Engaging by design: How engagement strategies in popular computer and video games can inform instructional design

  • Michele D. Dickey


Computer and video games are a prevalent form of entertainment in which the purpose of the design is to engage players. Game designers incorporate a number of strategies and tactics for engaging players in “gameplay.” These strategies and tactics may provide instructional designers with new methods for engaging learners. This investigation presents a review of game design strategies and the implications of appropriating these strategies for instructional design. Specifically, this study presents an overview of the trajectory of player positioning or point of view, the role of narrative, and methods of interactive design. A comparison of engagement strategies in popular games and characteristics of engaged learning is also presented to examine how strategies of game design might be integrated into the existing framework of engaged learning.


Video Game Instructional Design Interactive Design Game Design Educational Game 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Aarseth, E. (2001). Computer game studies, Year one.Game Studies: The International Journal of Computer Game Research,1(1), [Online] Available: Scholar
  2. Adams, E. (2001). Replayability, Part One: Narrative.Gamasutra, 05.21.01. [Online] Available: Scholar
  3. Adams, E. (2003). Defining the physical dimension of a game setting.Gamasutra, 04.30.03. [Online] Available: Scholar
  4. Alessi, S. M., & Trollip, S. R. (1991).Computer-based instruction: Methods and development. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice Hall.Google Scholar
  5. Barrows, H. S. (1986). A taxonomy of problem-based learning methods.Medical Education, 20, 481–486.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bell, J. (1999). The biology labs on-line project: Producing educational simulations that promote active learning.Interactive Multimedia Electronic Journal of Computer-Enhanced Learning,1(2), [Online] Available: Scholar
  7. Bell, P., Davis, E. A., & Linn, M. C. (1996). The knowledge integration environment: Theory and design. InProceedings of the Computer Supported Collaborative Learning Conference (CSCL '95: Bloomington, IN) (pp. 14–21). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Assoc.Google Scholar
  8. Blumenfeld, P. C., Soloway, E., Marx, R. W., Krajcik, J. S., Guzdial, M., & Palinscar, A. (1991). Motivating project-based learning: Sustaining the doing, supporting the learning.Educational Psychologist, 26, 369–398.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Bowman, R. F. (1982). A “Pac-Man” theory of motivation: Tactile implications for classroom instruction.Educational Technology, 22(9), 14–17.Google Scholar
  10. Bransford, J. D., Sherwood, R. D., Hasselbring, T. S., Kinzer, C. K., & Williams, S. M. (1990). Anchored instruction: Why we need it and how technology can help. In D. Nix & R. Sprio (Eds.),Cognition, education and multimedia. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  11. Bricken, M. (1991). Virtual worlds: No interface to design. In M. Benedikt (Ed.),Cyberspace: First steps (pp. 363–382). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  12. Bricken, M., & Byrne, C. M. (1994). Summer students in virtual reality: A pilot study on educational applications of virtual reality technology. In A. Wexelblat (Ed.),Virtual reality: Applications and explorations (pp. 199–218), Boston, MA: Academic.Google Scholar
  13. Bricken, W. (1990).Learning in virtual reality. (HITL-TR-M-90-5). Seattle, WA: Human Interface Technology Laboratory.Google Scholar
  14. Bringsjord, S. (2001). Is it possible to build dramatically compelling interactive digital entertainment (in the form, e.g., of computer games)?The International Journal of Computer Game Research,1(1), [Online] Available: Scholar
  15. Bruckman, A. (1993). Community support for constructivist learning.Computer Supported Cooperative Work, 7, 47–86.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Bruckman, A. (1997).MOOSE Crossing: Construction, community, and learning in a networked virtual world for kids. Doctoral dissertation, MIT.Google Scholar
  17. Bruckman, A., & Resnick, M. (1995). The Mediamoo project: Constructivism and professional community.Convergence, 1(1), 94–109.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Bruner, J. (1990). Acts of meaning. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  19. Carson, D. (2000). Environmental storytelling: Creating immersive 3D worlds using lessons learned from the theme park industry.Gamasutra, [Online] Available: Scholar
  20. Cognition and Technology Group at Vanderbilt. (1990). Anchored instruction and its relationship to situated cognition.Educational Researcher, 19(6), 2–10.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Cognition and Technology Group at Vanderbilt. (1992). The Jasper experiment: An exploration of issues in learning and instructional design.Educational Technology Research and Development, 40(1), 65–80.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Cognition and Technology Group at Vanderbilt. (1993). Anchored instruction and situated cognition revisited.Educational Technology, 33(3), 52–70.Google Scholar
  23. Conle, C. (2003). An anatomy of narrative curricula.Educational Researcher, 32(3), 3–15.Google Scholar
  24. Corno, L., & Mandinach, E. B. (1983). The role of cognitive engagement in classroom learning and motivation.Educational Psychologist, 18(2), 88–108.Google Scholar
  25. Crawford, C. (2003).Chris Crawford on game design. Indianapolis, IN: New Riders Publishing.Google Scholar
  26. Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1990).Flow: The psychology of optimal experience, New York: Harper & Row.Google Scholar
  27. Csikszentmihalyi, M., & Lawson, R. (1980). Intrinsic rewards in school crime. In M. Verble (Ed.),Dealing in discipline. Omaha: University of Mid-America.Google Scholar
  28. Dede, C. (1995). The evolution of constructivist learning environments: Immersion in distributed, virtual worlds.Educational Technology, 35(5), 46–52.Google Scholar
  29. Dede, C. (2000). Emerging influences of information technology on school curriculum.Journal of Curriculum Studies, 32(2), 281–303.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Dede, C., Salzman, M. C., & Loftin, R. B. (1996). Science space: Virtual realities for learning complex and abstract scientific concepts. InProceedings of IEEE Virtual Reality Annual International Symposium (pp. 246–253). New York: IEEE Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Dickey, M. D. (2003).An investigation of computer gaming strategies for engaged learning. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association. Chicago, IL.Google Scholar
  32. Dodge, B. J. (1995). WebQuests: A structure for active learning on the World Wide Web.The Distance Educator,1(2).Google Scholar
  33. Duffy, T. M., & Cunningham, D. J. (1996). Constructivism: Implications for the design and delivery of instruction. In D. Jonassen (Ed.),Handbook of research for educational communications and technology (pp. New York: Macmillan.Google Scholar
  34. Egan, K. (1988).Teaching as storytelling: An alternative approach to teaching and curriculum in the elementary school. London: Althouse Press.Google Scholar
  35. Eisner, E. W. (1998).The enlightened eye: Qualitative iinquiry and the enhancement of educational practice. New Jersey: Prentice Hall.Google Scholar
  36. Entertainment Software Association. (2004).Demographic information. [Online] Available: Scholar
  37. Ertmer, P. A., & Quinn, J. (1999).The ID casebook: Case studies in instructional design. Columbus, OH: Merrill.Google Scholar
  38. Frasca, G. (2001). Ludology meets narratology: Similitude and differences between (video) games and Game Theory. [Online] Available: Scholar
  39. Freeman, D. (2002). Four ways to use symbols to add emotional depth to games.Gamasutra, 07.24.02. [Online] Available: Scholar
  40. Freeman, D. (2003).Creating emotion in games. (Prepublication galley proof). Indianapolis, IN: New Riders.Google Scholar
  41. Frye, B., & Frager, A. M. (1996). Civilization, colonization, SimCity: simulations for the social studies classroom.Learning and Leading with Technology.24(2). 21–23, 32.Google Scholar
  42. Gard, T. (2000). Building character.Gamasutra. 06.20.00.[Online] Available: http://www.gamasutr Scholar
  43. Gredler, M. E. (1992).Designing and evaluating games and simulations: A process approach. London: Kogan Page.Google Scholar
  44. Gredler, M. E. (1996). Educational games and simulations: A technology in search of a (research) paradigm. In D. Jonassen (Ed.), Handbook of research for educational communications and technology. New York: Macmillan.Google Scholar
  45. Hall, K. (1998).TIENET: Technology in Education Network. [Online] Available: Scholar
  46. Hancock, H. (2002). Better game design through cutscenes.Gamasutra. 04.02.02. [Online] Available: Scholar
  47. Hannafin, M. J., & Peck, K. L. (1988).The design, development and evaluation of instructional software, New York: Macmillan.Google Scholar
  48. Horn, R. E., & Cleves, A. (1980).The guide to simulations/games for education and training. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  49. Howland, G. (2002). Balancing gameplay hooks. In F. D. Laramée (Ed.)Game design perspectives. Hingham, MA: Charles River Media. (pp. 78–84).Google Scholar
  50. Interactive Digital Software Association (IDSA). (2002).Essential fucts about the computer and video game industry. [Online] Available: http://www.idsa.comGoogle Scholar
  51. Jakobsson, M., & Taylor, T. L. (2003). The Sopranos meets Everquest: Social networking in massively multiuser networking games.Melbourne DAC, the 5th International Digital Arts and Culture Conference. Melbourne, Australia.Google Scholar
  52. Jenkins, H. (2002).Game design as narrative architecture. [Online] Available: Scholar
  53. Jonassen, D. (1999). Designing constructivist learning environments. In C. M. Reigeluth (Ed.)Instructional-design theories and models: A new paradigm of instructional theory (Vol. II). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  54. Jones, B., Valdez, G., Norakowski, J., & Rasmussen, C. (1994). Designing learning and technology for educational reform.North Central Regional Educational Laboratory. [Online]. Available: Scholar
  55. Julian, M., Kinzie, M., & Larsen, V. (1998).The chronicles of rocket boy. [Online] Available: Scholar
  56. Julian, M. F., Larsen, V. A., & Kinzie, M. B. (1999).Compelling case experiences: Challenges for emerging instructional designers. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Association for Educational Communications & Technology (AECT), Houston, TXGoogle Scholar
  57. Juul, J. (1998).A clash between game and narrative. Paper presented at the Digital Arts and Culture conference. Bergen, Norway.Google Scholar
  58. Juul, J. (2001). Games telling stories?—A brief note on games and narratives.Game Studies: The International Journal of Computer Game Research 1(1). [Online] Available: Scholar
  59. Kearsley, G., & Shneiderman, B. (1999). Engagement theory: A framework for technology-based teaching and learning.Educational Technology 38(5), 20–23.Google Scholar
  60. Laramée, F. D. (2002).Game design perspectives. Hingham, MA: Charles River Media. (p. 267).Google Scholar
  61. Laurillard, D. (1998) Multimedia and the learner's experience of narrative.Computers in Education 31, 229–243.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Lave, J., & Wenger, E. (1991).Situated learning. New York, Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  63. Malone, T. W. (1981a). Toward a theory of intrinsically motivating instruction.Cognitive Science 4, (333–369).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Malone, T. W. (1981b). What makes computer games fun?BYTE.Google Scholar
  65. McLellan, H. (1993). Hypertextual tales: Story models for hypertext design.Journal of Educational Multimedia and Hypermedia, 2, 239–260.Google Scholar
  66. Meece, J. L., Blumenfeld, P. C., & Hoyle, R. H. (1988). Students' goal orientations and cognitive engagement in classroom activities.Journal of Educational Psychology, 80(4). 514–523.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Miller, L., Dhaika, M., & Groppe, L. (1996). Girls preferences in software design. Insights from a focus group.Technology and Electronic Journal the 21st Century [Online] Available: MILLER IPCTV4N2 on LISTSERV@LISTSERVE.GEORGETOWN.EDU.Google Scholar
  68. Miller-Lachmann, L., Jones, M. V., Stone-Farina, J. A., DeLaoch, K., & Kloten, G. (1995). Exploring America in computer simulation games.Multicultural Review, 4(3), 44–46, 48–52.Google Scholar
  69. Onder, B. (2002). Storytelling in level-based game design. In F. D. Laramée (Ed.),Game design perspectives. Hingham, MA: Charles River Media.Google Scholar
  70. Pahl, R.H. (1991). Finally a good way to teach city government! —A review of the computer simulation game “SimCity”.The Social Studies 82(4), 165–166.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Pedersen, R.E. (2003).Game design foundations, Plano, TX: Worldware Publishing Inc; (p. 202).Google Scholar
  72. Perkins, D. N. (1992). Technology meets constructivism: Do they make a marriage? In T. M. Duffy & D. H. Jonassen (Eds.),Constructivism and the technology of instruction: A conversation. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  73. Polkinghorne, D. E. (1988).Narrative knowing and the human sciences. Albany: State University of New York Press.Google Scholar
  74. Prensky, M. (2001).Digital game-based learning. New York: McGraw-Hill.Google Scholar
  75. Provenzo, E. F. (1991).Video kids: Making sense of nintendo. Cambridge, MA Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  76. Riddle, J. (2002). Cameras and Point-of-view in the gamespace. InSIGGRAPH2002 Proceedings, ACM, 155. San Antonio, TX.Google Scholar
  77. Rieber, L. P. (1996). Seriously considering play: Designing interactive learning environments based on the blending of microworlds, simulations, and games.Educational Technology Research and Development, 44(2), 43–58.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  78. Riner, R. D. (1996). Virtual ethics Virtual reality.Futures Research Quartery, 12(1), 57–70.Google Scholar
  79. Riner, R. D., & Clodius, J. A. (1995). Simulating future histories: The NAU solar system simulation & mars settlement.Anthropology & Education Quarterly, 21(2), 121–127.Google Scholar
  80. Rollings, A., & Adams, E. (2003).Game design. (Prepublication galley proof). Indianapolis, IN: New Riders.Google Scholar
  81. Rouse, R. (2001).Game design: Theory and practice. Plano, TX: Worldware Publishing, Inc. (p. 232).Google Scholar
  82. Savery, J. R., & Duffy, T. M. (1995). Problem based learning: an instructional model and its constructivist framerwork.Educational Technology, 35(5), 31–38.Google Scholar
  83. Scardamalia, M., Bereiter, C., McLean, R., Swallow, J., & Woodruff, E. (1989). Computer-supported intentional learning environments.Journal of Educational Computing Research, 5(1), 51–68.Google Scholar
  84. Schell, J. (2003). Story and gameplay are one. InGame Developers Conference Proceedings, San Jose, CA.Google Scholar
  85. Schlechty, P. C. (1990).Schools for the 21st century: Leadership imperatives for educational reform. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  86. Schlechty, P. C. (1997).Inventing better schools: An action plan for educational reform. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  87. Sfard, A. (1998). On two metaphors for learning and the dangers of choosing just one.Educational Researcher, 27(2), 4–13.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  88. Shneiderman, B. (1992). Education by engagement and construction: A strategic education initiative for the multimedia renewal of American education, In E. Barrett (Ed.),Sociomedia: Hypermedia, multimedia and the social construction of knowledge, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  89. Shulman, L. S. (1992). Toward a pedagogy of cases. In J. Shulman (Ed.),Case methods in teacher education. New York: Teachers College Press.Google Scholar
  90. Sikora, D. (2002). Storytelling in computer games. In F. D. Laramée (Ed.),Game design perspectives. Hingham, MA: Charles River Media.Google Scholar
  91. Squire, K. (2002). Cultural framing of computer/video games,Game Studies: The International Journal of Computer Game Research. Available: Scholar
  92. Teague, M., & Teague, G. (1995). Planning with computers: A social studies simulation.Learning and Leading with Technology, 23(1), 20–22.Google Scholar
  93. Thomas, J. W. (2000).A review of research on project-based learning. [Online] Available: Scholar
  94. Turkle, S. (1995).Life on the screen: Identity in the age of the internet: Simon & Schuster: New York.Google Scholar
  95. Weller, M. (2000) The use of narrative to provide a cohesive structure for a Web-base computing course.Journal of Interactive Media in Education,2000, (1), Available. Scholar
  96. Winn, W. D. (1993).A conceptual basis for educational applications of virtual reality (HITL Report No. R-93-9). Seattle, WA: University of Washington, Human Interface Technology Laboratory.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Association for Educational Communications and Technology 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michele D. Dickey
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Educational Psychology at Miami UniversityMiamiUSA

Personalised recommendations