You like it, you learn it: affectivity and learning in competitive social role play gaming

  • Cyril BromEmail author
  • Vít Šisler
  • Michaela Slussareff
  • Tereza Selmbacherová
  • Zdeněk Hlávka


Despite the alleged ability of digital game-based learning (DGBL) to foster positive affect and in turn improve learning, the link between affectivity and learning has not been sufficiently investigated in this field. Regarding learning from team-based games with competitive elements, even less is known about the relationship between competitiveness (as a dispositional trait) and induced positive affect. In this media comparison study with between-subject design, participants (N = 325; high school and college students) learned about the EU’s policy agenda by means of a debate-based method delivered through one of three educational media: a) through a social role-playing game with competitive elements played on computers, b) through a very similar game played without computers and c) through a non-game workshop. Unlike many previous DGBL studies, this study used participant randomization and strived to address the teacher effect and the length of exposure effect, while also using the same learning materials and a very similar educational method for all three treatments. Both games induced comparatively higher generalized positive affect and flow. Participants also learned more with the games. Positive affect, but not flow, mediated the influence of educational media on learning gains. Participants’ competitiveness was partly related to positive affect and experiencing flow but unrelated to learning gains. These outcomes held both when the game was played using computers, as well as without them. The study indicates that the ability of an educational intervention to instigate positive affect is an important feature that should be considered by educational designers.


Positive affect Learning effects Educational games Collaborative games Competition Flow Role-playing 



We thank all research assistants and lecturers who helped to conduct the experiment, namely: T. Holan, I. Šebek, J. Vlasák, L. Kolek, V. Dobrovolný, M. Grecká, M. Denemarková, J. Tupá, O. Smíšek, R. Římanová, J. Lacka, M. Abrahámová, J. Fiala, M. Hampacherová, K. Pavelka, T. Stárková, V. Šálený, J. Volák, V. Zemanová, T. Pospíšil, D. Wagner, S. Feyglová, K. Vávrová, J. Janovský, V. Šnoblová, E. Bednaříková, O. Šíp, I. Pecháčková. We thank Jan L. Plass, Jan Lukavský, and Sidney D’Mello for discussing this work with us. We thank all high school teachers enabling us to conduct the experiment. We also thank three anonymous reviewers and the editor Rolf Steier.

The human data were collected with APA ethical principles in mind.

Source of funding

This research was funded by Czech Grant Science Foundation (GA ČR) (Project nr. P407/12/P152).

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© International Society of the Learning Sciences, Inc. 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Cyril Brom
    • 1
    Email author
  • Vít Šisler
    • 1
  • Michaela Slussareff
    • 1
  • Tereza Selmbacherová
    • 1
  • Zdeněk Hlávka
    • 2
  1. 1.Faculty of Mathematics and PhysicsCharles University in PraguePragueCzech Republic
  2. 2.Department of Statistics, Faculty of Mathematics and PhysicsCharles University in PraguePragueCzech Republic

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