University of Graz (AUSTRIA)
About this paper:
Appears in: INTED2009 Proceedings
Publication year: 2009
Pages: 1155-1164
ISBN: 978-84-612-7578-6
ISSN: 2340-1079
Conference name: 3rd International Technology, Education and Development Conference
Dates: 9-11 March, 2009
Location: Valencia, Spain
Game-based learning aims at the exploitation of the motivational potential of conventional video games for learning. Thereby one important source of motivation is gameplay in general and parasocial interaction (PSI) with the game-characters in specific. To date most conventional video games are designed for male players and gender-specific effects of PSI are largely unknown. However, first findings suggest very different reasons for males and females to play games. Thereby, with respect to existing video games, female players claim a lack of meaningful parasocial interaction and are discouraged by violence and stereotyped gender roles of female game-characters. Additionally, female players are less keen of competitive elements but rather attracted by the parasocial appeal of video games which underlines the importance of PSI for the motivational appeal of games and educational games, respectively.
To investigate this issue in a more systematic way, an educational adventure game with male and female game-characters was presented to male and female players. Participants were 55 (26 male and 29 female) school children at the age of m = 13 years. To investigate gender-specific differences a two group-design was used to compare male versus female players.
The dependent measurements included general motivational (intrinsic motivation and flow) and cognitive (cognitive load and learning) variables. Additionally, several specific aspects of PSI and identification (with the avatar) were measured. In particular, the male and female players’ PSI with the main male Non-Player Character (NPC) and the main female NPC were assessed. Furthermore, gender-specific differences in the identification with the avatar and the need and prospective desire for a strengthened role of female game-characters were investigated. All dependent variables were assessed by standardized questionnaires immediately after playing.
The results of the calculated t-tests (for independent groups) demonstrate a comparable general gaming behavior of male and female players with respect to intrinsic motivation, flow-experience, cognitive load and learning. However, with respect to the game-characters, several gender-dependent differences were found. First, female players (compared to male players) estimated the female NPC as more likeable and superior and indicated a higher liking and more interest in the interaction with the female NPC. Asked for the preference for the male versus the female NPC, only female players choose significantly more often the female NPC whereas for male players no accordingly differences were found. Furthermore, female players demonstrate a significant higher need for a female avatar compared to male players.
The found gender-dependent differences underline the need for a gender-fair game design. For female players not only the implementation of a female avatar but also a strengthened role of female game-characters is of special importance.

This study was supported by the EC-Project ELEKTRA (Enhanced Learning Experience and Knowledge Transfer)
game-based learning, parasocial interaction, identification, gendered gaming.