Why do we play the games? Exploring institutional and political motivations

Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Education & Training, 2009, 51 (5), pp. 460 - 475
Issue Date:
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The purpose of this paper is to explore why digital games based learning (DGBL) is spreading rapidly in all educational settings, when the literature does not provide clear empirical evidence of the pedagogical benefits. The paper seeks to understand why DGBL is constantly developing despite this lack of consensus about the learning outcomes. Design/methodology/approach - In order to identify the motivations for DGBL adoption and implementation beyond pedagogical ones, the authors use organizational theories to propose a three-dimensional framework in which pedagogical motivation is articulated with political (linked to local characteristics) and institutional (linked to the macro-environment) motivations. They then study the respective importance the three kinds of motivation in the adoption decisions and the implementation process of DGBL. To this end, they conducted a retrospective analysis of four embedded case studies in European business schools. Findings - The authors find that institutional motivation plays a major role in adoption decisions while political motivations can contribute to the decision but are not necessarily present. Isomorphic pressure is essentially mimetic for early adopters and combined with coercive elements for late adopters. Practical implications - During the implementation phase customization is mainly driven by political objectives while institutionalized ideas about the best way to implement the game are not typically influential. Originality/value - The study shows that pedagogical benefits are a prerequisite rather than the core motivation for adoption or implementation. Second, the study is a call for both academics and practitioners not to over-rationalize or under-rationalize DGBL and, more broadly, pedagogical innovations and adoption decisions.
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