Meta-Study: Virtual Reality Based Instruction is Effective

An interesting meta-study from researchers at Texas A&M looked at instruction delivered through videogames, simulations, and virtual worlds. While all were found to be effective, educational videogames were found to be the most effective.

Here is the abstract:

The purpose of this meta-analysis is to examine overall effect as well as the impact of selected instructional design principles in the context of virtual reality technology-based instruction (i.e. games, simulation, virtual worlds) in K-12 or higher education settings. A total of 13 studies (N = 3081) in the category of games, 29 studies (N = 2553) in the category of games, and 27 studies (N = 2798) in the category of virtual worlds were meta-analyzed. The key inclusion criteria were that the study came from K-12 or higher education settings, used experimental or quasi-experimental research designs, and used a learning outcome measure to evaluate the effects of the virtual reality-based instruction.

Results suggest games (FEM = 0.77; REM = 0.51), simulations (FEM = 0.38; REM = 0.41), and virtual worlds (FEM = 0.36; REM = 0.41) were effective in improving learning outcome gains. The homogeneity analysis of the effect sizes was statistically significant, indicating that the studies were different from each other. Therefore, we conducted moderator analysis using 13 variables used to code the studies. Key findings included that: games show higher learning gains than simulations and virtual worlds. For simulation studies, elaborate explanation type feedback is more suitable for declarative tasks whereas knowledge of correct response is more appropriate for procedural tasks. Students performance is enhanced when they conduct the game play individually than in a group. In addition, we found an inverse relationship between number of treatment sessions learning gains for games.

With regards to the virtual world, we found that if students were repeatedly measured it deteriorates their learning outcome gains. We discuss results to highlight the importance of considering instructional design principles when designing virtual reality-based instruction.


Merchant, Z., Goetz, E. T., Cifuentes, L., Keeney-Kennicutt, W., & Davis, T. J. (2014). Effectiveness of virtual reality-based instruction on students’ learning outcomes in K-12 and higher education: A meta-analysis. Computers & Education, 70, 29-40.



39% of Top Crowdfunded Companies are Game-based

Last year I noted the rise of Kickstarter in funding educational games. A year later, Entrepreneur Magazine has listed the top 100 crowdfunded companies. An astonishing 39 out 100 companies are game-based.

  • 19 are in the Video Games/Gaming category.
  • 16 are in the Tabletop Games category.
  • 4 are in the Games category

The largest company funded to date is OUYA, for the development of their $99 open source home video game console. Pronounced “OOO-yah,” the company raised an astonishing $8,596,474 from their Kickstarter campaign, which had an initial fundraising goal of $950,000.

Of interest to educational pursuits, the OUYA console is inexpensive, and is allowed to be modified by end users. It runs on the Android system, so any educational apps developed for Android users should be able to be played on the OUYA. Finally, Minecraft, which has seen successful educational appropriation, will likely be viable on OUYA as well.

I stated last year, “It’s possible professors and students may turn to crowd funding in the future when designing educational games for research purposes.” I stand by that statement. The potential benefits are becoming increasingly apparent.


Call for Papers – Religion in Digital Games

I received the following in a recent e-mail from Simone Heidbrink and Tobias Knoll at University of Heidelberg. Please pass this information along to interested colleagues:

The editors of “Online – Heidelberg Journal of Religions on the Internet” ( are pleased to announce the relaunch of the journal. It will come up with a new design as well as improved navigation and search functions. By establishing a peer-review system, we will renew our mission of publishing articles of a high academic standard from a multitude of disciplines.

We herewith invite researchers of all disciplines to hand in articles on their research dealing with religions on the internet. We are currently planning to publish 2 issues a year, one of which will be a special issue addressing a certain topic. The next issue to be published in December 2013 will broach the issues of “Religion in Digital Games” (for further information see Call for Papers below).

The journal is always keen to collect high quality scholarship on issues relating to religions on the Internet and welcomes submissions pertaining to all aspects of theses matters anytime to be published in a future issue!

Submissions and queries should be send to the following address:

***Call for Papers***

“Religion in Digital Games – Multiperspective and Interdisciplinary Approaches”

Special issue of Online – Heidelberg Journal of Religions on the Internet (, due for publication in December 2013!

Over the past few years, the scientific analysis of digital games and their cultural and social impact has become a growing field of research in various scientific disciplines. Sadly, the issue of religion as an (explicit or implicit) factor in the construction and reception of game worlds, rules and mechanics has been vastly underrepresented in most studies on the field. This negligence seems rather unjustified given the vast presence of e.g. religious symbols, narratives and player actions in popular games like The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim , Bioshock: Infinite and many others.

The special issue on “Religion in Digital Games” seeks to contribute to filling this gap in games research through a multi-perspective and interdisciplinary approach. We herewith invite scholars from Religious Studies, Cultural Studies, Social Studies, Media Studies, Game Studies, Educational Studies, Economics, Theology and other related disciplines to hand in proposals for possible articles which deal with all kind of religious aspects in the context of digital games, i.e. computer games, console games, mobile games.

The articles could (among others) broach the issue of
- game aesthetics
- gaming culture
- reception and recipient research
- ludology
- narratology
- content analysis

In order to present a broad insight into the aspects of religion in digital games, we invite theoretical, methodical and empirical studies referring to these or related topics. We are looking forward to receive the title and a short abstract (max. 250 words) of the planned article until June 30th  2013. The language of the Journal is English, for proposals in other languages please contact the editors beforehand.

Further important dates and deadlines are:

July 15th – Notification on the acceptance of your proposal by the editors.
September 30th – Submission deadline for full article.
October 15th – Deadline for comments, requests of revisions by the editors (if necessary).
November 15th – Submission deadline for revised articles.
December 1st – Publication of the Online Journal.

Please send your abstract and / or further inquiries to the following e-mail address:


#Gamestudy Roundup for April 2013

Here’s a roundup of some of the research on videogames I’ve been posting on Twitter. Follow me @EduGamRes, or search for the hashtag #Gamestudy to see more.

Diet techniques learned in Second Life transferred to weight loss in real life

Researchers at University of Kansas Medical School followed 20 subjects in a weight loss program, either visiting a clinic in real life or nutritionists in a virtual clinic in Second Life. Then all the subjects followed an additional six months of training in the game environment. The completely virtual program was found to be more effective.


Kids diagnosed with autism may be subject to greater likelihood of videogame overuse

Micah Mazurek at University of Missouri followed 202 children diagnosed as falling in the autism spectrum disorder, and 179 typically developing children. Those with ASD were found to engage in videogames more, and in social media less.

According to the MU News Bureau:

The study, “Television, Video Game and Social Media Use among Children with ASD and Typically Developing Siblings,” will be published in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. “Video Game Use and Problem Behaviors in Boys with Autism Spectrum Disorders,” was published in Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders.


Concept paper at SigBovik 2013 shows computer programs playing videogames

LearnFun and PlayFun are two computer programs. The first watches a human player engage in a videogame. The second one then plays and wins the game in a more efficient manner. The video shows author Tom Murphy play the first level of Super Mario Bros., then the computer program plays the level.


Study shows videogames don’t affect behavior

University of Glasgow researchers followed 13,587 children in the UK, finding that television screen time showed a minor effect on children, while videogame screen time showed none. The study contrasts with previous studies suggesting a link to violent behavior with increased screen time.


Action videogames may help students with dyslexia

Researchers at University of Padua in Italy found that regularly playing action videogames increased the reading abilities of children diagnosed with dyslexia. Non action videogame did not produce the same results. The increase was observed without additional direct phonological training.


Book Review: The Gamification of Learning and Instruction: Game-Based Methods and Strategies for Training and Education

As mentioned in a previous post, Karl Kapp’s latest book is The Gamification of Learning and Instruction: Game-Based Methods and Strategies for Training and Education. Recently my review of the book was published in the International Journal of Gaming and Computer Mediated Simulation.

Many thanks to long time friend of the blog Paul Waelchli, Rick Ferdig, Adam Bond, and Chris Hrobak.


EdMedia 2013 CFP due Dec. 12

Call for Participation

December 12, 2012

June 24 – 28  ·  Victoria, British Columbia
Victoria Conference Centre

EdMedia is an international conference, organized by the Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE).

This annual international conference serves as a multi-disciplinary forum for the discussion and exchange of information on the research, development, and applications on all topics related to multimedia, hypermedia and telecommunications/distance education. EdMedia attracts more than 1,500 leaders in the field from over 70 countries.

We invite you to attend EdMedia and submit proposals for papers, panels, roundtables, tutorials, workshops, posters/demonstrations, corporate showcases/demos, and discussions.


Book Review: Gaming in Libraries

I was honored to be invited by Emma Graham at University of Strathclyde in Scotland to review the book Gaming in Libraries by Kelly Nicole Czarnecki for the Emerald Journal Library Review. Since then, Amanda Cossham at Open Polytechnic of New Zealand has taken over as Book Review editor for the journal, and has maintained pleasant correspondence throughout the publication process.

Gaming in Libraries is written for librarians, and goes into great detail regarding setting up gaming (videogames mainly, but also card games and board games). Chapters focus on topics such as promotion, tying into educational outreach, tournaments, checkout management and more. I thought it was a great book that admirably fulfilled its purpose.

You can read the review with institutional access to Emerald Journals here. You can purchase Czarnecki’s book from Amazon at the link below.


Review of Serious Games for Medical Education & Surgical Training

I had a nice e-mail exchange with Dr. Marlies P. Schijven at the Academic Medical Center Amsterdam regarding a paper entitled, Systematic review of serious games for medical education and surgical skills training, appearing recently in the British Journal of Surgery. Below is part of the press release:

Serious gaming can be used to enhance surgical skills, but games developed or used to train medical professionals need to be validated before they are integrated into teaching methods, according to a paper in the October issue of the surgical journal BJS.

Researchers from The Netherlands reviewed 25 research studies covering 30 serious games published between 1995 and 2012.

“Many medical professionals may still have a rather out-dated view of the average gamer as being someone who is too young to vote, afraid of daylight and busy killing mystical dwarves in their parent’s basement” says co-author Dr Marlies Schijven from the Department of Surgery at the Academic Medical Centre in Amsterdam.

“However, the reality is that the average game player is 37 years-old and there are almost three times as many women using games as boys aged 17 years or younger.

“Although game-based learning is becoming a new form of healthcare education, scientific research on its effectiveness is limited. The aim of this review was to identify the value of serious games for training professionals in medicine and, in particular, surgery.”

Nineteen articles discussing 17 serious games specifically developed for educational purposes were identified by Dr Schijven and co-author Dr Maurits Graafland. Many of these covered team training in acute and critical care and dealing with mass casualty incidents, including nuclear events and hazardous materials. Others covered more specific areas of healthcare, such as training for coronary artery bypasses and knee joint surgery and assessing and resuscitating patients with burns.

Six studies assessed 13 commercially available games associated with, but not specifically developed for, improving skills relevant to the medical profession. They included sports, action, adventure and shooting games and were used to help surgeons improve their laparoscopic psychomotor skills.

The authors have made a number of observations as a result of their review. These include:

  • Serious games form an innovative approach towards the education of medical professionals and surgical specialities are eager to apply them for a range of training purposes.
  • Further research should define valid performance parameters and formally validate programmes before serious games can be seen as fully fledged teaching instruments for medical and surgical professionals.
  • Although a serious game does not necessarily have to be developed for an educational purpose to be an educational tool, such games cannot be seen as fully completed training resources.
  • Serious games allow multiple professionals to train simultaneously on one case and allow one professional to train multiple cases simultaneously. These skills are recognized as critical in reducing medical errors in dynamic high-risk environments, such as the operating room or emergency department.
  • Serious games can provide crisis resource training, with a large variety of cases, in a relatively cheap, readily available environment that provides a viable alternative to expensive simulators. Serious games also provide training environments for disaster situations and mass casualty incidents, including combat care.
  • Games need to be designed to fit into residency teaching programmes if they are to be used as a way of preventing medical errors.
  • Simulation and serious gaming represent ideal teaching methods to optimize the knowledge and skill of residents before they are entrusted with procedures in real patients. Educators and games designers should develop serious games that train professionals in order to maximise patient safety.
  • Although the cost of developing serious games can run into millions, this investment can be justified in terms of delivering better patient care and preventing errors and insurance companies could play a key role.

“Our review clearly shows that serious games can be used to provide surgeons with training in both technical and non-technical skills” says Dr Schijven. “However, games developed or used to train medical professionals need to be validated before they are integrated into surgical teaching programmes.”

The paper can be read free online at:

This is a very interesting paper. It shows the strides serious games have made in recent years, and that the medical profession is taking serious games seriously. Also noteworthy is the qualification that the integration of games into medical and surgical education and training should be subject to prior validation.


The Rise of Kickstarter in Educational Videogames

The Internet has given rise to a number of social things. Social networks such as Facebook, crowd sourced loans through sites like Lending Club, and crowd sourced venture capital through sites like Kickstarter.

Sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo offer entrepreneurs opportunities to get seed funding for their projects. Participants put a pitch up on the site, and anyone interested can contribute toward getting the project off the ground. To encourage donations, rewards are often offered such as t-shirts, a donor’s name listed in the credits, or other innovative ways of making contributors feel rewarded and part of the process.

Several independent game companies have used Kickstarter to launch various titles. Funding requests can be all over the place in terms of amounts. For instance, Mindblown Labs asked for $60,000 to start up a financial literacy game called Mindblown Life. Currently they list more than 650 contributors who have pledged $1 to $3,000. Contributors at the $3,000 level get a virtual statue programmed in the game that looks like them, along with an in-game achievement named after them.

As with videogames developed commercially, there are fewer educational titles than entertainment titles. Mindblown labs notes theirs is one of the few specifically educational offerings on Kickstarter. Also, the dollar amounts for entertainment titles can be significantly higher, something also seen in traditional development circles. Project Eternity, a title from Obsidian, has almost $4 million pledged through Kickstarter. Top donors of $10,000 are invited to the developers’ launch party and receive all benefits of lower tiered donors, including the design of an epic weapon, designing and naming an NPC, etc.

Along with the rise of historically accurate popular games, such as those in the Assassin’s Creed series, there is a corresponding pitch for historical accuracy in some Kickstarter-funded games. Science fiction author Neal Stephenson started a gaming company called Subutai, seeking to bring historically accurate sword fighting to videogames. For CLANG (think of the sound steel swords make), Stephenson received pledges of over $500,000 from about 9,000 backers. Donors of $10,000 received replica real world swords used in the game. Lower level backers received concept art and their faces digitized onto characters.

But even for small game developers, who may or may not wish to go digital, Kickstarter provides a means of obtaining modest funding. INversionGames, for instance, offers a word game playing card set developed by Scrabble enthusiasts. To produce the cards, they asked for $1,000, which was easily funded by 61 backers.

Crowd funding is becoming so popular for gaming, a new site specifically for game titles has opened, Gambitious, although for the moment it is more European-centric and operates in Euros rather than dollars. Crowd funding through sites like Gambitious and Kickstarter hold the potential for removing lack of funding as a barrier to new game development. It’s possible professors and students may turn to crowd funding in the future when designing educational games for research purposes.


Twitter Roundup for #GameStudy

As things cross the transom these days, they often get tweeted before they get blogged. Here’s a roundup for headlines and papers that made my #GameStudy hashtag.

World of Warcraft Improves Spatial Abilities in the Elderly
Anne McLaughlin and Jason Allaire, over at the Gains Through Gaming Lab at North Carolina State University, tested the effect on cognitive proficiencies for senior adults after playing World of Warcraft. The paper was published in Computers in Human Behavior. Here is the abstract:

The effectiveness of a game-based cognitive training intervention on multiple abilities was assessed in a sample of 39 older adults aged 60–77. The intervention task was chosen based on a cognitive task analysis designed to determine the attentional and multi-modal demands of the game. Improvements on a measure of attention were found for the intervention group compared to controls. Furthermore, for the intervention group only, initial ability scores predicted improvements on both tests of attention and spatial orientation. These results suggest cognitive training may be more effective for those initially lower in ability.

Nintendo Wii Balance Board Improves Balance for the Elderly
Cathy Craig over at Queen’s University Belfast in Ireland, presented a paper and demonstration of research professors from QUB and Trinity University Dublin have been working on that was funded by the Centre for Ageing Research and Development in Ireland (CARDI). Participants in the study showed 15% improvement in balance, and the professors are in discussions with a software development company to produce specialized gaming software. The efforts were publicized here.

Simulation Training is Critical for Modern Surgical Procedures
We’ve discussed game-based training for surgeons here and here. In a new paper in Archives of Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery, Marvin P. Fried over at Montefiore Medical Center and colleagues found surgeons practicing endoscopic sinus surgery on a simulator that only allows “leveling up” once proficiencies are met, to outperform the control group.

The news release is here, the Science Daily article is here.