GameTech: Top Ten Research Findings in Games from 2012

Article, Top 10 Research Findings 1 Comment

Dr. Alicia Sanchez & Dr. Clint Bowers | April 28, 2013

Introductory Note: The “Top Ten Research Findings in Games from 2012” was presented by Dr. Alicia Sanchez and Dr. Clint Bowers at the Defense GameTech Users’ Conference 2013 in Orlando on April 17, 2013. This blog post highlights the major findings from each paper. The summaries in this post were compiled by Katelyn Procci and are based on the original presentation. For the full study details, such as the literature background and study methodology, please refer to the presentation slides (download here).

Disclaimer: The Top 10 Research Findings for 2012 have been decided by us alone. All papers included have empirical results. Papers were selected not solely based on quality, but on relevance to this particular conference. In some cases we have not presented all of the results that were found by these researchers. We will make our presentation available, but we cannot make the research papers available. Everything in this presentation has been subject to our interpretation.

#10: Learning Style and Gender Consciousness Affects Novice Learning in Games
Wang & Chen (2012)

Eighth grade students learned about Flash development through game-play. Of interest were how the effects of learning style (divergers vs. convergers) and gender consciousness on the comprehension of programming concepts, programming performance, and motivation. Divergers were those who learned best by viewing concrete situations from multiple viewpoints, while convergers preferred finding practical uses for ideas and theories. The results suggested that learning style impacted programming comprehension, and gender consciousness impacted project performance for divergers and convergers differently. The convergers comprehended the abstract programming principles better than the divergers. High gender consciousness convergers outperformed high gender consciousness divergers on project performance, but low gender consciousness convergers and divergers performed equally. The divergers with low gender consciousness outperformed those with high gender consciousness on project performance, but both gender consciousness groups of convergers performed equally. The researchers also found that intrinsic and extrinsic motivation was similar (and positive!) for all four groups.

#9: Video-Game Play Improves Information Processing Abilities
Powers, Brooks, Aldrich, Palladino, & Alfieri (2012)

The researchers conducted a meta-analysis on video game use and cognitive change. Their analysis included 46 true experiments and 72 quasi-experiments. The analysis revealed that there is a moderate to large effect size for games, supporting the hypothesis that games can improve information processing. The largest effects were for the basic abilities of the brain, such as visual processing. The effect sizes were the smallest for the higher-order, executive functions. Older learners also benefited more than younger learners. Interestingly, the effects were much stronger for males.

#8: Well-Designed Quests Improve a Math Game
Chen, Liao, Cheng, Yeh, & Chan (2012)

In a study of Taiwanese 4th grade students, when incorporated into a game to teach math, quests were found to have a positive impact in that they influenced students’ perceptions (enjoyment, goal orientation, and goal intensity) and elicited more active participation. Overall, the study found that quests whose goals align with learning objectives are favored by students.

#7: Action Video Games Improve Task-Switching
Green, Sugarman, Medford, Klobusicky, & Bavelier (2012)

This paper focused on how action video games might lead to enhanced “task-switching” ability. Task switching is essentially multitasking. It is an executive brain function that involves shifting attention and adapting to a variety of different situations. When tasks are switched, performance will decrease. This is the task cost. The researchers conducted a series of four small studies. The results suggested that players of action games had reduced task-switching costs. Even those who were not gamers had improvements after playing 50 hours of an action game.

#6: Tutorials are Effective in Complex Games
Andersen et al. (2012)

The purpose of this study was to determine if including tutorials in games affected engagement and instructional effectiveness. This study featured a massive sample size: The researchers tested 8 types of tutorials across 3 games in 45,318 participants. Tutorials were found to be effective in complex games (and not justified in less-complex games whose mechanics might be more easily discovered through experimentation).

#5: Games Can Promote the Development of New Perspectives
Gonzalez, Saner, & Eisenberg (2012)

The game in this study was a commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) game that allows you to play multiple roles and make decisions related to those roles within the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Undergraduate students played this game twice during a semester. Players were at first randomly assigned to either being the Palestinian President or Israeli Prime Minister, but ultimately the played both roles during the study. The results suggested that playing the game mitigated the initial religious and political views of its players.

#4: Gamification Can Motivate Some
Thom, Millen, & DiMicco (2012)

The researchers implemented gamification into a social networking system for a large company in order to promote content contribution. For example, users would receive points for posting pictures and comments, which would allow users to earn badges to be posted on their profile. The researchers found that including the gamification dramatically increased content contribution initially, but eventually it was no longer effective. They found that gamification does motivate some, but not all.

#3: Gamers are More Persistent
Ventura, Shute, & Zhao (2012)

The researchers were interested in whether video game experience was related to increased ability to persist with a difficult task. They found a small, but significant relationship between the time dedicated to unsolved problems and self-reported persistence, and that performance-based persistence was related to video game use.

#2: Cooperation and Competition Affects Learning, Motivation, and Self-Efficacy
Smith (2012)

This study focused on a resource management game similar to Diner Dash, except the content area was acquisition. The game modified to be cooperative (two players could work together) or competitive (two players tried to get a higher score). All players had positive learning outcomes. For those who were not given any instructions to compete, the cooperative group reported a larger increase in intrinsic motivation. For those who were told to compete, all groups had increases in intrinsic motivation. Also, winners in the competitive versions of the game had higher self-efficacy than losers, and those winners that were rewarded with a $10 iTunes giftcard had higher self-efficacy than those who played cooperatively. It seems that the use of competition in games is a complex variable that can have impacts on learning, motivation and self-efficacy.

#1: Adaptive Leveling Can Result in Exposure to More Challenge
Sharek (2012)

This study examined Gridblocker, an isometric tile-based puzzle game in which players must move a block until the block ends up standing over a goal. The game featured multiple levels of increasing complexity. In the experiment, there were three conditions: Linear, in which players got a harder level after completing an easier level; Choice, in which players pick whether the next level is easier or harder than the last; and, Adaptive, in which an algorithm determines the difficulty of the next level. The goal of the study was to determine if condition impacted engagement. The results found that those in the Choice and Adaptive conditions did not report higher engagement, higher affect, or lower levels of cognitive load. Those in Adaptive condition played fewer levels, yet achieved greater difficulty than other conditions. Ultimately, there were no differences in length of time played. Adaptive leveling, when done appropriately, can lead to exposure to more challenge (and choice can lead to players selecting less challenge).


Andersen, E., O’Rourke, E., Liu, Y., Snider, R., Lowdermilk, J., Truong, D., Cooper, S., & Popovic, Z. (2012). The impact of tutorials on games of varying complexity. Paper Presented at CHI’12, Austin, TX.

Chen, Z., Liao, C. C. Y., Cheng, H. N. H., Yeh, C. Y. C., & Chan, T. (2012). Influences of game quests on pupils’ enjoyment and goal-pursuing in math learning. Educational Technology & Society, 15(2), 317-327.

Gonzalez, C., Saner, L. D., & Eisenberg, L. Z. (2012). Learning to stand in the other’s shoes: A computer video game experience of the Israeli-Palenstinian Conflict. Social Science Computer View, Sage Publications.

Green, C. S., Sugarman, M. A., Medford, K., Klobusicky, E., & Bavelier, D. (2012). The effect of action video game experience on task-switching. Computers in Human Behavior, 28, 984-994.

Powers, K. L., Brooks, P. J., Aldrich, N. J., Palladino, M. A., & Alfieri, L. (2012). Effects of video-game play on information processing: a meta-analytic investigation. Psychomomic Bulletin & Review, 1-25.

Sharek, D. J. (2012). Investigating real-time predictors of engagement: Implications for adaptive video games and online training (unpublished docotral dissertation). North Carolina State University, Raleigh NC.

Smith, P. A. (2012). Cooperative versus competitive goal structures in learning game (unpublished doctoral dissertation). University of Central Florida, Orlando, FL.

Thom, J., Millen, D. R., & DiMicco, J. (2012). Removing Gamification from an Enterprise Social Networking System. Proceedings ACM Conference on Computers Supporting Collaborative Work. New York: ACM.

Ventura, M., Shute, V., & Zhao, W. (2012). The relationship between video game use and a performance-based measure of persistence. Computers in Education, 60, 52-58.

Wang, L. & Chen, M. (2012). The effects of learning style and gender consciousness on novice’s learning from playing educational games. Knowledge Management & E-Learning: An International Journal, 4(1), 63-77.

One Response to “GameTech: Top Ten Research Findings in Games from 2012”

  1. Katelyn Procci says:

    In reference to #9, there was a meta-analysis published in 2013 about a similar topic, but it supports the results. Basically, games do not improve working memory (the higher-order function):

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