Comparing Voluntary and Mandatory Gameplay

Esther Kuindersma, Jelke van der Pal, Jaap van den Herik, Aske Plaat


Gameplay is commonly considered to be a voluntary activity. Game designers generally believe that voluntary gameplay is essentially different from mandatory gameplay. Such a belief may be a challenge for serious games, as instruction is usually mandatory. The article describes the outcomes of two experiments on the impact of voluntariness on the learning effect and enjoyment of a serious game. In the first experiment freedom of choosing to play a serious game was studied, with participants who had volunteered to participate. The results suggested that, contrary to the opinion of many game designers, being required to play a serious game does not automatically take the fun out of the game. The second experiment had voluntary participants and mandatory participants, who had to participate as part of a homework assignment. The outcomes show that mandatory participants enjoyed the game as much as the voluntary participants, even if they had to play the game for a minimum required time. These studies indicate that mandatory gameplay does not reduce enjoyment and learning effect.


serious games · effectiveness · learning effect · mandatory play

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