Motivation and #Games: Motivational Theories for Instructional Games

These techniques can be used for Instructor-Led Training or eLearning modules. These ideas originated in work done by Mark Lepper, a researcher from Stanford University and Thomas Malone also a researcher from Stanford who’s work includes extensive investigations into why games are fun and motivational.

The two teamed up and wrote what they called “The Taxonomy of Intrinsic Motivation.” Here is a brief summary and some related references.

The taxonomy was divided into two sections.

The first section focused on internal motivation and included:

  • Challenge in terms of goals, uncertain outcomes, performance feedback and self-esteem.
  • Curiosity in terms of sensory and cognitive inquisitiveness.
  • Control in terms of contingency, choice and power.
  • Fantasy in terms of the emotional and cognitive aspects of fantasy as well as the interweaving of the fantasy and the skills to be learned within the game.

The second section deals with interpersonal motivations. This includes:

  • Cooperation in terms of players working together to achieve a goal within a game.
  • Competition in terms of competition in terms of competing against another player to achieve a goal.
  • Recognition in terms of making achievements available for others to see so the hard work needed to achieve a level of mastery in a game is recognized.

For more information see the following:

Malone, T.W.,n & Lepper, M.R. (1988). Making learning fun: A taxonomy of intrinsic motivations for learning. In R.E. Snow & M.J. Farr (Eds.) Aptitude, learning and instruction: Vol. III. Cognitive and affective process analyses (pp. 229-253). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. (Thanks to Brett Bixler for pointing this out to me.)

Speaking of Brett Bixler, see his paper “Motivation and its Relationship to the Design of Educational Games.” For some great discussion on the topic.

What makes things fun to learn?: A Study of Intrinsically Motivating Computer Games.By Thomas Malone, August 1980.

Also, Dianne Rees has a blog entry on this very topic. A taxonomy of motivation and game design.

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Karl Kapp
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