Students' attitudes toward playing games and using games in education: Comparing Scotland and the Netherlands

Thomas Hainey, Wim Westera, Thomas M. Connolly, Elizabeth Boyle, Gavin Baxter, Richard B. Beeby, Mario Soflano

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

33 Citations (Scopus)


Games-based learning has captured the interest of educationalists and industrialists who seek to exploit the characteristics of computer games as they are perceived by some to be a potentially effective approach for teaching and learning. Despite this interest in using games-based learning there is a dearth of empirical evidence supporting the validity of the approach covering the wider context of gaming and education. This study presents a large scale gaming survey, involving 887 students from 13 different Higher Education (HE) institutes in Scotland and the Netherlands, which examines students' characteristics related to their gaming preferences, game playing habits, and their perceptions and thoughts on the use of games in education. It presents a comparison of three separate groups of students: a group in regular education in a Scottish university, a group in regular education in universities in the Netherlands and a distance learning group from a university in the Netherlands. This study addresses an overall research question of: Can computer games be used for educational purposes at HE level in regular and distance education in different countries? The study then addresses four sub-research questions related to the overall research question:

What are the different game playing habits of the three groups?

What are the different motivations for playing games across the three groups?

What are the different reasons for using games in HE across the three groups?

What are the different attitudes towards games across the three groups?

To our knowledge this is the first in-depth cross-national survey on gaming and education. We found that a large number of participants believed that computer games could be used at HE level for educational purposes and that further research in the area of game playing habits, motivations for playing computer games and motivations for playing computer games in education are worthy of extensive further investigation. We also found a clear distinction between the views of students in regular education and those in distance education. Regular education students in both countries rated all motivations for playing computer games as significantly more important than distance education students. Also the results suggest that Scottish students aim to enhance their social experience with regards to competition and cooperation, while Dutch students aim to enhance their leisurely experience with regards to leisure, feeling good, preventing boredom and excitement.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)474-484
JournalComputers & Education
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2013


  • Computer games
  • Empirical evidence
  • Motivations
  • Comparative study
  • Education

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