L.M. Guay, D. Godin

Université de Montreal (CANADA)
Context and problematique:
For a long time, art was the only concern of aesthetics. With authors such as John Dewey (1934), the aesthetic has migrated from object to experience. In other words, the object itself is no longer where beauty resides; it is now in the lived experience of that object. This echoes one of Kant’s (1785) criteria of aesthetic judgment: purposiveness. According to Kant, we judge an object (or, in our case, an experience) as beautiful is we feel it has been designed with a purpose in mind. Saito (2007), much later, summarized these ideas effectively by stating: “the aesthetic and the practical cannot be neatly separated”, which implies that beauty, experience and functionality are co-dependent. Translating similar views to computer games, Arsenault and Bonenfant (2012) argued that, “[d]rawing on Spinoza, we can say that this beauty is not only a relationship between forces, but also an increase in the agency thanks to a union of forces in “composition” (as opposed to “decomposition”). In the order of composition, there is a balance of forces toward unity” and that, “[l]ike Dewey, [they] posit that the aesthetic experience is an experience of unity: it is being ‘as one’ with the game and the other players, uniting forces to increase them and maximize the experience – which then becomes an experience of the experience”. From these concepts and from Lessing’s works (1766), Arsenault and Bonenfant then extrapolate that unity allows for a ‘pregnant moment’ when the player “understands how the elements can connect together” and then for a ‘moment of grace’ when “the player executes the actions” that leads to the maximization of the experience. Since the learning experience of videogame players needs to be improved (Jarvinen, 2010; Ray, 2010), designing instruction as an aesthetic experience could be an enriching shift in paradigm.

Considering that learning is an experience for the player of any videogame, we set out to show that: 1) learning how to play a commercial game could also be an aesthetic experience in which the player could experiment pregnant moments and moments of grace; and 2) the pregnant moment and moment of grace are part of the learning system set up to teach game mechanics and dynamics.

In order to demonstrate this, we use the model of educational objectives hierarchy in commercial videogames established by Guay and Godin (2012) and the series of teaching events for electronic media gathered by Godin (2011). Through intercoder agreement (Cohen, 1968; Lombard, Snyder, & Campanella Bracken, 2004; Tinsley & Weiss, 2000), we show that both the pregnant moment and the moment of grace are recognizable in the learning system set up to teach 70 different game mechanics and dynamics taken from 10 different commercial games.

Results and implications: We believe that the explicitation of the manifestations of aesthetics in videogame instructional design can contribute to the integration of instructional design in the game design process and might lead to more enjoyable learning experiences. Our results may also inform research in usability and other design-oriented fields. From an educational point of view, our conclusions might contribute to a better understanding of the teaching mechanisms used in videogames and, in turn, inform researchers on ways to use videogames in traditional teaching environments, or help develop new approaches to teaching in general.