Learning to Play or Playing to Learn - A Critical Account of the Models of Communication Informing Educational Research on Computer Gameplayby Hans Christian Arnseth
The proliferation of networked computers, gaming consoles such as the Sony PlayStation, Microsoft Xbox and Nintendo Gamecube and handheld devices such as the Nintendo DS and Sony PSP, have made computer gaming part of mainstream culture. This has also resulted in a renewed interest in this topic among educational researchers. In any case, the fact that computer games have become a major industry means that in many people’s lives computer gameplay features as a very pleasurable and entertaining, but also at times frustrating and challenging, activity. However, the pleasures and rewards of gaming are very much mediated by social relationships in and around games, and both their representational and ludic aspects get their significance through their embeddedness within specific gaming communities and cultures (e.g. Squire, 2002). That is to say, computer gaming constitutes and is constituted in socio-cultural practices. The aim of this article is to provide an argument for the relevance and fruitfulness of treating computer gameplay as a contextually situated form of practice. By working through a selective set of relevant research in terms of how games have been employed for the purpose of learning, but also the ways learning activities themselves might be orchestrated as a kind of game play, certain problems with treating games as specific texts or objects with specifiable effects on cognition and learning will be identified and discussed in some detail. Thus, this is not a review of research. On the contrary, it is a critical discussion of particular research practices including the theoretical models employed to understand and analyze games and learning. As such, the studies that are discussed are selected because they exemplify a certain way of doing and conceptualising research and not necessarily because they are particularly influential or extraordinary.
The rise in the popularity of computer games and developments in information and computer technologies more generally have resulted in a renewed awareness of the potentials of simulations and games among researchers interested in learning and cognition. For example, as regards decision making, navigation, military training or health care games and simulations have been widely used with a certain degree of success (Rystedt, 2002). Recently researchers have also become concerned with how players actually learn to play computer games including whether gameplay might constitute a particularly effective way of organizing learning activities (Gee, 2003). Moreover, since computer gaming seems to offer such motivating and rewarding experiences, educational researchers and policymakers have become concerned with whether games might become more integrated with official school curricula (e.g. Egenfeldt-Nielsen, 2005; Kirriemuir & McFarlane, 2004).
It is the interactive and multimodal features of computer games that have been proposed as being particularly powerful in regard to learning. In for example advertising campaigns for edutainment programs directed at parents, but also in public, academic and policy discourse more generally, computer games are often constituted as very potent artefacts with far-reaching consequences for individuals, society and education (Kirriemuir & McFarlane, 2004). What is more, one striking feature of gameplay that seems to be particularly relevant for education is the fact that children and adolescents seem to invest a considerable amount of time and effort in accomplishing tasks that are often very difficult and time consuming.
The topic of this article concerns how computer gameplay has been conceived in educational research on learning and literacy.1 The main aim is to critically examine how the relationship between gaming and learning, or, to put it differently, between the activity of playing and various cognitive states and processes, has been, and can be, conceived in both educational research and the emerging cross-disciplinary field of game studies. In order to provide a critical account of research practices, it is crucial to scrutinise the models of communication informing various accounts of the potentials and dangers of computer games more carefully.
The fact that children, adolescents and adults learn important lessons about themselves and their surroundings by engaging in game-like activities is uncontroversial. Throughout social and behavioural science discourse on social and cognitive development, gameplay is regarded as an important arena for the development and formation of thinking, identities, values and norms (Cole, 1996; Piaget, 1951; Rogoff, 1990).
What is striking, however, is that, when it comes to research on computer games, research accounts still tend to be very dichotomous, apart from a few exceptions (Gee, 2003; Linderoth, 2004; Squire, 2003). That is to say, there is a tendency to view gaming in terms of its influences or effects on cognition, emotion and behaviour. This also holds for game research that operates with rather strict separations between the game as text and the activity of “reading” or playing the game. In psychology this distinction often implies that reading often is constituted as a kind of discourse processing where the “reader” is engaged in cognitively processing the meanings and structures that are so to speak inherent in the text. This does not mean that the text determines the meanings the player is able to take from the game, because the reading is also influenced by the player’s previous experiences. Even in Carr, Buckingham, Burn and Schott’s (2006) recent book on computer games there is a tendency to separate the text, the reader/ player and the wider cultural and material context surrounding gameplay. As regards research on learning and cognition this can easily lead to a reintroduction of transfer and implementation models. The quandaries that such research practices lead to will be outlined in detail below.
The main problem with studying and analyzing games in terms of their effects on cognitive states is that it is founded on a rather simplistic model of communication. Put simply, according to such a model, playing constitutes a process where something in the game is, so to speak, transferred into the mind. Information that is transferred is not necessarily unfiltered or undistorted; but, it, nevertheless, leaves traces in the mind or contributes in transforming various mental representations that are already in place. Later on these cognitive residues might resurface again in the form of specific behaviours, for example, as aggressive and violent behaviour or as advanced thinking and reasoning. Such a model is often taken for granted in much educational research on computer games. As such, the problem I am concerned with in this article is making visible these assumptions in order to make them available for critical scrutiny. Thus, the research question I attempt to address in this article can be formulated in the following manner: How is the relationship between the activity of gaming and cognition conceived in educational research on computer games, and what are the problems and opportunities for analytical practice?
My discussion of a selected set of studies constitutes one part of an argument for a more interactionist and practice-oriented approach to the study of computer games, learning and literacy. Put simply, according to such a model the potentials or dangers attributed to computer games are seen as shaped by specific forms of cultural representation. From such a perspective, the computer game is not treated as a thing in its own right, but rather, as something whose meanings, functions and effects are shaped by how we use them and talk about them in different contexts (Hutchby, 2001; Heath & Luff, 2000). Consequently, it does not make much sense to offer global claims about computer games and learning, simply because the meanings that players take from games are rooted in specific contexts of use (Linderoth, 2004).
Two contrasting Views on Computer Games in Regard to Learning Answers to questions about whether or not computer games facilitate learning, tend to alternate between great enthusiasm and equally deep scepticism. Enthusiasts argue that children learn many important skills through gameplay, and, hence that computer games will make formal learning more pleasurable, motivating and effective (Mitchell & Savill-Smith, 2004). Sceptics tend to argue that computer games might have negative effects on people’s attitudes and behaviour (Anderson & Dill, 2000; Walsh, Gentile, Gieske, Walsh & Chasko, 2004). What is more, they suggest computer games will shift people’s focus away from more worthy activities such as reading and writing, doing math and science or playing outdoors.
It is primarily the positive aspects attributed to games that are relevant here. Still, the model of communication informing these accounts are more or less the same, meaning that this critical discussion is also relevant in regard to research that focuses on the negative effects of computer gaming on children and adolescents’ attitudes and behaviour. The basic thrust of the more positively laden arguments are that, since computer gaming seems to be such a motivating and rewarding experience, games might be a way of making learning more fun and pleasurable, and, by the same token, more effective and relevant (Kirriemuir & Mcfarlane, 2004). What is more, since games give the player an opportunity to act in a multimodal and interactive environment, games might foster active learning, or learning by doing. Games also seem to offer something which is acknowledged as increasingly important in research on learning: collaboration and sharing of ideas and strategies (Crook, 1998; Kumpalainen & Mutanen, 2000; Tudge & Rogoff, 1989) The popular image of the computer gamer as a "lone ranger" has been made increasingly problematic by research that has demonstrated that gaming for the most part is a very social and collaborative activity (see, for example, Gee, 2003). However, as mentioned above these powerful aspects of computer game playing are also something that raise great concerns among many researchers, policymakers and parents, especially in regard to games with controversial content, such as Grand Theft Auto or DOOM3.
Learning to Play or Playing to Learn
The distinction between learning to play and playing to learn which is put forward in the title of the article is worked up in order to mark out a significant distinction. It can provide some clarity in terms of how the relationship between computer games and learning can be conceived and pursued analytically. Thus, even though it seems to be a rather simplistic dichotomy, it is a way of categorising that signifies some important differences. As such, it provides a meaningful ordering that allows for a more systematic account of the models of communication informing mainstream research on games and learning.
The important point to make is that the order of words says something about focus and emphasis. Regarding playing to learn, the emphasis is on learning, which is to say that some content or skill should be the end result of game playing. As such, knowledge and skills are treated as effects or outcomes. In regard to learning to play, on the other hand, the emphasis is on the activity of playing. As such, learning might be regarded as an integrated part of mastering an activity, in this case, gameplay.
Having said that, the distinction is only partially helpful, in that it does not say anything about what learning or literacy is - about how we as researchers should understand or study these phenomena. Consequently, there is a need to complement this account with a more thorough discussion of what we mean when we talk about learning and literacy.
If we attempt to make sense of these terms by looking at different perspectives on learning, playing to learn is perhaps more in line with a cognitive approach to thinking and reasoning (Bransford, 1979; Gardner, 1985). According to such a view, cognition is conceived as something that happens in the mind. Learning then, is about the development of mental structures and processes. In research, an important issue to investigate more closely concerns whether computer gaming might be a more effective way of learning important content and skills. This does not mean that features of the gameplay context are treated as irrelevant. On the contrary, it is an equally important concern to examine how features of the context influence or trigger cognitive processes in different ways and the consequences this has for the individual’s reasoning. The point is that context and cognition are treated as separable entities. Literacy from this perspective is about the individual’s skills in reading, writing and comprehending oral, textual and other sign systems (Graesser, Gernsbacher & Goldman, 1997).
Learning to play on the other hand is a category that makes it easier to include the social, material and cultural contexts for learning. That is to say, the ordering of words directs our attention to the activity of gameplay. Consequently, we as educational researchers need to employ theories that are more sensitive to the importance of context (see, Lave & Wenger, 1991; Mercer, 2000, Kirschner & Whitson, 1997). However, this does not mean that learning to play cannot be couched in more cognitive terms and constituted as a generic skill. Still, this skill is often treated as an effect or outcome caused by the activity of gameplay, of reading a manual or of taking a course in computer gaming for that matter.
In contrast, when the focus is on the activity as such, gameplay is constituted as something you do and not something you just read or watch (see also Squire, 2003). Consequently, in order to make sense of how games are used and made sense of, there is a need to analyse learning as an integrated part of participation in social practices. In general, according to such a view, to learn is to gradually master various forms of tools and signs through the activity of using them for various purposes, and literacy is conceived as the ability to act in socially recognisable ways (Säljö, 2000; Gee, 2000). That is to say, literacy is conceived as the ability to use various sign systems as part of social practices and to be able to use them in a way that communicates to other participants in the practice so that you and others can negotiate meanings and perform tasks that are considered appropriate and relevant in the practice in question.
In order to expand on this account, it seems reasonable to claim that the different approaches, which are only alluded to above, tend to study gameplay in entirely different ways. Researchers favouring a cognitive perspective, tend to focus on how various outcome measures are caused by or related to different variables to do with features of the game, features of the person, features of the setting or features of the wider social, cultural and material context. The favoured methods employed are often experiments or correlational designs.
Researchers adhering to more social and cultural perspectives on the other hand, tend to favour more qualitative methods, where the locus of study is on the activity and how history, culture and artefacts mediate different practices that are typical of gameplay. As such, the emphasis is not so much on how different variables correlate, but rather, how agents, cultures and tools are mutually constituted by one another.
The argument that is being put forward here belongs to this latter approach. I will argue that the problems and opportunities attributed to computer games are closely connected to a view that constitutes the medium itself as something with inherent attributes and characteristics which is somehow transferred to the individual. Such a view is founded on a conduit metaphor of communication (Reddy, 1979). As I will attempt to demonstrate this is problematic for several reasons. Before I do that, however, there is a need to scrutinise exemplary research belonging to the various perspectives more carefully. In order to establish a certain structure I will employ the distinction presented above as a structuring device.
Playing to Learn
According to Kirriemuir & McFarlane (2004) edutainment programs, which are specifically designed learning programs drawing on features of game design, have not been particularly successful. Reasons for this might be that the games have been too simplistic, that tasks are repetitive and poorly designed in the sense that activities are limited to isolated skills or content, and, hence, they do not afford any active exploration (Kirriemuir & McFarlane, 2004; Mitchell & Saville-Smith, 2004). However, research on edutainment also demonstrates that certain programs might have positive effects (see Egenfeldt-Nielsen, 2005 for a recent and very comprehensive review). Nevertheless, according to Kirriemuir & McFarlane (2004) experience of gameplay seem to affect children’s expectations of learning, in the sense that they prefer tasks that are fast, active and exploratory with multiple and parallel channels of information. Traditional instructional methods might not meet such demands particularly well. Still, it is these kinds of games that have been popular as enrichment exercises in schools. According to Squire (2003), edutainment games targeted at specific skills such as algebra, have been popular because they can easily be integrated with traditional instructional methods.
Still, according to Kirriemuir & McFarlane (2004) many teachers and parents seem to recognise that computer games might support the development of valuable skills such as strategic thinking, communication, application of numbers and group-decision making.
However, even though the implementation of games in school settings has not been very successful, this does not mean that games as such might be irrelevant for learning. On the contrary, the problem might just as well be about how we organize learning in schools. This is a topic I will discuss in more detail below.
One way to structure research on the effects of gameplay on learning and cognition is to make a distinction between different units of analysis or, to put it differently, between what researchers treat as their dependent variable. As such, researchers might be interested in how features of the game influence reasoning, meta cognition, spatial orientation and so forth, or they might be interested in how features of learners or the context, influence how people perceive and engage in game playing. In regard to learning it is particularly the first issue that is relevant and interesting, and some interesting findings will be briefly addressed. In general, research carried out in regard to the issues mentioned above sometimes demonstrates a weak positive effect of computer games and sometimes does not show any effect at all (Squire, 2003).
Nevertheless, an important lesson to be learned from this research is that the contextualisation of gaming in regard to learning is probably more important than specific features of the game in its own right. That is to say, the instructional context is probably a more important predictor of learning. There is some evidence indicating that students do better when learning tasks are embedded in a context of gameplay rather than, for example, a paper and pencil test.
For example, Ceci and Roazzi (1994) compared children’s problem solving in two different contexts and discovered that context might be crucial because different contexts elicit different strategies and activate different knowledge structures in the mind, something which might allow for more efficient information processing. They found that students did significantly better when a task was presented in the context of a game rather than in the context of a test. Children were better at inferring an algorithm determining movements of a computer screen when the task involved predicting the motion of birds, bees and butterflies rather than abstract shapes such as triangles, squares and circles. After repeating the experiment with several different reasoning tasks, they conclude that children solve algorithms far better in a computer game context than in a “disembedded” laboratory context. However, they also report that the children’s reasoning was tightly bound to the specific context in question. Thus, children had problems transferring the knowledge gained in a computer game context back into a laboratory context.
There is also some evidence that strategy games such as SimCity enable group discussion and experimentation and facilitate the development of skills in mathematics, urban planning, economics, engineering, environmental planning and so forth (Kirriemuir & McFarlane, 2004). However, a problem with these kinds of studies is that they do not address which features of the context that facilitate children’s reasoning. Instead, they tend to treat gameplay as a factor that has discernable effects on behaviour and cognition. According to for example Squire (2003), the contextualisation of the game, the embedding of gameplay in collaborative activities and the quality of discourse surrounding gameplay, are probably more important if gameplay is to support learning.
However, as mentioned above, we run into a whole range of problems if cognition is conceived as being about generic knowledge and skills. That is to say, it is problematic to treat what children learn by playing, say, SimCity as a generic set of skills independent of the contexts where the knowledge that they learn is supposed to be invoked. As such, children might learn important things about urban planning by playing SimCity, but they might also learn that people can easily be manipulated. As such, whether SimCity actually is beneficial or harmful in terms of learning depends on how it is used, for what purposes it is used and how this use is embedded in meaningful practices.
These problems, among others, have lead some researchers to explore gameplay as an activity in its own right, an activity whose meaning is constituted by the contexts in which it is used. According to Squire (2003) what is missing from research on computer gaming are more naturalistic studies of how players experience gameplay, how gaming is related to other activities in young people’s lives and the diverse practices players engage in when gaming.
Thus, according to such an approach, the belief that computer games, for good or for bad, have inherent potentials for learning is made increasingly problematic. Of course, this does not mean that computer games are irrelevant in schools. On the contrary, as will hopefully become clear, close investigations into the activity of gameplay might inform the design of learning environments where students are active, draw on multiple resources and collaborate with one another.
Learning to Play
If we look at the activity of gameplay there are two different strands of research that will be discussed. The first concerns the design of learning environments where game-like features are included as part of the design in order to anchor activities in something students find meaningful, interesting and motivating. The second concerns studies of gameplay in its own right. Regarding the latter, investigations into gameplay might of course also be relevant in regard to the organisation of educational practices, but this potential relevance is not something which can be taken for granted.
Particularly interesting in regard to the former is the Jasper project developed by the Cognition and Technology Group at Vanderbilt University (CTGV, 1997). Through this design the researchers have tried to incorporate certain aspects important in game-like activities. In order to remedy some of the problems students encounter when they are exposed to abstract and unfamiliar knowledge, the group argue that it is crucial to anchor student’s activities in something they find meaningful. Their solution to this problem has been to make use of interactive story telling techniques which are built into the design of various course materials. The idea is that students should learn for example mathematics by engaging in the activity of planning a trip. This includes a whole range of different tasks. For example, that they need to calculate the amount of fuel required in order to travel a certain distance. The resources available in Jasper allow for multiple solutions and different levels of difficulty and, throughout, students are actively engaged in completing the game and solving the problems they might encounter on the way.
However, it is important to emphasise that it is not the resources as such which facilitate learning. On the contrary, its success is very much dependent on how it is incorporated into the practices of the classroom. Therefore, if the children do not articulate and argue about their solutions and make them available for discussion in public and receive adequate feedback from their teacher, it is not very likely that Jasper will bring about the desired outcomes (see also Tudge & Rogoff, 1989; Hakkarainen, Lipponen & Järvela, 2001). The Cognition and Technology Group, in their research on Jasper, has demonstrated that such a contextualisation of algebra, for instance, increases the probability that children will use algebra to solve problems in other contexts (CTGV, 1997). Still, research on transfer suggests that it is likely that such skills only only transfer to very similar contexts.
The study of computer gaming as a learning activity in its own right is an area of research which is just starting to emerge, and I will limit my account to one recent and promising study conducted by Linderoth (2004). In his work he has attempted to demonstrate how children make sense of various games including the resources and frameworks they draw on to make sense of what they are doing when they are engaged in gameplay. His study provides a fruitful corrective to accounts of inherent potentials or dangers in games which then have certain effects on children’s cognition and behaviour. According to Linderoth, the activity of gaming needs to be contextualised in a way that enables children to make sense of educationally relevant content. As such, children do not necessarily treat a game as a representation of something beyond the immediate activity of playing the game. More specifically, his results demonstrate that children make sense of one another’s actions by shifting between different interpretative frameworks in order to manage what they see on the screen. As such, even though computer games offer opportunities for immersion and interactivity, this does not necessarily mean that they are a more effective means for instruction.
An interactionist and interpretative approach to the study of computer game playing can of course draw on many different theoretical traditions spanning several disciplines. What is required is a theory of meaning, where meaning is treated as something that is constituted in action as part of social practices. To learn, therefore, is to become able to generate meaning that is considered both legitimate and appropriate within a particular social practice (Lave & Wenger, 1991).
A particularly interesting contribution in regard to computer gaming has recently been proposed by Gee (2003). According to Gee (2003), “Learning is social, distributed, and part and parcel of a network composed of people, tools, technologies and companies all interconnected together” (p.177). According to such a view, the object of study is how people in and through their participation in gaming activities construct social identities, relationships, competencies and languages. Thinking and reasoning is treated as something that is situated in a social, cultural and material world, and abstraction, something which might facilitate transfer, is something which arises out of situated actions (Gee, 2003).
According to Gee, to learn or to be literate is to master what he terms a semiotic domain. A semiotic domain consists of ways of acting, talking and using signs and tools within a particular social practice. Exactly what it is which constitutes a certain social practice cannot easily be pinned down analytically, because this is an important issue at stake for participants themselves. Instead, the concept is used in order to focus our attention on the patterns people usually follow in order to accomplish what they do. According to Gee, the principles and patterns through which members can recognize something as meaningful is continuously produced and reproduced in social interaction.
The crucial issue in regard to learning is to situate meanings so that children or students are able to make sense of the principles and patterns of a domain through their participation in practices associated with the domain. However, an equally important issue concerns the development of children’s meta-reflection about how a particular domain is organized both externally and internally. This means that children must be enabled to reflect on what are, and what are not, acceptable ways of thinking, acting and valuing within any particular domain. Children are of course experts in many semiotic domains that appear strange and unfamiliar to many adults. A telling example is children engaged in playing and talking about pokémon.
However, children often encounter problems when they are exposed to more formal ways of reasoning which are typical of the knowledge and skills taught in schools. Thus, the various semiotic domains taught in school appear unfamiliar because children are not able to situate the meanings in any meaningful context. Gee (2003) introduces a telling illustration when he compares learning a computer game by only reading the manual. According to him, students experience something similar when they first encounter textbooks in school, something which is still, largely, the most dominant medium around which instruction is organized. According to Gee (2003), semiotic signs in schools tend to float free of any concrete realisations in practical meaningful activities. This does not mean that meanings are not situated, but that, on the contrary, the activities and resources through which meanings are constituted are very difficult to grasp and make sense of for many students because they are so dissimilar to their previous experiences.
As mentioned above, projects such as Jasper are designed in order to remedy such problems. However, at this point it is necessary to discuss what it is about gameplay that makes it such an engaging and meaningful activity for many players, and what might make gameplay an interesting model for how learning can be organized in more formal settings.
In What Ways Might Computer Gaming Facilitate Learning Obviously, in education there are very different objectives and goals guiding the activities than in gaming where the objective first and foremost is to complete the tasks in the game. In most games the goal is not learning as such; but, instead, learning is rather a by-product of the gaming activity.
In his book, Gee (2003) lists a set of different learning principles which can be identified in computer game playing. I will briefly discuss some of the most important ones here. According to Gee, a particularly important aspect concerns the fact that computer games situate thinking and problem solving in a meaningful context. What is more, players encounter various signs and tasks in a multimodal environment where words, images, actions and sounds are intertwined with one another. Another important aspect is that computer games store some of the thinking and knowledge that a player gains while progressing in the game. In the same vein, the player does not learn by going from isolated elements to more complex structures, but by continuously interleaving between the two depending of the activity being accomplished. The player also learns about basic skills in a genre by playing the game. In addition, games also adapt to the players level of expertise and provide feedback appropriate to his or her level. They might also make learners aware of the problems and opportunities associated with their strategies in the game. In line with an activity-oriented approach to learning, most games value an exploratory approach, non-linear models of action and multiple solutions to problems.
However, even though these principles mentioned by Gee (2003) might explain why gamers are so motivated and engaged in the activity of gaming, these principles do not necessarily transfer easily to a school setting where the objectives are totally different. Nevertheless, what they do tell us is something about how learning environments might be organized in order to enable students to make sense of various school subjects. After all, schooling might be conceived as a form of virtual practice where students first encounter knowledge that might be of use to them later in life as members of various cultures and professions. On the other hand, it is important to emphasise that schools might have perfectly legitimate reasons for not using games or game-like activities. After all, while leisure activities are voluntary schooling is not. One could easily imagine what would happen if learning to play World of Warcraft became part of the official school curriculum. I would suspect that even though it might be an effective learning environment, many students would find the activity tedious and uninteresting as well as difficult to learn.
As such, there are good reasons for why schools might be sceptical about gaming in the sense that gaming has connotations that make us think about leisure activities. As such, to make gaming relevant in regard to a formal learning task requires that it becomes a specific focus of attention in talk among students and among students and teachers. That is to say, where the focus is not on the game as such, but where the game is seen as a resource embedded in the activity of, for example, learning science.
To summarise, changing institutional practices involves complex transformations, which might be facilitated by incorporating game-like features. But, gaming cannot or should not be conceived as something which in and by itself will make learning more meaningful, fun or pleasurable. Uncritical depictions of games as well-designed learning environments is also problematic because such arguments can easily be refurbished to suit particular economic interests prevalent in the gaming industry. This might pose a threat to the reliability and credibility of game studies as a field of research.
In this article I have tried to critically examine how computer games have been understood in regard to learning and literacy. I have attempted to show that models where the effects of computer games on cognition and learning are sought, are problematic for several reasons; the most important being that they do not enable us to investigate how computer gaming is enacted or the meanings which are constituted in relation to game playing. By paying serious attention to how players make sense of what they do, including the resources they draw on in the process, I believe that we as educational researchers can provide more realistic accounts of what computer gaming is about, how computer games might be used in order to facilitate learning in schools, and what, in fact, people learn when engaged in activities of computer game play.
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In order to do this I will take up and discuss a few selected studies in order to provide a more thorough examination. However, I believe that the studies chosen a representative of a more general approach to the study of computer game play. As such, the discussion carries relevance beyond the particular studies chosen, in that it discusses particular approaches to research as well as the general models of communication informing a particular strand of research. Still, such an approach necessarily implies that differences and nuances are downplayed in order to come up with a more generic pattern. Anyhow, I believe that such an approach is both legitimate and appropriate in regard to the question that I am trying to answer in and through this article.