How does game-based learning impact learners’ emotions, motivation and learning outcomes? A study published in 2021 found that learners undergo a range of emotions, both positive (enjoyment, satisfaction, motivation, and engagement) and negative (anxiety, confusion, frustration, and aggression). Emotions related to the subject under study, if any, can also impact the learner’s emotions when engaging with game-based learning.
We believe that the four most important emotions inspired by game-based learning are Satisfaction, Motivation, Social Belonging, and Competitive Anxiety. We delve into these in more detail, below.
The primary objective of a game, of course, is to boost gamer satisfaction. Gaming formats such as virtual reality games deliver higher levels of satisfaction owing to the greater levels of immersiveness. Learners are more involved and therefore more keen to continue playing.
Through contextual learning – real-world case studies, simulations, and other learning activities that place learning in realistic or real-world contexts – learners’ motivation, attitude, and satisfaction in the game are enhanced. Game-based learning integrates learning materials into gaming scenarios and increases game learning satisfaction. By contextualizing the learning with real-life examples, pleasure and interactivity increase.
Extrinsic motivation includes such motivators as rewards, badges, and leaderboards. Extrinsic motivators, however, have lower long-term success. Intrinsic motivation – interest in the game itself – increases game enjoyment, and therefore engagement. Intrinsic motivation is effectively increased through clearly defined goals, feedback mechanisms, assistance tools, and strategies. These tools reduce the learner’s anxiety levels and increase immersion.
Collaboration strategies, in an era where technological advances are taking over every aspect of social life, are effective in enhancing a sense of social belonging. There is an increasing dependence on technological support for collaboration in game-based learning to practice self-regulation and improve social skills. There is a positive correlation between collaborative roleplaying games and a sense of social belonging. This is especially true among learners with social difficulties as they are obliged to participate and engage during team collaboration.
One emotion resulting from game-based learning that can be thought of as a negative outcome is competitive anxiety – that is, anxiety caused by competitiveness or competition. This may inhibit task achievement or have a negative impact on learning performance, engagement, and game enjoyment.
However, when channeled correctly, competitive anxiety is also shown to have a positive correlation with interest – anxiety can be used to trigger the competitive instinct, pushing high achievers to outperform.
The advantage of game-based learning is that, by its very nature, it generates enjoyment and satisfaction. Gamification drives extrinsic motivation, while gameplay drives intrinsic motivation. Satisfaction and motivation together deliver better learning outcomes and higher engagement. At the same time, competitive anxiety should be managed smartly to ensure that the game does not hamper learning outcomes.