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What Features We Like When We Like Educational Games

, , , Michigan State University, United States

AACE Award

Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education International Conference, in Savannah, GA, United States ISBN 978-1-939797-13-1 Publisher: Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE), Chesapeake, VA


We examine the effect of three kinds of game features—mechanics, themes, and genres—on player enjoyment of educational games. Although games are often thought to be more enjoyable than other learning activities, there has been little research on how game design affects enjoyment. Using data on 208 educational board games from the website BoardGameGeek, we examine the overall effect of mechanics, themes, and genres—and the specific effect of each individual feature—on players’ ratings of enjoyment. We found that themes explained the most variance in enjoyment; although this confirms that game design does impact player enjoyment, more detailed analysis suggests that these particular features do not correspond with themes as they are usually understood. Educators who create or implement games should therefore holistically evaluate the design of candidate games rather than concentrating on superficial connections to subject matter or promised enjoyment.


Greenhalgh, S.P., Koehler, M.J. & Boltz, L.O. (2016). What Features We Like When We Like Educational Games. In G. Chamblee & L. Langub (Eds.), Proceedings of Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education International Conference (pp. 554-561). Savannah, GA, United States: Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE). Retrieved February 18, 2019 from .

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