A Guideline for Environmental Games (GEG) and a randomized controlled evaluation of a game to increase environmental knowledge related to human population growth

  • Charn Pisithpunth

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    People often have very little knowledge about the impact of unsustainable human population growth on the environment and social well-being especially in developing countries. Therefore, an efficient method should be explored in order to educate, and if possible, to convince the members of the public to realize the environmental and social problems caused by the unsustainable population growth. Digital Game-Based Learning (DGBL) has been highlighted by some studies as an innovative tool for learning enhancement.

    While only a handful of studies have scientifically evaluated the impact of DGBL on knowledge outcomes, the approach is an attractive tool to increase knowledge and motivate engagement with environmental issues surrounding population growth because of its potential to improve learners’ motivation and engagement thereby compared to traditional learning approaches.

    Therefore, the three primary research questions for this study are: 1) "Can a single-player digital game be an appropriate and attractive learning application for the players to gain insight about the relationship between the growing human population and the environmental issues?" 2) "How can we design environmental games for the players to gain insights about the relationship between the growing human population and the environmental issues via playing a game?" and 3) "What are the obstacles preventing the players from adapting environmental knowledge obtained from the learning mediums into the real-life?"

    To inform the development of an efficacious DGBL game to impact learning outcomes, critical reviews of environmental issues related to population growth as well as critical reviews of commercial and serious environmental games in terms of their educational and motivational values were undertaken in this study. The results of these critical reviews informed the development of a Guideline for Environmental Games (or GEG). The GEG was developed by combining the engaging game technology with environmental learning and persuasion theories.

    The GEG was then used to inform the development of a prototype game called THE GROWTH; a single-player, quiz-based, city-management game targeting young adolescents and adults. Multiple evaluation methods of the game were used to answer the three key research questions mentioned earlier. These methods included: 1) The Randomized Controlled Trial approach (RCT) where the participants were systematically divided into the experimental and the control group respectively and their knowledge scores (quantitative data) compared and analyzed, 2) The participants’ abilities to recall and describe the environmental and well-being issues were collected and analyzed qualitatively using The Content Analysis method (CA) and, 3) The participants’ overall feedback on the learning mediums was collected and analyzed to evaluate the motivational values of THE GROWTH itself.

    To this end, THE GROWTH was evaluated with 82 Thai-nationality participants (70 males and 12 females). The results showed that participants assigned to play THE GROWTH demonstrated greater environmental and social-well-being knowledge related to population growth (F(1,40) = 43.86, p = .006) compared to the control group participants assigned to a non-interactive reading activity (consistent with material presented in THE GROWTH). Furthermore, participants who played THE GROWTH recalled on average more content presented in the game when compared to participants who were presented with similar content in the reading material (t (59) = 3.35, p = .001).

    In terms of level of engagement, the study suggested that participants assigned to the game were more engaging with their learning medium on average when compared to participants assigned to the non-interactive reading activity. This is evidenced by the longer time participants spent on the task, the activity observed from participants’ recorded gameplay, and their positive responses in the survey.

    The semi-structured interviews used in this study highlighted the participants’ attitudes towards the environmental, social, and technological issues. Although the participants’ perceived behavioural intention towards the environmental commitments were not statistically differed between the two study group, their responses still provide some evidences that leaps may occur from the learning mediums to the real-world context. Furthermore, these responses can be valuable evidences for the policy makers and for the future development of environmental serious games.

    Overall, the results suggested that digital environmental games such as THE GROWTH might be an effective and motivational tool in promote the learning about sustainable population size, the environment, and the social well-being. The game’s ability to convince the participants to change towards sustainable lifestyles, however, might be subjected to the future research and other real-world circumstances such as the governmental and public supports.

    In summary, the research in this thesis makes the following contributions to knowledge:
    • The Guideline for Environmental Games (GEG) contributes to knowledge about making theoretically-based environmental games. It has particular significance because the guideline was validated by demonstrating learning improvements in a systematic randomized controlled trial.
    • The use of Multi-Strategy Study Design where multiple systematic evaluation methods were used in conjunction to provide conclusive findings about the efficacy of DGBL to impact outcomes.
    • THE GROWTH itself is a contribution to applied research as an example of an effective DGBL learning tool.

    Date of Award2015
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • Coventry University
    SupervisorPamela Kato (Supervisor), Petros Lameras (Supervisor) & Panagiotis Petridis (Supervisor)


    • Bangkok
    • Unsustainable population growth
    • Blocked Design
    • Biodiversity
    • Commercial games
    • Content analysis
    • Control Group
    • Digital game-based learning
    • Ecosystem
    • Environmental games
    • Experimental Group
    • Game-based learning
    • Multi-strategy design
    • Pre-test
    • Post-test
    • Random assignment
    • Randomized controlled tria
    • Serious games
    • Sustainability
    • Thailand
    • Two-way repeated ANOVA

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