Saturday, 8 December 2012

Game in the Brain

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

I will have more Fun

After having written some posts I kind of forgot an important think; writing should have some entertainment. Yes, this blogg is set up for my self-interest in exploring serious games, educational games and all non-code facets that surrounds them but I myself got kind of bored with my own writing.

Therefore Nyan Cat to shake things up!

Sunday, 7 October 2012

The gamification thing

Okay, I've been kind of slacking on my posting lately. I've come across once in a while but have never take a good look around. However it looks quite disappointing from my scientific perspective so I think I'll rewrite a large part of it in the coming months.

Let's deal with achievements first:

Achievements are usually locked till a certain action unlocks it, a form of reward. Most often this is used in gamification in the form of a token. You can have multiple kinds of tokens used in the same game like coins, items and abilities. One defining feature of achievements is that they are a reward after fulfilling a fixed criterium. This is opposed to (partly) random token drops or random rewards in any other way.

They may be gained in every form of play like single player, cooperative play, competition or a combination.

However achievements can mean something different for each player for example; some simply want the token, some collect the tokens and some don't even care about the token.

Achievements can be implemented in a myriad of ways most of them are rewards after using a certain skill (task-contingent).
-It may be a reward of the improvement of skill compared to one's previous state.
-It may be a reward of improvement of skill compared to a fixed state.
-It may be a reward after displaying the skill in a certain way (efficiency, frequency etc.).

Other achievements can be linked to behaviour like attendance, performing a certain action (like the finishing the tutorial) and good sportsmanship. However compared to skill display, these behaviours are only displayed little. Behaviour specific achievements may therefore contain very rare achievements.

These achievements can be controlling a player's thoughts, this will decrease the skill of this player and happens mostly in case of harsh direct competition. Achievements can also be used as information by players to measure their skill level. Highly motivated players are theorised not to be under the influence of achievements and might not need them as an information source. This is related to their two main displayed motivation characteristics; desire to be good and the desire to become better.

AdiĆ³s, more next time!

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Task Motivation a starting point for game research

During my internship I wrote a summary of literature on task motivation specifically to be applied in research on games and learning. In the coming weeks I'll post translated parts of the theory section online for those interested. It serves to be a solid guiding framework into motivation to engage  different elements in games. This in turn can be measured.

Motivation to engage a task can have both an intrinsic and an extrinsic component (Lepper, Corpus & Iyengar, 2005). The intrinsic component stimulates task engagement out of a desire for challenge, pleasure and interest (Lepper et al, 2005). This is called intrinsic motivation.
The extrinsic component stimulates task engagement out of a desire for external reward or dodging punishment. This is called extrinsic motivation. If there's no internal or external stimulus to engage a task it's called amotivation (Deci & Ryan, 1985).
These motivation components are non-homeostatic drive-forces to engage a task (Gorman, 2004, White, 1959), motivation that holds no relation to direct physical needs like hunger and thirst. The concepts of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation have originated from the comments of White (1959) on the drive theories of motivation (Deci & Ryan, 1985; Harter, 1978; White, 1959). The drive theories of motivation ascribe task motivation and desire to learn to a desire for external rewards or dodging of punishment. White (1959) used a variety of sources to show that external stimuli alone, are inadequate to explain the full range of human behaver like discovery, play, and a desire to deal with one's surroundings competently.
White (1959) proposed that many behaviors are explained better from a desire to deal with one's surroundings competent and effectively. Harter (1978, 1981), Deci and Ryan (1985) and others after him have operationalised the concepts White (1959) proposed too subsequently test it. His critique has since been tested and supported with evidence. A large part of this research has been done in the context of children and their development in education, some even longitudinal.
Both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation have their place during the development of children. Though time after time research has shown a correlation between school results and intrinsic motivation for school (Lepper et. al, 2005). Partly because of this, intrinsic motivation is seen as superior to extrinsic motivation. However if a child is amotivated to engage in a certain task at school, rewards may be applied to increase task motivation through extrinsic motivation (Deci & Ryan, 1985, pp. 263-264).


Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (1985). Intrinsic motivation and self determination in human behavior. New York: Plenum.

Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (1987). The Support of Autonomy and the Control of Behavior. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 53, 1024-1037.

Eisenberger, R., Pierce, W. D., Cameron, J. (1999). Effects of Reward on Intrinsic Motivation- Negative, Neutral, and Positive: Comment on Deci, Koestner, and Ryan. Psychological Bulletin, 125, 677-691.

Gorman, P. (2004). Motivation and Emotion. New York: Routledge.

Harter, S. (1981). A new self-report scale of intrinsic versus extrinsic
orientation in the classroom: Motivational and informational components.
Developmental Psychology, 17, 300–312.

Lepper, M. (1983). Extrinsic Reward and Intrinsic Motivation: Implications for the Classroom. In Levine, J.M. & Wang M.C. (Eds.), Teacher and Students Perceptions: Implications for Learning. New York: Lawrence Erlbaum

Lepper, M. R., Corpus, J. H., & Iyengar, S. S. (2005). Intrinsic and extrinsic motivational orientations in the classroom: Age differences and academic correlates. Journal of
Educational Psychology, 97(2), pp.184–196.

White, R.W.(1959). Motivation reconsidered: The concept of competence. Psychological Review, 66(5).

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Why you shouldn't focus on age adaptivity.

Last week I started my master study youth and media. It's quite intensive so the amount of posts will drop a bit. Here we go again.

Some serious games for children try to adapt the skill level of their game linked to age. However age is not a dependent variable in this equation.

From the age of 4 and up the difference of cognitive skills for each group begins to vary considerably. When turning 8 about 20 percent of children is on the level of an average  9 year old. There is a similar tendency pointing down.

Social skills are already varying considerably around that age. So media wisdom games have to take this into account as well.

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Back in Action

Yeah, finally back in action.

Did you know that the difference between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation seems to imply a shift in salience from taskcentered to rewardcentered?

Tomorrow will be the start of a journey in the curious world of motivation, till then....

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Profile Sketches, to pass the time

A framework to implement learning rewards that are non-detrimental for intrinsic learning motivation is in the making. In the meantime I feel the obligation to blogg at least something.

The BBC has done an extensive survey on gaming habits in the UK, followed by a series of interviews. It's well worth taking a look at. The most interesting fact is the massive presence of video games among children age 6 to 10 of which 95% plays atleast a few times a weak. Sadly the datafile is not published for some serious data mining.

Wide surveys like these however can give us a basic picture of the different audiences that play games and for what reason, allowing you to paint player profile sketches to be reckoned with in game development.

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Upcoming posts

It's my holliday thus I won't be posting for a while. However when I et home I'll be posting on cognitive and emotional engagement, curiosity and interest, different motivational measures and a reward framework for serious games that doesn't affect intrinsic motivation. For now happy holliday!

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Time to take a direction

Today I was pondering about this blog, what direction should it take?
I'm no programmer and most good games are not made by one programmer, so I won't talk code.
I do have some knowledge on usability and programming but I'm no expert on those.
However I almost have my Bsc communication-science, balanced towards new media content production and media psychology. Additionaly I stumbled across an article on the problems educational games face. Therefore I'll shift my focus mainly to introducing measurement tools and theory to review the effectiveness of serious games in the broadest sense.

This is something that present day field of usability research lacks, especially in a standardized and scientific sound form. Something most programmers are unfamiliar with, but still a great addition to game development. Even more important, it will be cutting edge and new : ), probably even relevant to other fields of game development.

Of course there will be other subjects, though I felt it was time to take a clear direction.

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Serious Games and Detrimental effects

The buzz on serious games is unbelievable. Every dimwit seems to be creating them without any pedagogical insight on its consequences. In my not so humble opinion I'd like to have some strict regulation or self-regulation in the field of serious games. This is not a plee to deter the use of serious games but a critical review.

The whole uproar on action games is cute for layman. Even television programs are rated in an age system to keep children out of possible harm's way. The moment that we're talking about educational games people lose their minds and without much effort you'll be able to sell it to parents thinking that they do good.  However educational games may well be more damaging to children than any other form of media if the game mechanisms are not pedagogically tested.

We've all got our own preferred fields of knowledge and entertainment and fields of which we've got a certain aversion. I love arithmetic and don't care much for grammar as an example.

We are motivated to do the things we love for the sheer joy of it. This is called intrinsic motivation.
We are only motivated to do the things we don't care for if the reward we get from it is high enough (Deci & Ryan, 1985).

A good game keeps us engaged to play. There are many factors that may engage us; storyline, characters, different rewards, challenge of skill. The most fun games are theorized to bring us in a state of flow,
a balance of challenge compared to our skill triggering our intrinsic desire to seek out challenge and to master it (Deci & Ryan, 1985). But the balance might be off. Social rewards like status in MMORPG's, tangible rewards like new weapons or items in a game might have a undesirable great role. For some the rewards in a game will become more important than the challenge if the emphasis is placed wrongly. I don't care much for the precise motivations people play MMORPG's, in serious games this motivation does truly matter.

A serious game should have the ability to stimulate players to learn using rewards if those players don't care much for that which should be learned. Rewards are more or less their last resort. You might try linking grammar for example to something that does interest them to get players motivated to learn grammar, though the difficulty is obvious. Not a lot of research has been done on decreasing the reward in the long term but there's a good possibility for a motivation shift towards the positive side (Deci & Ryan, 1985).

The problem lies with those already intrinsically motivated to use grammar. They might enjoy it because it allows them to more fully express themselves. However if you let players that are already intrinsically motivated play the game and put to much emphasis on the rewards they'll get for finishing challenging tasks (controlling their view) instead of placing emphasis on doing the best they can and improving themselves, the consequences might be undesirable. If this is the case intrinsic motivation may well decline because of a misattribution of their joy to rewards, instead of the challenge. This in turn influences their learning behaviour in class and cause long term detrimental effects.

Luckily ill balanced games are no fun to play. Let's just hope Zynga doesn't make a serious game that uses their click-click-click reward concept.

Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (1985). Intrinsic motivation and self-determination in human behavior. New York: Plenum.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation in Educational Games

Sorry for the wait. I was asked to do a guest blog for TedxAmsterdamED and felt quite honored : )

Today I want to show a bit of my academic skillset. As part of my study I've build a survey for children to measure motivation towards arithmetic and an arithmetic game to look at the correlation between those factors. To build the survey I've devoured hundreds of pages of research on motivation.

Motivation towards a certain action exists out of at least two parts. Intrinsic motivation; motivated to act because a certain action like arithmetic simply gives you joy. Extrinsic motivation; motivated to act because of external rewards. Generally we perform actions better if intrinsically motivated.

Intrinsic motivation is mostly viewed as a better form of motivation.  Lepper, Corpus and Iyengar (2005) add that both forms of motivation can add to your overall motivation to act, motivation to play a game for example. Extrinsic motivation should not be used to much though because that can even influence intrinsic motivation negatively.

There have been multiple surveys that try to measure intrinsic motivation like the Intrinsic Motivation Index. Lepper et all. (2005) have chosen to measure both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation is measured with questions on "a desire for challenging (school)work", "general curiosity towards school" and "a desire to complete work indepent". Extrinsic motivation is measured with questions on "a desire for easy work", "desire to please the teacher" and "a desire to get help from the teacher". The interesting thing is that only desire for easy work and a desire for challenging work correlate negatively. The other two dimensions of extrinsic motivation don't correlate.

Well what can you do with this?
For my internship I've translated and rephrased the scales to use is specifically for educational games and learning specific knowledge domains like arithmetic or language. It's possible to use surveys like this to show scientifically that your product enhances motivation and follow motivation over a longer period of time. Hopefully it's even possible to correlate motivation to play an arithmetic game and to learn arithmetic.

Next time I'll write something on profiling a game to compare it with other games.


Lepper, M. R., Corpus, J. H., & Iyengar, S. S. (2005). Intrinsic and extrinsic motivational orientations in the classroom: Age differences and academic correlates. Journal of
Educational Psychology, 97(2), pp.184–196.

Friday, 13 July 2012

Serious Games are an old concept

It's time for an interesting history lesson. Some are of the opinion that the present educational system is archaic. I agree that it can be improved of, but recognize that is has brought global society quite far. Most of it is still based on unfounded didactic principles upheld in teaching since ancient Greece, like learning by heart for example.

Games as societal integrated learning devices, I argue, are an old concept as well. The origin of serious games can be traced to at least 1794 with "Upon the Aesthetic Education of Man" writen by Friedrich Schiller.

I haven't read the book yet but I surely will. It is partly supposed to be about "play as a force of civilization, which helps humans exit their animal conditions and aspire to become members of enlightened communities" .
A vision I atleast subscribe to.

Now let us go a bit further into past to find a new future with the words of Schiller "Live with your century but do not be its creature.". Because an aspiring vision of serious games in the future can be read in the brilliant short story "Mimsy Were the Borogroves" by Lewis Padgett  (the movie adaptation is quite sappy though). Basically it's about a boy and his younger sister accidentally stumbling across toys from a far away future. These toys are games that supposedly train and condition children in the future to allow connection with a society that we are not able to conceive of yet. The younger sister is even a better player than her older brother, because due to her age she has a larger capacity for learning new structure.

In short; serious games have a serious position in philosophy and can be tied to seriously astounding visions of the future. How's that for a history lesson.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Khan Academy and Co. just let them rise

A lot's been said about the Khan Academy and the wave of massive online open course providers like, I'm not going to say anything about those MOOC's, I'm going to talk about the old boys network that rules over present-day education. The network that should not be defended by teachers. Teachers are mostly passionate, putting all their effort into the upbringing of responsible citizens on just a meagre salary. While we recognize that children are our future, we should put our money where our mouth is. I thing we all agree on that.

This article is just about the Dutch situation, however I imagine it's more or less equal across the western world. Recently I've come across the "schoolboekenscan" or "schoolbookscan" a paper presenting the view of the Dutch market authority (Nma) on the concentration of educational resource providers across the board. It paints a grimm picture of the market concentration. The turnover of eductional resources in the Netherlands of primary education alone is 115 million Euro per year. 80% to 90% Of this market is divided up between three mayor publishers (ThiemeMeulenhoff, Noordhoff, Malmberg). The rest is divided among smaller publishers.

The market authority adds that the teaching-methods are more or less customized to the wishes of the publisher with only a small amount of effort being spend adjusting the content to the wishes of actual teachers. This same pattern is projected on middle school and high school educational resources in the Netherlands.

The sad thing most of the money of educational resources is public expenditure. Just imagine 115 million Euro being spend on open source teaching methodes, pedagogically and didactically based on present day scientific knowledge. One country is all it takes to shake the foundations of education if they began with opening eduction with maths and arithmetic (both widely adaptable across the globe).

It might even create some room for the games I so love.

How about your countries? What is it's situation?

Video content in a game setting.

Videos are used in a wide variety of ways  in games. Like the next video on Texas hold'm poker.
 Visuals may be appealing and may look flashing but will it get the desired teaching result. Card games are for example mostly learned in a real-life setting with all cards laid open, which get you playing really fast. A non-life game example may be an interactive tutorial game against NPC's (non-player characters).

The point I'm trying to make is that the choice of media-mix in games should depend on the desired result. Research comparing newspapers and tv news have shown that the retention rate of newspapers is significantly higher. Therefore video's should never be used to transfer dense amounts of information.

It can of course be used to inspire awe and add drama. Or even to clarify a spatial orientation of characters in a game-world. But refrain from transferring to much information with animations or video's.

Monday, 9 July 2012

Games and Physical Activity - Thinking in Opportunities is a game a friend of mine used to play a lot, "dance dance revolution". These players are at a very high skill level. It's recorded real-time...

It is a dancing game using an electronic button mat, those buttons have to be touched with your feet on the right rhythm.

Personally I'm more into martial arts then dancing and was wondering how you could teach martial arts or practice sport at all with a game. There's nothing wrong with real life sport, but in martial arts for example you need a partner or teacher and they're not always around. Additionally some exercises have to be repeated for a minimum amount to improve your movement and skills.

Gamification of sport exercises or even using it as a full-grown game element may very well open up ways even for professional athletes to improve. Games won't go away, but in the battle of obesity in the western world I think we should recognize exergaming as a serious opportunity to improve the lifestyle and most importantly make exercise fun!

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Epicentre of programming

During my internship I'm confronted with a lot of interesting views.
One of the views of some programmers I've come into contact with is that children should atleast learn one programming language in school. Most research on programming courses with children to create games have shown signs of improved technical self-efficacy. It may even decrease the so called beta divide between boys and girls. Additionally it allows people to gain incomparable knowledge of the digital world instead of just sitting behind facebook wondering about it's concept (the concept is elegant, the evil isn't).

One of the programmers has even had the idea to implement exercises with the adaptive algoritm. It's probably doable. A lot of programming subskills like logic statements can only be practiced through forms of repetition, making some form of gamemechanic a good option. A challenge... can serve as best practice example. A brilliant site, offering free programming starters courses online. User friendly and actually beginning at the Noob level.

Just imagine one country that replaces a dead language like Latin with a live rapidly evolving language like Java.
An interesting future sure is approaching...

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

A wide perspective

Nobelprize Games

This is a site with some lightly entertaining games. The bloodtype game for example
makes you aware of different bloodtypes and how you can be tested for one.

Probably something for biology class. The games are not entertaining for me, but a challenge in class
to be graded on highscore will probably drill the bloodtypes right in. A serious game should always be used in addition to external real-life feedback, application or stimuli.

There are a lot of subjects to choose from on this site, all nobelprize related.
Explore a little.

Friday, 29 June 2012

Games in Educational Context

This is a pretty important video. One of the main features of digital media, like games is the ability to gather data and compare it. Every teachers assesses his or her students, however we mostly lack comparability. If regular arithmetic exercises were simply done on a tablet, each and every exercise could be used to create a learning profile to improve individual instruction.
past zich aan het tempo/niveau aan
geeft feedback op resultaten
ondersteunt leerstijlen en leerstrategiƫn
wijzigt functionaliteit en inhoud
Games should therefore not only be seen as a game, but as a data gatherer in a wider system of assessment.

There are atleast five important features for serious games to have if they want to be fully usable in education:

  1. It adapts to a student's level and speed.
  2. It adapts to a student's learning strategy and style or alters it
  3. It adapts the presented content accordingly
  4. It allows feedback to the student and ways of contemplation
  5. Teachers should not have to adapt to it

Original source of four of the important features:

Monday, 25 June 2012

Knewton knows networks...

Knewton is not really a game, it is a teaching-method implemented with some game elements like achievement badges. It is interesting for developers nonetheless.

Welcome to a new layar of adaptivity. A few posts ago I introduced you to item specific adaptivity. has been pioneering a self-organizing system that rates problems through user interaction, while allowing for a 75% success rate of problem-solving to retain motivation. 

The next level is skill-domain adaptivity. Arithmetic can for example be divided in mathematical operation domains like subtraction, addition and multiplication. But underneath these domains the item might be linked at a deeper psychological level. The problem 6+1=x may very well be linked to the concept of 60+10=x.  These connections are theorized to form knowledge/skill domains. I'll probably look into this concept a bit more.

The underlying idea of Knewton is a self-organizing system that automatically detect the links between these concepts, validates and test their coherence. This software uses network science theories to create a network map of item domains and their interdependence. Arithmetic problems in the form of a story might for example require usage of the subtraction domain and story understanding domain. If you make mistakes the system will try to detect a link between mistakes to adjust your curriculum to your weaknesses. Thereby strengthening your weaknesses and increasing your effectiveness in arithmetic.

Item specific adaptivity and knowledge/skill adaptivity may well be combined to develop adaptive teaching-methods, more specifics in the coming future : ).

Friday, 22 June 2012

Things to consider in Serious Game research

Today I found out that widespread gameresearch is no easy task. The group that games most, namely children till the age of 12 are the hardest to track and even harder to survey. Probably a serious problem for practical serious game research.

Using data of gamers under the age of 17 years of age is considered market research. Therefore it should follow the best practice guidelines of the Market Research Society. Not very surprising, considering the possible ethical implication of such research.

The most important practice advised and demanded of market researchers is that data can only be used if a legal guardian has to give it's explicit consent. Additionally a child has to be given the explicit ability to refuse the survey.

What is the most practical way to ask consent? and which examples of best practice are there?
Questions to be asked on another day...

Motivation in Games

One of the leading theories to categorize elements of games is the self-determination theory. The theory claims that we are all to a certain extent self-motivated to undertake actions for our own well-being. Learning is no different. Knowledge can give you an advantage in life.

You can either be self-motivated to learn something because of the intrinsic reward of fulfilment an action brings or extrinsically motivated because of rewards you get from an action. Self-motivated learning is stated to be the most healthy way, but the tricky part is in staying motivated.

More on that another time.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Change is wanted, change is comming!

Recently I've been shifting my view of serious games. Right now I'm an intern at Mathgarden, it's a education track and teach system. Just check it out it's a revolutionary system, and an even bigger revolution in thinking about education. Today arithmetic problem 100 million has been finished.

Mathgarden is an arithmetic game environment for elementary school kids to practice their skills on their own level. Additionally it  points out specific math problems that trouble those children on an individual level.
Mathgarden uses an adaptive system to adjust the level of arithmetic problems to the skill level of a child. A brilliant and elegant system based on the Elo rating system. The child and the arithmetic problem are treated as adversaries and can therefore be compared to eachother with a pointsystem. A winner gains points and a loser loses points.

This system allows for an automatic creation of problem difficulties based on the answers of multiple children at the same time. Not the teacher decides the difficulty but the actual children themselves and their skill create a clear picture of problem difficulty.

Just release the idea of age groups and classes, a child will finally have adversaries of their own level!
Worthy opponents make worthy education!

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Brathwaite: A Proper Introduction to Serious Game Development

Just wow, this is a great introduction into serious gaming and how it should be done. Brathwaite clearly demonstrates the lack of emotional involvement in mainstream education. Some teachers might be allergic to emotions, but you should be moved by something like slavery and the stories that surround it.

Additionally she demonstrates some features game development. It's very difficult to realise behaviour change through any medium, let alone a game. However children do learn essential social and motor skills through games. I don't think adults have unlearned it.

Letting a player make crucial decisions that can be linked to real world events should be part of any serious game. The brilliant example of dumping slaves into sea because there's to little food on a imaginary boat is a harsh example. Brathwaite uses abstract figures to represent pawns and delivers feedback to her daughter. It is the feedback that is crucial to link the abstract playworld to the actual choices. A digital version could for example even add documentary footage of slaves being thrown into the ocean.

However there's a dilemma. A game that's truly shocking like that might not be very appealing to play. The game mechanics might even be great but it leaves a bitter aftertaste. Games should atleast contain an element of enjoyment. A slavery game might well just be avoided by kids, if they are allowed to choose for themselves. Reducing realism and a strong feedback to real events might distance kids from taking it serious.
It would be quite awkward if kids shouted: Yeah, let's play the slavery game! On the other hand you wouldn't like a classroom full of crying children, just imagine the teacher being traumatised.

I wonder where the point of balance lies. Still enjoying, but take serious nonetheless.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Motivational Factors and Games

I'm doing some research on motivational factors in games to improve the playability of games. The first one that popped up are the need to improve and the need to better than other players. This is a nice example of linked motivational factors that are at the same time different. To be better than other players a gamer has to improve him/herself to a certain point and might even have to keep improving if there's a lot of competition. If a gamer feels the need to improve, the rate of which can depend totally on the desire to improve.

In a serious game this might result in people wanting to be the smartest or people wanting to be smarter.

Monday, 19 March 2012


It's time to reboot this project and make a plan to discover the world of serious games.

In the mean time a short clip showing one of the first computer animated series.
Brilliantly portraying the life of video game characters.