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.
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:
- social features
- manipulation and control features
- narrative and identity features
- reward and punishment features
- narrative and identity features
- 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:
- obligation and loyalty to community of players – social formation and institutional features (King, Delfabbro & Griffiths, 2010, p.94)
- identity and forms of identification – social utility features (ibid, pp.93-94; Hobart, 2012 http://cie.asu.edu/ojs/index.php/cieatasu/article/view/813/366)
c. Unhealthy avatar attachment (ibid, p.97; http://aifs.gov.au/acssa/pubs/newsletter/n21pdf/n21d.pdf, 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 http://www.igi-global.com.ezproxy.csu.edu.au/gateway/chapter/full-text-pdf/18795
Hobart, M. L. (2012). Learning from myself: Avatars and educational video games. Current Issues in Education, 15(3) Retrieved http://cie.asu.edu/ojs/index.php/cieatasu/article/view/813/366
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.
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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 <http://www.nickyee.com/daedalus/archives/000514.php>