. presentation features.

Potential Benefits and hazards

While the authors successfully document the structural features of game design and reorganise the framework by Wood et al., the potential benefits and hazards of these features in relation to the developmental stages of learner cohorts, gender and cultural bias is not considered.

Potential hazards for learning design

a. Game structure shaping and conditioning behaviour without gamer awareness – event frequency, near miss features, intermittent reward features, payout interval features intentional placement of educational content in game narratives (ibid, p.98)

b. Psychological reactions other than winning:

c. Unhealthy avatar attachment (ibid, p.97;, Taylor, 2006)
opportunity to teach new literacies (game and text) (Connolly, Stansfield & Boyle, 2009)

d. payout interval features and immediate gratification (ibid, p.102)

e. need to monitor online social behaviours (ibid, p.93; Yee, 2003)

f. potential for cyberostracism (ibid, p.95).

Potential benefits for learning design

a. positive online social behaviours reinforced via social formation, leader board features, storytelling, intermittent reward features

b. safe environment to practice skills (simulations)

c. play to feed the learning process (Hobart, 2012; Parise & Crosina, 2012, p.11; Pill, 2014, p.12)

d. opportunity to teach new literacies (game and text) (Connolly, Stansfield & Boyle, 2009)

While this paper fulfils the stated intentions of the authors, the taxonomy needs to address also the impact of :

  • developmental stages of the gamer (Illeris, 2009) and
  • ethnic and gender implications.

To fail to include these factors, stops short of fully documenting their critical contribution to the impact of these structural features on game design and  the relationship between these variables on excessive video game playing.


Connolly, T., Stansfield, M., & Boyle, L. (Eds). (2009). Games-Based learning advancements for multi-sensory human computer interfaces: techniques and effective practices. IGI Global. Retrieved

Hobart, M. L. (2012). Learning from myself: Avatars and educational video games. Current Issues in Education, 15(3) Retrieved 

King, D., Delfabbroi, P., Griffith, M. (2010). Video game structural characteristisc: A New psychological taxonomy. International Journal of Mental Health Addiction, 8, pp.90-106.

Parise, S. & Crosina, E. (2012). How a mobile social media game can enhance the educational experience. Merlot Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 8(3), 209-222.

Pill, S. (2014). Games play: What does it mean for pedagogy to think like a game developer? Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance, 85(1), 9-15.

Riva, G. (2002). The sociocognitive psychology of computer-mediated communication: The present and future of technology based interactions. CyberPsychology and Behavior, 5(6), 581–598.

Suler, J. R., & Phillips, W. (1997). The bad boys of cyberspace: Deviant behaviour in online communities and strategies for managing it. Retrieved 27 August, 2008, from The Psychology of Cyberspace website <http://www.rider. edu/~suler/psycyber/badboys.html>

Taylor, T. L. (2002). Living digitally: Embodiment in virtual worlds. In R. Schroeder (Ed.), The social life of avatars: Presence and interaction in shared virtual environments (pp. 40–62). London, Springer-Verlag.
Yee, N. (2003). Frustration and agony in MMORPGS. Retrieved 27 August 2008, from The Daedalus Project: The Psychology of MMORPGS website <>

4 comments on “Assessment Task 2- Review
  1. Exactly! Really great that in your reflection you are showing the skills needed to undertake critical review work – getting ready nicely for your first assessment 🙂

  2. This is a well balanced look at positive and negative aspects of game behaviours set against a workable taxonomy. The link between g@mbling and gaming is contested, not least due to having to adequately explain how traditional sociological axes manifest inside online games. It’s useful to acknowledge that some fields are confident in their claims for a correlation, there is little to suggest causation, anymore than TV will rot children’s brains simply by being exposed to them. This is a great start.

  3. Hyacinth I really enjoyed this post. I really had not made the connection between ga$bling and gaming but I can see how it really fits. The entertainment value that students get from games in undeniable however because this new generation of students has been exposed to it from a young age means we don’t have a lot of data as to the long term impacts of these types of games on the brain.

    The point you make “Game structure shaping and conditioning behaviour without gamer awareness” is so critical to this debate and the artists and game designers can have an impact on the way students behave within a game purely on how they have designed the game. The gamer is none the wiser. Games do reflect aspects of culture and it wouldn’t surprise me in the future if game designers start implementing their own personal views in a more obvious way in games and these views are absorbed by the gamer and not questioned because it’s all about entertainment.

    However this is offset by the great points you make as to the benefits. I guess it’s here where teachers should be engaging more and seeing the benefits of gaming for students and keeping those safe boundaries is important especially for very young students.

    This post has stimulated my thinking on the topic. That’s for putting it so succinctly.

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