This paper has been published by Sage Publishing—a Thomson Reuters company.The focus of this paper is on gamification and how massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPG) aid in language learning. https://doi.org/10.1177/0047239516665105 (opens in new window)
Gamification and Game-Based Learning
In the last 10 years, gaming has evolved to the point that it is now being used as a learning medium to educate students in many different disciplines. The educational community has begun to explore the effectiveness of gaming as a learning tool and as a result two different ways of utilizing games for education have been created: Gamification and serious games. While both methods are used to educate, serious games are meant to provide training and practice without entertaining; whereas, gamification uses game-like features such as points and similar to serious games is not meant to entertain. This review will provide an overview of gamification and serious games as well as the learning possibilities of non-educational games such as massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPG). Finally, MMORPGs will be discussed in detail as to whether they can meet the general behavioral requirements of effective learning.
Keywords: MMORPG gamification, gamifying, cultural heritage and gamification, culture and gaming, role playing games and language
Gamification and Game-Based Learning
Video games have become a very serious business as a form of entertainment. It is no wonder that so many people play games on a regular basis. As a matter of fact, 17 percent of the world’s population is involved in playing games (Kim, 2015b). In addition to playing games for entertainment, says Kim (2015b), a new use for games has emerged within the last 10 years and it is called gamification. Gamification is a way to use game elements to learn, but without the entertainment value (de Byl, 2013). Gamification strives to take the best parts of video games such as awards, badges, etc. and apply them to pedagogy. In addition to gamification, serious games have also been created to educate but in a different way. According de Byl (2013), serious games are used to practice, train and provide solutions. Many different versions of serious games do exist, and some are meant to make boring, everyday tasks a bit more interesting. For example, SwarmTM allows people to share their location with people on their social network as well as being rewarded with coins on a leaderboard for checking in at different places (Aguilar, 2014; Crook, 2015). There is a new type of game that has entered the gamification arena called MMORPG. While gamification is not based on entertainment, MMORPGs are very much entertainment based and are being evaluated to determine their effectiveness in learning languages (Ryu, 2013). MMORPGs such as Everquest™, World of Warcraft™, and various other games, says Ryu, engages players in the sense that learners who played the game with native speakers understood more vocabulary items and communicated in a manner that was both collaborative and social in nature.
In 2015, the overall revenue from the video game industry—including hardware, software, gaming consoles, mobile, and PC games—is approximately $115 billion (Kim, 2015b). In order to generate such an exuberant amount, there has to be a corresponding amount of participation and interest from the players themselves. According to Kim (2015b), there are over 1.2 billion players which is about 17 percent of the world’s population, and in the United States there are 183 million of which five million play more than 40 hours per week. There is no doubt that games are serious business, and require a tremendous amount of work in order for them to be so popular. According to Kim and Lee (2015), the biggest games require the combined effort of hundreds of artists in order to fully materialize all the intricacies that appeal to the senses. An example is a first person shooter (FPS) called “Half LifeTM,” and its sequel “Half Life 2TM which have won scores of Game of the Year (GOTY) awards for their physics engine, animation techniques, storytelling and more (Wyman, 2011).
Games, however, are not limited to being created by mega companies anymore, but instead there is an entire community dedicated to “modding.” Modding is a way to modify a video game by giving users, or modders, access to a game in order to create new content that can have new artwork, levels, etc., but restrict access to the actual source code of the game engine which is available only to the licensees (Spare the mod: in support of total-conversion modified video games, 2012; Wallace, 2014). Modding has given users great new opportunities to enter the gaming industry as a profession. For example, game design students and serious modders are encouraged to create mods, or modifications, prior to applying to a gaming company in order to showcase what they can do (Hong, 2013). With all this involvement, participation, and professional opportunities, it is no wonder that video games enjoy so much popularity and success while being very engaging.
The question is, though, why are video games so engaging? There can be many reasons but perhaps a particular theory can help to explain it: Perceptual Control Theory (PCT). PCT states that people’s behavior is purposeful and that they compare their existing experiences to their desired experiences and take the appropriate actions in order to gain the experience they prefer (Powers, 2016a). In other words, people, or in this case gamers, modify their behavior so what they are experiencing (finishing game levels, achieving higher scores, etc.) is more in line with what they intend and make certain they maintain the desired experience despite any changes (new levels, new villains, etc.) that may occur (Powers, 2016b).
In recent years, a new way of utilizing games in education has appeared and it is called gamification. The term was created by Nick Pelling back in 2002, but it was not until 2010 that gamification itself became well known and embraced (Kim, 2015b).
According to (de Byl, 2013), a search on Google Trends, a Google search tool that allows users to see what keywords, phrases, etc. have been searched on Google, indicates the beginning and popularity of the term “gamification” and how it has increased since the latter part of 2010 (see figure 1). In addition to gamification’s becoming such a popular search term, respected education reports such as the New Media Consortium Horizon Report (NMCHR) also started to discuss gamification. In 2012, the NMCHR reported that learning based on games would become popular and in 2013 it officially added the term gamification and has since labeled it as a technology that is emerging (Skiba, 2013; Kim, 2015b). But, what exactly is gamification? Gamification is the process by which services are enhanced utilizing motivational affordances in order to arouse gameful experiences and advance outcomes in behavior (Hamari, Koivisto, & Sarsa, 2014). Another way to look at gamification is that it employees the same aspects of video games but in applications that are non-game in nature (Su & Cheng, 2015).
There are two categories of games that are used to educate and train: Gamification and serious games. Gamification uses game-like features including points and various levels in a way that is not meant to entertain; whereas, serious games provide solutions to problems, have as their main purpose not to entertain, but instead to provide training, practice, and interactions that are engaging while utilizing real world objects (de Byl, 2013). Overall, gamification’s main goal is to foster more engagement in people by helping to create more robust experiences in everyday life events utilizing game mechanics while serious games are designed to train, and are used for stimulation and to educate in virtual environments with previously defined learning objectives (Kim & Lee, 2015; Ypsilanti, et al., 2014).
Up to this point, the discussion has focused on what video games, gamification, and serious games are as well as how each is utilized in order to achieve a purpose. For example, video games are primarily used for entertainment and gamification is used for educating. Serious games, on the other hand, are used for the purpose of training and practicing while interacting with real world objects. The discussion will now focus on examples and use of gamification and serious games.
Video Game Characteristics
According to Kim (2015b), there are four characteristics of a video game: (1) a system that provides feedback, (2) the goal, (3) the rules, and (4) voluntary participation, and these characteristics are present in gamification, though, not as profoundly. Gamification is a great way to take mundane activities, such as shopping at the super market, and make them more interesting. SwarmTM is a gamification mobile application (app), and a FoursquareTM offshoot, that launched in 2014 that allows its users to create social networks in order to track down their friends as well as do check-ins and share their location (Popper & Hamburger, 2014). Additionally, when users check in to a place often enough they can earn stickers (see figure 2) to apply to check-ins to express how they are feeling, earn coins that are displayed on a leaderboard (see figure 3), and they can even become Mayors (Crook, 2015).
Another task that has been gamified to make it more interesting is called Chore Wars (see figure 4). Chore Wars™ allows members of a particular household, or even a workplace, to compete doing everyday tasks such as cleaning the house, shopping for groceries/office supplies etc. and earn points, increase in level, and earn game gold which can then be exchanged for actual rewards based on how the game is set up (Kim, 2015a).
Gamification in Education and Business
Education is an area where gamification has become very popular. As a matter of fact, an entire public school in New York City has gamified its system. Quest to Learn™ (Q2L) gamified its curriculum when they opened their doors in 2009 because they believed that various disciplines such as language arts, math, science, etc. could be taught as a type of game (Kim, 2015b; Patton, 2013). Q2L has incorporated levels, quests, missions, and incentives into the overall learning process and has created worlds where learner-players assume behaviors and identities such as explorers, historians, writers, etc. who seek to solve difficult problems, seek knowledge while receiving feedback and considering others’ point of view (Kim, 2015b). Additionally, Patton (2013) says that Q2L’s gamification based pedagogy has allowed students to theorize, and validate ideas in an effort to discover fundamental truths about life, relationships, and to explore the complexity that exists in their own everyday lives.
Gamification has not only has helped schools make their classes more interesting and has turned chores into fun and bearable activities, but also businesses have adopted it for their own use as well. Since 2010, over 350 businesses started gamification projects, and between 2012 to 2013 major consulting companies such as Deloitte and Capgemini started to target Fortune 500 companies for gamification (Kim, 2015b). For example, Nike created a running app that not only tracked where people were jogging along with their times and the times and locations of their friends, but also turned it into a game of virtual tag resulting in people increasing their training and their engagement with the company’s brand (de Byl, 2013). Live Ops is another example of a business that incorporated gamification. The call center gamified their professional development, and were able to increase customer satisfaction by 9% while trimming two hours off each employee’s weekly training (de Byl, 2013). Even an upscale women’s shoes brand, Jimmy Choo, used gamification to promote its brand by offering a prize of six pairs of sneakers. In 2010, they ran a one day gamified promotion that had 20,000 participants engage in a game called CatchAChoo™ where the object of the game was to discover some hidden locations in London resulting in the brand’s biggest ever promotional event (Kim, 2015b). Whether it is promoting, marketing, or motivating, various businesses from sports apparel to call centers and beyond have utilized gamification to achieve favorable results for employees and customers alike.
While gamification can be an effective way to educate, promote, etc. by using various aspects of video games, it does not provide the solutions that serious games do. Serious games are utilized in many different fields such as the following: defense, healthcare, research, production and more (de Byl, 2013). According to Lin, Park, Liebert, and Lau (2015), a grant from Stanford University’s Continuing Medical Education Center enabled a serious game to be developed in order to help surgeons. Lin et al go on to say that the Surgical Improvement of
Clinical Knowledge Ops™ (SICKO) engages, motivates, and trains learners by using a robust media interface (see figure 5) along with points and rewards, and penalizes wrong actions (see figure 6). Overall, Lin et al noted that as a platform for training and surgical assessment, SICKO™ should be considered as having the potential to be used in training and assessing general surgery residents.
Cultural Heritage and Serious Games
Cultural heritage is another domain where serious games can help to raise awareness. A game called Icura allows a user to explore a realistic 3D environment with mild traditional music playing in the background where a player can learn about the Japanese culture and etiquette and it even supports planning a trip (Mortara, et al., 2014). In addition to Icura, Mortara et al go on to say that there are many more games such as Roma Nova, Discover Babylon, etc. whose purpose is to help the player understand what ancient Mesopotamia contributed to today’s modern culture. There are even virtual museum applications that allow players to explore various sites. For example, Mortara et al, point out that serious games such as Yong’s China Quest Adventure, and The Great Bible Race allow users to learn about the traditions of the Chinese and the religious origins of Western civilization respectively. Finally, Mortara et al state that serious games involving cultural heritage offer multimedia content that provides more detailed information, and that games found in museums are able to engage large audiences without any restraints concerning time and space.
Bellotti, Berta, De Gloria, D'ursi, and Fiore (2012) mention another game useful for gaining knowledge in cultural heritage: The TiE™ (Travel in Europe) game. According to Bellotti et al, the game allows a user to visit various cities all across Europe while completing a mission in each one and each mission has a certain number of questions that each user must answer. The game is rich in points of interest and includes palaces and churches in urban environments that Bellotti et al say are accurately rebuilt, and require the user to search for predetermined places, in the form of a clickable icon that triggers a task, that are part of each mission. Bellotti et al go on to say that what makes the game interesting is that the points of interest change and difficulty increases, so the user is left to explore even more of the particular location looking for icons to click on and answer questions on artistic heritage, art, culture and more. An additional benefit of changing points of view and offering different levels of difficulty, Bellotti et al say, is that it increases user playability and fosters exploration. According to Bellotti et al, the mission is completed once a city has been fully explored and the user takes a final test that is related to the mission with a city prize such as a picture, symbol, etc. that is given as an award.
Language Learning and MMORPGs
As the trend toward gamification and serious gaming continues, researchers have turned their attention toward the entertainment gaming community. Over the last two decades, game development has shifted towards a new genre of interactive, immersive gaming environments (Dickey, 2007). MMORPG allows players to immerse themselves in a 3D virtual world. This world may consist of virtual towns, forests, mountains, rivers, and oceans. Players will encounter enemies, animals, and monsters, as well as other player and non-player characters and interaction with these creatures provides rich context for social interaction. In this world, they can experience highly realistic experiences of real world problems and activities (Wagner and Ip, 2009).
Although not classified as serious games, MMORPGs offer unique opportunities for learning. Because of the opportunities for social interaction, players must learn to communicate with others. They work cooperatively to solve problems and complete quests. Players construct new knowledge by interacting with in-game objects, tools, and instructions. As learners combine new knowledge with previous game experiences, a type of scaffolding occurs in which students can solve newer and harder problems in the game (Dickey, 2007).
MMORPG game architectures share several common features which may present educational opportunities. Many MMORPGs have a unique geographic world including topographical features, cities, countries, and sometimes planets. Navigating in the world will require map reading and/or communication skills and most MMORPGs will also have a transportation system which players can learn to operate. Each MMORPG may have its own economic system with banking, trade, and commerce features where players can earn money through trade or win reward money by completing quests or defeating enemies. The quest system offers players missions made up of realistic scenarios which may contain riddles to be solved, objects to be found and obtained, and enemies to be conquered. These quests may offer rewards of equipment, money, or player experience points. Often, team collaboration and complex thinking strategies must be employed in order to complete a quest. Other intrinsic game features include synchronous chatting, writing, conversational speaking, quest logs, and game lore. These features offer a rich tapestry of communicative activities afforded by different types of activities, landscapes, and places.
Players begin by creating a game avatar, commonly called a character. Customization of character features, such as gender, clothing, body features, in-game religious or clan affiliations, race, skills, and abilities allow players to self-identify with the character they have created. As each player assumes the identity of his character, he/she will have a unique game experience based on the geographic location, player interactions, and game quests in which they participate. As players advance in levels, they will qualify for tasks which they cannot complete without the help of others, so this creates a natural need for collaboration, cooperation and team-building. As learners work together to complete ever more complex tasks, they will engage in strategy planning, implementation, observation and assessment, and conclusion drawing phases before proceeding (Wagner, C., IP, R. K. F., 2009). The games offer opportunity to fail and retry quests as many times as necessary until the proper strategy is discovered making failure not as overwhelming.
Motivation and MMORPGs
One of the biggest appeals of MMORPGs for learning is their immense popularity. Holt (2006) went so far as to suggest that serious educational games are losing their appeal among learners, who favor the role-playing aspects of MMORPGs. Harnessing this enthusiasm could be a key to increasing motivation and engagement of learners. Suh, Kim and Kim (2010) noted that motivation was a key factor impacting a student’s learning.
The self-determination theory states that motivation is generated through autonomy, competence, and relatedness (Ryan & Deci, 2000). The immersive quality and rich content of MMORPGs make them a natural motivator for learners. The aspects of MMORPG play coincide neatly with the three factors of the self-determination theory. First, learners create a character which can freely explore the virtual world allowing them the autonomy to control their character’s destiny, and they will make decisions regarding location, quests, social interaction, and even the appearance of their character. As they explore and conquer in the virtual world, they gain new competencies and grow in confidence. Finally, as they collaborate to complete quests, they create new relationships (Eseryel, Ifenthaler, GE, & Miller, 2014).
Unlike serious games or gamified learning activities, the players of MMORPGs are playing simply for their own pleasure. This type of motivation was defined by Csikszentmihalyi (1990) and it states that people become so deeply engaged in a particular activity that everything else does not matter because of how much they are enjoying the experience itself and will remain engaged in order to continue doing the activity.
Czikszentmihalyi (1990) referred to this as the Flow Theory of Motivation. The Flow Theory suggests that a person's motivation is strongly impacted by two variables: Perceived skill and perceived motivation. People experience feelings of boredom if their perceived skill is greater than the challenge; they feel anxiety if the perceived challenge is greater than their skill level; and they are often apathetic when both the perceived challenge and their perceived skills are low. Motivation occurs when both the perceived challenge and skill are high. Please see Table 1 for an overview of the components and characteristics of the Flow Theory.
Because MMORPGs incorporate clear goals, immediate feedback, and the merging of action and awareness, they are a natural fit with the Flow Theory. Players are able to feel a sense of control, because they are able to choose challenges which fit their skill level. This, in turn, improves their skill, allowing them to engage in even more difficult challenges. These factors make MMORPGs an ideal tool for use in education because they make use of intrinsic motivators. Intrinsic motivation is the internal desire of an individual to achieve a goal (Bainbridge, 2015). It is further defined by Davis, Bagozzi, and Warshaw (1992) as engaging in an activity for its own enjoyment, without any external reinforcement. Dickey (2007) studied the impact of MMORPG play on five contributing factors of intrinsic motivation: Choice, control, collaboration, challenge, and achievement. Character design and development, small quest selection and completion, advancing skills, collaborative quests, and progress improvement coincided with each of the five factors revealing the high intrinsic motivating power of these games. Other studies found that players exhibited motivation to learn another player’s language in order to communicate more effectively for in-game collaboration and social interaction (Spare the mod: in support of total-conversion modified video games, 2012) (Thorne, Fischer, & Lu, 2012; Wu, Richards, & Saw, 2014; Yee, 2006).
In a specific study to discover which motivating factors were perceived to be the best facilitators for language learning, Wu, Richards and Saw (2014) found that relatedness was the highest factor among both male and female participants. The top three relatedness components were socializing, relationships, and teamwork. The secondary motivator was competence. The females cited competition as their highest motivator, while the males cited mechanics and customization. These factors are built in to MMORPGs, making them a highly motivating learning environment for gamers.
MMORPG Based Learning
Though traditional language learning consists of rote learning of grammar and vocabulary, emergent theories differ from this method. The theory of Distributed Cognition/Language emphasizes the need for an immersive learning experience with multi-sensory experiences in cultural and social context (Zheng, Bischoff, & Gilliland, 2015). Waters (2007) also argues that immersion is the best way to learn a language. He states that the games (MMORPGs) require learners to do things such as travel, communicate with others, read directions, and that these interactions force them to learn. Thorne et al. (2007) recognized several key factors of MMORPGs which made them suitable vehicles for language learning: Unscripted communication, reciprocal interactions, opportunities for self-correction, and development of relationships resulting in motivation to communicate in the other’s language.
Similarly, ecological theory theorizes that language learning is not made only from discrete rules regarding grammar and vocabulary, but rather from real time behavior and events. Thibault (2011) theorized that learners use the language in a dynamic way instead of learning it by rote. This ecological perspective finds that the design of MMORPGs can provide activities and opportunities for real-time communications that could not be easily replicated in a classroom environment.
Factors affecting game-based learning
Though MMORPGs provide many positive aspects for language learning, studies have shown that external factors can have an impact on the effectiveness of game-based learning. The following factors have been found to impact the quality of learning within MMORPGs.
Though past studies have indicated that males may be more interested in gaming and technology than females, Hou’s (2012) study revealed surprisingly few behavior differences between genders during gameplay. However, female players tend to prefer games with stories. Therefore, MMORPGs with narrative storylines may increase player motivation, especially among females. Other studies revealed that both male and female players exhibited increased motivation for playing, similar playing time, and positive attitudes toward game play (Hou, 2013; Peterson, 2011). The most significant component for both genders was relationship. Socializing is an important part of game play in MMORPGs which motivated both male and female players to seek out language interaction with other players. Females were more likely to spend time configuring their items, trading, and discussing their items, leading researchers to conclude that females were more motivated by their character’s outward appearance (Hou, 2012). Males engaged in more self-repetitious fighting behavior, and were also more likely to stay focused and engaged during battles (Hou, 2013). Though these differences were acknowledged, studies did not show significant differences in learning outcomes between genders, making MMORPGs an equally successful learning environment for both (Hou, 2013; Hou, 2012; Peterson, 2011; Wu, Richards, & Saw, 2014).
Proficiency was a factor that had serious impact on learning. In a study focusing on non-experienced MMORPG players, the learners experienced significant frustration with the learning curve of the game, especially as it related to language learning. Because of their lack of knowledge regarding game mechanics, and their lack of English proficiency, learners felt that it was very difficult to learn to play the game. This frustration was not shared by more experienced players (Wu, Richards and Saw, 2014). Novice learners in a Peterson (2011) study who experienced technical difficulties during game play were similarly prevented from participating in beneficial interactions.
Though factors such as motivation, playing time, and positive attitudes toward game play were similar across genders, players without prior gaming experience displayed significantly less motivation and engagement (Hou, 2013; Peterson, 2011).
Many of the studies of second language learning have been conducted with participants from an Asian cultural background. Studies have been conducted in Japan, China, Taiwan, and Korea regarding the effectiveness of MMORPGs in learning English as a second language. As Japanese learners attempted to communicate in English, they expressed pleasure at knowing they were anonymous to other players. This allowed them to communicate freely without embarrassment when making mistakes. Although some failed communications attempts occurred, learners were not permanently discouraged from attempts at social interaction (Peterson, 2011). Waters’ (2007) article shares an insight into Chinese students’ lives when he relays how Chinese parents dislike video games, yet were happy to allow their students to participate in an English practice class which used MMORPG as a practice tool. It is likely that the anonymity afforded by MMORPGs is highly appealing to students in the Asian culture which places high value on success and hard work, and finds shame in mistakes. It is not known whether these concerns would occur in other cultures until further study can be done for comparison.
Because relationships are a strong motivator in MMORPG based learning, it is not surprising that Zheng, Bischoff and Gilliland (2015) had highly successful results when pairing a Japanese second language learner with an English speaking mentor. In this study, the pair played the game together and communicated through in-game chat allowing the Japanese player to learn from his English mentor through modeling behaviors as well as questioning/confirming. He showed evidence of learning in the areas of spelling and casual conversation during his gaming experience. However, in other studies, players without a mentor also achieved positive results in spelling and vocabulary showing that new relationships forged in the game can be just as effective as prior relationships in increasing motivation and learning (Suh, Kim and Kim, 2010).
Results of Language Learning with MMORPGs
MMORPGs offer the potential for unique learning opportunities because they are rich in linguistic text and because communication with other players is central to gameplay experience. Quest and game logs (see Figure 7) provide opportunity to practice reading and comprehension skills. These features make MMORPGs an appealing medium for language learning. Several studies have specifically focused on the effectiveness of MMORPGs in successful second language acquisition. A study of the MMORPG Talking Island (http://www.lineage2.com/en/game/patch-notes/goddess-of-destruction/new-areas/talking-island.php), a game specifically designed in Taiwan to teach second language, revealed that approximately 30% of the players' game activities consisted of mastery-learning games, such as flashcards. This study showed that as players progressed in proficiency, their amount of social interaction and discussion increase. This indicates the ability for MMORPGs to provide a type of scaffolding which is conducive to mastery of higher level language problems. Though no significant gender differences were noted, results revealed that female players were highly motivated to engage in peer discussion after trading items (Hou, 2012), suggesting that MMORPGs may be equally motivating for both genders if the right motivator is found.
A Japanese player of the World of Warcraft™ (http://eu.battle.net/wow/en/) MMORPG engaged in English vocabulary learning by communicating via the built in chat channel. They also improved their spelling by seeing words modeled correctly by player and non-player characters (Zheng et al., 2015). Another study of World of Warcraft™ investigated the game’s ability to allow learners to argue effectively (Alagoz, 2012). Using the in game chat system (see Figure 8), students who played Allods Online (https://allods.my.com/en) were able to engage in several areas of casual language interaction, such as, formal greetings, leave-taking, small talk and humor (Peterson, 2011). Korean school children played an MMORPG to practice speaking, listening, writing, and reading with their focus being on pronunciation, verb tense, and sentence structure (Suh, Kim and Kim, 2010).
Several Japanese learners played Wonderland™ (http://wl.igg.com/guide/ guide.php?acid=190) in a study of English language learning. Several strategies of social interaction were identified, such as appropriate use of greetings, informal language, leave-takings, use of humor, small talk, and friend making. Both male and female learners demonstrated positive instances of each of these traits. Study of the transcripts found that participants employed these strategies and others to communicate successfully in the game. Player interactions included social conversations, requests for help with mechanical gaming functions i.e. how to navigate character requests for assistance in finding in game locations or characters and polite greetings. Learners also demonstrated appropriate social context cues by employing the use of emoticons or feelings-words to convey emotion (Peterson, 2011).
The MMORPG Everquest 2™ (https://www.everquest2.com/register) was studied by Rankin, Gold, and Gooch (2006) for its effectiveness in second-language learning. Results of participation showed that intermediate students increased their English vocabulary by 40% by interacting with non-player characters during gameplay. These same players who practiced conversational English with other players saw a 100% increase in game chat messages using the in game chat system (see Figure 8). The non-player characters, in particular, can assist second-language learners in understanding the grammatical syntax of English, simply by modeling language correctly.
Gaming is fast becoming the most popular form of entertainment in America and it is no wonder that in the United States alone there are 183 million players of which five million play more than 40 hours per week (Kim, 2015b). As the current trend toward gamification continues, even non-entertainment industries will employ gaming as a way to advertise and engage customers. As studies show, games are a powerful tool to engage and motivate learners. Even non serious games, or perhaps especially non serious games, have been proven to contain built in collaborative features that facilitate a constructivist learning model.
The educational community will want to continue to explore the use of MMORPGs to promote problem solving skills and higher level thinking. Even without educational content, the social interaction tools and scaffolding processes ingrained in these games are a useful model for virtual learning worlds. The aspects of MMORPGs which have proven successful in language learning can be fine-tuned. This genre opens the door for other areas of learning, such as geography, economics, math, architecture, and many more. Students’ love of gaming provides a natural motivator which can be cultivated to encourage a love of learning. With careful planning, educators can make use of the realistic virtual worlds of MMORPGs to help their students solve real world problems and develop strong thinking skills.
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