Games as Motivators
The past decade has seen rapid changes in the nature of computer games and gaming. Computer games have grown to become a huge part of the entertainment industry, outstripping both film and music sales revenue in the past few years, and found to be worth £1.5bn in 2010. The expansion in the games market has been fuelled in no small part by the diversification of gamers in age and interest; the average social gamer in the UK and US is now a 43 year old woman.
Research at Lancaster University into the nature and potential of gaming is currently being undertaken in the School of Computing and Communications by Dr Paul Coulton and colleagues. Dr Coulton’s work looks at the phenomena of computer games and game mechanics and their potential as motivators beyond pure entertainment.
This project, conducted in early 2011, brought together two groups of 14-18 year old from socially-deprived areas of Lancaster and Manchester. In collaboration with Let’s Go Global and Folly, Dr Coulton worked with the youths to co-design a ‘pervasive’ game to be played on foot in Manchester and Lancaster. The game allow two teams of players to compete by virtually capturing regions of the city using GPS-enabled mobile phones. The game brought the two groups together and motivated them to explore both their own area and another city.
The common understanding of computer games that participants shared provided a common literacy and understanding for the activity. The participants not only played the game, they had designed it and hence took ownership of it. The success of the project highlights the potential for engaging people using computer games and gaming.