Using Games in eLearning – Part II – How are Games Different from other Learning Activities.

29 Jul

Why People Play Games?

Simply put, most people play games because they want to satisfy their esteem needs. The first three needs in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (the physiological needs, the safety needs, and the family & belongingness needs) are known as the deficiency needs, which prompt us to fulfill them through their deficiency.

However, everyone who has his or her deficiency needs fulfilled, experiences the need for esteem. We all wish to be famous, or victorious, or rich, or brilliant…essentially better than our neighbors (real or virtual) in some or the other way.  We play games because games help us to vicariously fulfill our esteem needs.

Another reason for playing games is physical. Our brains have a neurotransmitter called Dopamine. When our system is flushed with Dopamine, we feel energetic and excited. In other words, Dopamine helps us experience thrill and adventure – It gives us pleasure.

These two reasons combine and drive us towards playing games. Games enable us to vicariously experience fame, victory, affluence, respect, even thrill and adventure.

How are Learning Games Different from Other Learning Activities?

The main difference between learning games and other learning activities is that Games establish an emotional connection with the learner. The learner “feels” something (thrill, pleasure, esteem) when he or she plays a learning game. In other learning activities, the learner doesn’t “feel” but only “thinks.”

This feeling is what makes learning games different and more sought after than other sorts of learning activities. Recently, one of our online course participants spoke of how she was drawn into a particular learning interaction because it was a “game”. She had a lot of fun trying to get a term to land in the right place, and without even realizing that she was learning, by the time the game ended, she had learned.

Thus, in a learning game, the conscious experience for the learner remains the game, which learning makes its way into the learner’s mind silently, almost effortlessly. The learner “enjoys” the game and its corresponding rewards and experiences the corresponding emotions. Thus, the learner’s attention is fastened on to the game while the learning is conveniently transferred to the learner’s mind. This isn’t possible in any other kind of learning experience.

The Psychology Behind Games” is an excellent read for those who want to get into the mind of the gamer.


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