Ute Ritterfeld

Meaningful Play Conference


Meaningful Play Conference, October 9-11 at Michigan State University

Ute Ritterfeld will be one of the speakers at this conference.


Whether designed to entertain or for more “serious” purposes, games have the potential to impact players’ beliefs, knowledge, attitudes, emotions, cognitive abilities, and behavior.

Meaningful Play 2008 is an interdisciplinary academic conference that explores the potential of games to entertain, inform, educate, and persuade in meaningful ways. The conference includes thought-provoking keynotes from leaders in academia and industry, peer-reviewed paper presentations, panel sessions (including academic and industry discussions), innovative workshops, roundtable discussions, and exhibitions of games.



Serious gaming: assumptions and realities

When the video games industry began decades ago, few would have predicted its’ phenomenal success in profits and size. Even fewer would have anticipated that digital games would one day be seen as a new educational tool designed to fundamentally change learning, teaching, and training for the upcoming generations. Interest in using games to educate, motivate, and change behaviour (here called: serious games) has grown tremendously in a brief period of time, and is supported by a truly international group of practitioners, civic leaders, health and human rights advocates, educators, gamers, and researchers. Serious games are building on the entertainment value of digital games, but they also add value through an educational component. In this respect, they represent a genre that was purposefully designed to be more than “just” fun.
In the beginning, the focus was primarily on skill practice, and the entertainment value diminished substantially during exposure. The more recent serious games initiatives, however, refocused on deeper learning in the context of an enjoyable experience and on broader educational issues outside the school setting. The claim for meaningful gaming experiences is based on the assumption that the gaming activity itself is intrinsically motivating by providing fun and hereby facilitating deliberate selection and persistence of playing, as well as a high likelihood of repetitive usage. Consequently, besides practicing skills necessary for gaming, the embedded content is thoroughly processed, impasses are overcome, and problems solved - at least, these are our hopes….
However, empirical evidence displays a more complex picture: Not every game that is designed to teach, educate, or train, does in fact reveal positive effects. Some have no effects or no better effects than traditional pedagogical materials; others have limited effects on some subgroups of users or only in some specific user contexts. Selected examples of game studies in science education will be presented to discuss possible mechanisms at work and illustrate the necessity for adjusting our hopes about serious games’ effectiveness to realities.



Meaningful Play