Date of Award

Spring 6-2013

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Instructional Design, Development and Evaluation


Alan Foley


Challenge, Collaborative Problem Solving, Educational Game Design, Engagement, Game Goals and Rules, Sensory Stimuli

Subject Categories



This cross-case study examines the relationships between game design attributes and collaborative problem solving process in the context of multi-player video games. The following game design attributes: sensory stimuli elements, level of challenge, and presentation of game goals and rules were examined to determine their influence on game player's collaboration and joint problem solving processes. Six participants were placed into four collaborative teams and asked to play at least one video game. Three multi-player video games were utilized: Portal 2, Indiana Jones 2: The Adventure Continues, and Borderlands. Seven cases were identified based on a combination of teams and video games. Data were collected via observations of teams' gameplay and discourse as well as through questionnaires filled by the participants. The data from these cases were analyzed at three levels: Within game/within case, within game/across cases, and across games.

The results of this study confirm the game design attributes' potential influence on collaborative problem solving. The findings of this study indicated that the sensory stimuli elements with guidance functionality were more effective in promoting collaboration. In addition, subtle sensory stimuli elements used for guidance purposes were more effective at enhancing the collaborative problem solving activity compared to the prominent sensory stimuli elements. It was also found that when participants felt more challenged due to a complex task they were more willing to work together to solve the problems. However, the increased challenge due to a difficult gameplay mechanics did not promote collaboration especially for the inexperienced teams. The influence of presentation of goals and rules on collaborative problem solving was not robust. This study identified that ambiguous goals and rules promoted more conversation only for groups with healthy team dynamics therefore supported collaborative problem solving.


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