L2P NOOB: Examining Tutorials in Digital Games


  • Matthew Martin White Penn State Erie, The Behrend College


It has been well-noted that contemporary digital games tend to design for a relatively high skill threshold engineered to appease a well-entrenched and digitally literate audience (Hayes, 2005). Such design practices, however, serve to disenfranchise new and novice players wanting to learn to play. This novice-expert divide is a significant barrier to entry for individuals wanting to play digital games, and given that digital games are seeing increased use in pedagogical contexts (Akilli, 2007; Becker, 2007; Nieborg, 2011; Shelton, Satwicz, & Caswell, 2011; Ulicsak, 2010), such skill-based barriers further complicate the seamless incorporation of digital games into the classroom. In an effort to explore how we might bridge the gap between new and weathered players, I created three tutorials for World of Warcraft (2004) in an attempt to improve the existing tutorials for newer entrants to the game. These new tutorials offered different modalities of instruction, as well as instructional strategies in assisting newer players. Tutorials were designed using the Structured Sound Functions (SSF) model of instructional design, following the Attentional Control Theory of Multimedia Learning (ACTML). The tutorials were then analyzed for their effects on play outcomes, player engagement, and player motivations using the Dick and Carey (2011) three-stage model of formative evaluation. This work thus makes two important contributions. First, this research conducts a much-needed in-depth study of game tutorials, which is an area yet to be well-charted in the disciplines of either education or games studies. Secondly, by analyzing the results of the formative evaluation, I conclude that players react favorably to a faded or “just-in-time” instructional strategy—an approach to player scaffolding which showed significantly increased motivation for play, engagement, and play mastery among novice participants. Implications for game design and future research are discussed.

Author Biography

Matthew Martin White, Penn State Erie, The Behrend College

Game Development Program Faculty of Computer Science and Software Engineering Pennsylvania State University, Erie, The Behrend College