Games, Motivation & Learning; Why It Matters - a Whitepaper

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13 November 2012
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Let’s put the act of learning to one side in this paper and focus on the motivation to learn. It’s not that people can’t learn, it’s just that they don’t want to learn.


I have seen my children in a state of extreme learning; eyes focused on what’s happening, intense mental concentration, relishing the challenge, totally in control and looks of absolute delight when they achieve their goals. Sometimes they are learning with two or three others in a team, learning with and from each other.

This is a learning nirvana.

Yet it’s an experience that millions of parents have observed when their children are playing computer games.

Let’s put the act of learning to one side in this paper and focus on the motivation to learn. It’s not that people can’t learn, it’s just that they don’t want to learn. Most adults become part of what Professor Michael Barber in ‘The Learning game’, called the ‘disappointed, disillusioned and disappeared’, branded by repeated failure at school, disillusioned by subjects that seemed irrelevant and then abandoning the whole idea of formal learning as something that’s not for them.

By the time they hit the workplace, many are uncomfortable with formal learning.

The demotivated need to be remotivated.

Millions are captivated by games. On a daily basis they spend large sums of their own money and invest huge amounts of their personal time to participate in something that is truly universal in all
societies, play and games.

The sheer scale and prevalence of games and play in the form of sport, gambling and game playing, shows that there’s something intrinsically motivating about the challenge that games provide. So what is it about games that make them so motivating? In what way can we harness the motivational qualities of games in learning?

If we could only capture the magic dust of motivation from games and apply it to learning, many of the woes that plague our education and training system may have a chance of being resolved.

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