Comparing 14 Forms of Fun (and Learning and Gender Issues) In Commercial Versus Educational Space Exploration Digital Games

to be presented at the International Digital Games Research conference, 4-6 November 200, University of Utrecht, The Netherlands

Games are an increasingly significant part of young people's lives. Lots of learning and skill development is needed to play most commercial games. Educators lament that the time spend playing does not contribute to knowledge about the real world. Commercial games are dismissed as not educational. Educational games are derided as not fun enough. Ideally new games will bridge this gap. To begin to pave the way we are conducting a detailed analysis to understand what's fun about a good educational game and how that fun differs from what's fun about a good commercial game.

Two graduate students (one male and one female) were paid to play 11 space exploration games (2 educational, 3 in-between, and 6 commercial) for approximately 200 hours. They took structured, in-depth notes on the experiences including back story, setting, player role, rules and goals, navigation and interaction, graphical elements, use of avatars, sound track, learning to play, duration of play, gender orientation, potential learning content, and rankings along Garneau's fourteen forms of fun. Whoever did not initially explore each game will now add their comments and rate the fourteen fun factors from their perspective.

Where possible these factors will be quantified to allow easy comparison across games with particular attention to comparing commercial versus educational games.

This project is part of a National Science Foundation funded research project being conducted by faculty and students at Michigan State University in the Communication Technology Laboratory, Department of Telecommunication, and College of Education. The initial descriptive analysis of the games is almost complete. This summer we will conduct the quantitative analysis. We will also show the games (or excerpts from the games) to 40 fifth and eighth grade girls and boys who will be attending our two week "Space Pioneer Adventures" summer camp and measure their reactions.

Carrie Heeter
Professor of Telecommunication
Comm Tech Lab Director
Michigan State University in San Francisco
2467 Funston Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94116

co-authors: Kaitlan Chu, Apar Maniar, Brian Winn, Rhonda Egidio, Punya Mishra, Norm Lownds, Laura Portwood-Stacer