Since the 1980s, video games have expanded rapidly and created a large and growing industry. Video games are a pervasive element of today’s society: as recent reports from Entertainment Software Association show, about two-thirds of Americans play video games. This phenomenon is not merely significant for children and teenagers. Statistics show that the average age of video game players is above 30 years old.
As millennials – also known as generation Y, generation N, or the net generation – enter the workforce, their mindsets and behaviours regarding their working environment have become important areas of study. It is essential for higher education institutions and employers to understand the differences and mindsets of young students and employees. One significant characteristic of millennials is the fact that they learn by doing; they tend to find traditional learning and working environments boring, which would negatively influence their performance and their encouragement to do well.
For several decades, the military has used games extensively, not only for simulation of complicated conflicts, but also for training officers and soldiers. By the end of the 20th century, other industries began following the lead of the military to deploy video games to advance their agendas. Today, video games have been deployed for various applications in many sectors beyond the military such as government, education, corporations, and healthcare.
When we talk about using video games not solely for fun, two overarching categories emerge: first, ‘serious games,’ and second, a more recent category known as ‘gamification.’ Serious games go beyond simple simulations by employing common elements in games, such as points, badges, competition, and so on for intentions that are more important than entertainment. Some leading interest groups have emerged from research in and practice on serious games, namely “Games for Health” and “Games for Change.” On the other hand, the concept of gamification has recently gained many companies’ attention, aiming to integrate game design elements in conventional non-game contexts.
Regardless of the approach through which an organization or school deploys video games (i.e. by using serious games or gamifying the design), all video games share certain design elements among themselves. One of the main elements that can be found in the core of most video games is competition. In the early stages of our research, we observed the engagement of MBA students in a competitive video game, which is designed for teaching students and employees to work with SAP’s Enterprise Resource Planning system.
The research on the use of video games in educational and organizational contexts is in its early stages. We believe that our research on the role of environment in video games can be a significant contribution to this developing research agenda. By further elaborating the impact of this key design element on engaging people, our work contributes to this emerging research stream. From a practitioner’s perspective, designers working on serious games and gamified systems will benefit by obtaining richer understanding of the factors that can lead to deep involvement of their users.