Date of Award

Spring 5-2016

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Curriculum, Instruction, and Special Education

Committee Chair

Taralynn Hartsell

Committee Chair Department

Curriculum, Instruction, and Special Education

Committee Member 2

Shuyan Wang

Committee Member 2 Department

Curriculum, Instruction, and Special Education

Committee Member 3

Kyna Shelley

Committee Member 3 Department

Educational Studies and Research

Committee Member 4

Richard Mohn

Committee Member 4 Department

Educational Studies and Research


The purpose of the study is to compare two types of educational video games based on Malone’s (1984) theory of challenge, curiosity, and fantasy. The participants were 136 students from a community college in the southeastern United States. The study used a quantitative approach with participants randomly divided into two groups, one playing each of the two games. Participants were given a brief introduction to a list of French phrases and words, took a pre-test, played the selected game, and then took a post-test to assess content knowledge gain. Brockmyer et al.’s (2009) Game Engagement Questionnaire was used to assess game engagement, a demographic questionnaire to address whether gender, minority status, or socio-economic status affected content knowledge or engagement, and an open-ended question to allow for any additional responses.

MANCOVA and follow-up ANCOVA found no significant differences in content knowledge gain or engagement between participants playing the two games, regardless of gender, minority status, or socio-economic status. Additionally, there were no significant differences between pre-test and post-test scores, indicating that neither game proved effective for teaching the material. Although not effective as a teaching tool, the games could be a tool for study and practice to reinforce material that had already been introduced. Additionally, the difficulty of the games may have frustrated the participants, causing them to learn less and eliminating any differences in engagement.

Implications for educators include the importance of providing ample practice time to learn the mechanics of learning games, providing sufficient time or repeated exposure to learning games for them to be effective, reserving drill-and-practice games for reinforcement rather than teaching, and ensuring that games’ difficulties are in line with student expectations and abilities. Further research could be conducted comparing two short casual games played repeatedly over the course of a semester comparing multiple class sections, testing a multi-platform mobile game for effectiveness and participants’ willingness to play outside of class time, comparing two longer-playing, user-directed games of the sort championed by Gee (2005) and Harel and Papert (1991), or comparing shorter, casual learning games to longer, in-depth learning games.