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A video game screen with the words game over on it.
Game Over

The concept of "serious games" in academic and research discourse has evolved significantly since its origination in Clark C. Abt's seminal work, "Serious Games," yet the current academic narrative may not fully encapsulate the transformative potential of games in educational settings. I am presenting an argument for a radical reimagination of the term "serious games" within academia and research to align more closely with the intrinsic qualities of gameplay that foster deep learning and skill development. The traditional focus on content and information acquisition as primary learning outcomes of game-based learning (GBL) is increasingly misaligned with the demands of the 21st century, where dispositional traits and complex skill sets are paramount.


The richness of gaming, as experienced by gamers who are deeply versed in game mechanics, dynamics, and game thinking, offers a more nuanced and potent framework for learning than what is often captured in current GBL research. My experience has made it clear that individuals who straddle the worlds of gaming, learning science research, and teaching bring invaluable perspectives that can rejuvenate the discourse on serious games. By shifting the focus towards leveraging games for developing critical 21st-century skills such as adaptability, critical thinking, collaboration, and creativity, which are inherently nurtured through natural gameplay, we can start to make GBL research more meaningful.




Re-evaluating the outcomes traditionally measured in GBL research means transcending the conventional emphasis on rote learning and content acquisition (what “is”), and instead focusing on skills and dispositional traits (what “could be”). The advent of individualized learning through AI coaches presents an opportunity to offload content-based instruction, thereby freeing up educational spaces for more targeted game-based interventions focused on skill and character development.


In advocating for this paradigm shift, I am calling for a collaborative effort among educators, researchers, and game designers to forge a new path in game-based education research. This path must honor the complexity and depth of games as tools for learning and recognize the diverse capabilities they can develop in learners. This approach aims not only to elevate the academic discourse on serious games but also to harness their full potential in preparing learners for the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century.


 

From Nodes to Knowledge: Mapping Game Dynamics with Eigenvector Centrality


In the intricate dance of game-based learning, where every choice and action contributes to educational outcomes, understanding the relational dynamics between these elements becomes paramount. Enter the concept of eigenvector centrality. This is a mathematical measure from network theory that offers a window into the importance of individual decisions within the complex web of game mechanics. By integrating this concept into the game design process, we embark on a journey to not only map out the endless pathways of learning but also to spotlight the most impactful routes that lead to deeper understanding and skill acquisition. In this section, we'll explore how eigenvector centrality can serve as a guiding star in the design of educational games, ensuring that each decision made by the player is not just a step in the game, but a jump towards meaningful learning.


Where do we begin? 


  1. We start by identifying the essential learning science theories and concepts we want to use as foundational rationale elements, such as SDT, SCT, Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, EVT, and others. These theories can help inform the design of game elements that promote engagement, motivation, and learning at the subatomic level (as moderators and mediators of individual choices)

  2. We can map atomic (ludemic) and subatomic levels of decision-making to broader game elements (mechanics, mechanisms, dynamics, components, etc..) and learning outcomes. For example, “exploration” can be linked to self-determination theory (SDT) by promoting autonomy and competence, while “challenges” can be linked to expectancy-value theory (EVT) by creating tasks that have value and appropriate difficulty levels for the learner. Each of these seeds the decision-making process. 

  3. Define nodes and edges: In the network of actions, each node represents a specific action or decision made by the player, and the edges represent the relationships between these actions. Some nodes will have higher eigenvector centrality, indicating their importance in the learning process. For example, a node representing a critical thinking task might have a high eigenvector centrality because it influences other nodes related to problem-solving and decision-making.

  4. Perhaps we model expert and novice sequences: Create separate networks for expert and novice players, where the expert network represents the ideal sequence of nodes (actions) that lead to the desired learning outcomes. The novice network, on the other hand, may contain less effective sequences, highlighting areas where intervention or guidance is needed.

  5. Compare and analyze sequences: Analyze the differences between expert and novice networks to identify areas where additional support or scaffolding is needed. Use this information to tailor the game design and provide targeted feedback or assistance for individual learners based on their unique sequences of nodes.

  6. Iterate and improve: Continuously refine the game design based on observed learning outcomes and feedback from players. As learners progress and develop expertise, their sequences of nodes should more closely resemble those of an expert, resulting in improved learning outcomes.



D&D Equipment Example

(Using an example related to “equipment” in the context of a D&D game)


Imagine a player has just created a new character (a rogue with a background as a criminal). The player's starting wealth is determined by the rogue class and the criminal background, as stated in the equipment section. The player rolls the dice and calculates that their character starts with 150 gold pieces (gp).


Based on this information, the player decides to purchase the following equipment: leather armor (10 gp), a rapier (25 gp), a shortbow (25 gp), a quiver with 20 arrows (1 gp), a set of thieves' tools (25 gp), a burglar's pack (16 gp), and a dagger (2 gp). The player spends 104 gp in total, leaving them with 46 gp.


In this example, the player makes a series of decisions in choosing the character and then based on their character's class, background, and available resources (gold pieces). These decisions are strategic and aim to optimize the character's equipment to enhance their abilities and chances of success in the game.


Loop in Eigenvector Centrality Theory and other players:

If we have a social network of individuals (a party), represented as a graph with nodes and edges. Each node represents a person, and each edge represents a connection between two people. Eigenvector centrality is a measure that calculates the importance of a node in the network, taking into account not only the number of connections (degree centrality) but also the importance of the connected nodes.


We represent the ludemic actions as nodes in a graph where edges represent the relationships between these actions. The nodes in this graph would be:

  1. Choose Rogue class

  2. Choose Criminal background

  3. Roll for starting wealth

  4. Purchase leather armor

  5. Purchase rapier

  6. Purchase shortbow

  7. Purchase quiver with 20 arrows

  8. Purchase thieves' tools

  9. Purchase burglar's pack

  10. Purchase dagger


To calculate the eigenvector centrality of each ludemic action, we need to establish the relationships between these actions. For example, choosing a rogue class may influence the choice of a criminal background, which in turn influences rolling for starting wealth and purchasing equipment.


Suppose we compare the player's equipment choices with those of an expert player strategist. The expert might prioritize different equipment or may allocate gold more efficiently. We can create an alternate set of nodes based on the expert's choices and compare the eigenvector centrality of each action in both scenarios.


In the global context, we can evaluate how the player's equipment choices impact overall gameplay and problem-solving. For example, the player might have a lower eigenvector centrality for "Purchase rapier" than the expert, indicating that this action is less influential on gameplay success compared to the expert's choice. This could be due to a more optimized selection of weapons or better gold allocation.


In the resource management context, we can focus on the equipment choices and gold allocation. Comparing the eigenvector centrality of each action in this context, we can see how the player's choices impact their ability to manage resources efficiently. For example, if the player has a higher eigenvector centrality for "purchase leather armor" than the expert, it could indicate that the player's choice of armor is more influential in managing resources but might not be optimal for overall gameplay.


By comparing the eigenvector centrality of ludemic actions in both global and resource management contexts, we can evaluate the impact of each decision on gameplay success and resource management efficiency. This information can be used to guide players toward making better choices in future games or adapting their strategy during the game.


By analyzing the eigenvector centrality of each decision, we can estimate the importance of each decision in relation to the others. This can help players identify which decisions have the most significant impact on learning outcomes, allowing them to focus on improving those aspects of their gameplay.


Eigenvector centrality values do not represent a net impact of all decisions. Instead, they indicate the importance of each decision in the context of all other decisions, with higher values suggesting a greater influence on the outcome. 


Different eigenvector values represent the sophistication of the gameplay. Higher eigenvector centrality values indicate that a decision has a greater impact on the overall outcome, and this can be seen as a reflection of the player's level of expertise or mastery in that particular aspect of the game. As the player becomes more experienced and proficient, they are likely to make decisions with higher eigenvector values, which can be associated with a higher displayed level of the skill defined by the connected learning outcome.



The learning outcome related to this example flow could be called something like  "Strategic Resource Management." This learning outcome would assess a player's ability to make optimal decisions regarding equipment selection and allocation, taking into account factors such as character class, background, and available resources. Strategic Resource Management also tracks with decision-making that occurs in learning scenarios. By tracking the eigenvector centrality values of the decisions made by the player, we can get an insight into how well they are developing their strategic resource management skills and identify areas for improvement.


Multiplayer (Parties) and the Introduction of AI

Tracking multiple players and using AI as a “co-pilot” for decision-making.

Imagine we have four players in a party: Player A, Player B, Player C, and Player D. An AI expert player acts as a party co-pilot during gameplay, providing guidance and suggestions based on optimal strategies. Each player encounters ludemes throughout the game, which require decisions related to strategic resource management (described earlier) at the atomic level. These decisions are influenced by micro (sub-atomic) factors, such as motivation, goals, prior knowledge, and skill, as well as macro-atomic factors, such as the game context and decisions made by other players. The game's central learning mechanic (overall outcome to be measured) focuses on strategic resource management, and the ludemic level includes multiple related individual decisions about allocating resources, including equipment and abilities, in the most effective manner. Note: In this model, the learning outcomes include improved resource management, decision-making, and strategic thinking skills, which are all part of “strategic resource management"


Player A is highly motivated (sub-atomic) and has strong prior knowledge of RPG mechanics. When encountering a lude-level decision related to equipment allocation, Player A makes a decision to prioritize the most powerful items for the team's current situation, considering both individual and team benefits. The AI expert player suggests a similar approach, validating Player A's decision. Player A's decision has a high eigenvector centrality as it strongly impacts the overall gameplay and aligns with the expert player's recommendation.


Player B has a strong goal orientation (sub-atomic) but limited prior RPG knowledge. When encountering a ludeme-level decision requiring the allocation of abilities, Player B decides to focus on maximizing their own abilities, neglecting the needs of the party. The AI expert player suggests a more balanced approach, considering the strengths and weaknesses of the entire party. Player B's decision has a lower eigenvector centrality, as it does not contribute significantly to the team's overall effectiveness.


Player C has good metacognitive skills (sub-atomic) and is aware of their own learning needs. When encountering a ludeme-level decision related to resource management, Player C chooses to actively communicate with other party members to coordinate actions and share resources efficiently. The AI expert player supports this decision as it aligns with the game's learning outcomes. Player C's decision has a high eigenvector centrality, as it influences the overall team strategy and aligns with the expert player's recommendation.


Player D has limited prior knowledge and motivation but recognizes the value of learning from others. When encountering a ludeme-level decision requiring collaboration in resource management, Player D decides to follow the AI expert player's suggestions closely. This decision is influenced by Player D's motivation to learn from others (micro factor) and the game's focus on strategic resource management (macro factor). Player D's decision has a moderate eigenvector centrality, as it contributes to the team's overall effectiveness but may not be the most optimal choice.


In this scenario, the eigenvector centrality of each decision represents the significance of each player's resource management choices in relation to the expert player's recommendations and the overall gameplay. Players with higher eigenvector centrality values exhibit more sophisticated gameplay and are more likely to achieve the desired learning outcomes, such as improved resource management, decision-making, and strategic thinking skills.




Or…without the AI influence


In the absence of the AI expert player's recommendations, the party's decision-making process will be solely based on the individual choices of each player. The eigenvector centrality values will still represent the significance of each player's decision in relation to the overall network of choices made by the party, but without the influence of the AI expert player. Let's assign imaginary hypothetical values to each player's decision:


  1. Player A's decision to prioritize powerful items for the team's current situation: Eigenvector centrality value of 0.45

  2. Player B's decision to focus on maximizing their own abilities: Eigenvector centrality value of 0.15

  3. Player C's decision to communicate and coordinate actions with the party: Eigenvector centrality value of 0.30

  4. Player D's decision to focus on a balanced approach to resource management: Eigenvector centrality value of 0.10


In this scenario, Player A's decision still holds the highest eigenvector centrality value (0.45), indicating that it is the most influential choice in achieving optimal outcomes for the party. 


The eigenvector centrality values also theoretically demonstrate the relative importance of each decision in achieving the desired learning outcomes, such as improved resource management, decision-making, and strategic thinking skills. 


Players with higher eigenvector centrality values are more likely to exhibit sophisticated gameplay and contribute positively to the overall success of the team, while those with lower values may need to adjust their strategies to better align with the game's learning objectives.


By comparing the eigenvector centrality values of the players' decisions, we can identify areas where the party could improve their decision-making and better work together to achieve the game's learning outcomes. Additionally, this information can help guide instructional interventions or scaffolding to support player growth in specific areas of the game.



Whether we use human gaming experts or AI-driven decision making as a guide, integrating eigenvector calculations using the Co-Pilot system offers players a unique opportunity to develop critical thinking, resource management, and problem-solving skills in a dynamic, engaging environment. This fusion of mathematics with interactive (fun) gaming paves the way for a new era of serious games, where entertainment and learning mix seamlessly, promising a richer, more immersive experience for gamers and learners alike.

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The introduction of Artificial Intelligence (AI) to K-8 students will mark a pivotal transformation in teaching and learning methodologies, presenting both groundbreaking opportunities and significant challenges (Naik et al., 2022; Jayanti, 2023). A pressing concern in this “ed-evolution” is the inherent biases contained within AI systems, which risk perpetuating societal prejudices, particularly those related to gender and race (Arajou et al., 2020; Bedué & Fritzsche, 2021; Dorton & Harper, 2022; Ferrario et al., 2020; Vereschak et al., 2021; Caliskan et al., 2017; Garg et al., 2018). In educational settings, these biases pose a threat to students' self-concept and identity formation, raising alarms about their long-term implications on young minds (RTI International, 2019).



To address these issues, this research seeks to answer the following critical question: "In what ways can teachers mitigate potential negative effects of AI implementation while supporting the positive action potential of this cutting edge tech on identity formation and students’ sense of belonging among racial and ethnically minoritized elementary and middle school students?" This question is pivotal, as it shines a spotlight on the need for a teacher-centric approach in navigating the complexities of AI in educational contexts.


Recognizing the essential role of educators in this transformative era, the proposed participatory intervention emphasizes the development of AI literacy as a core competence for teachers. This training is instrumental for educators to effectively navigate and mediate AI's influence within the classroom. The front-line intervention aims to leverage AI's positive potential while mitigating its negative aspects, particularly for underserved and underrepresented students. These students stand to benefit significantly from equitable access to AI tools, which can be a lever for social and academic advancement (Benjamin, 2019).



Furthermore, the introduction of AI in education is intricately linked to broader educational goals. By fostering AI literacy, the intervention aligns with objectives such as preparing students for a technology-driven future, promoting educational equity, and ensuring that the future of education is inclusive and progressive. This dual-impact approach not only enhances teachers' abilities to integrate AI into their pedagogy but simultaneously prepares students for a future where technology and AI act as prosthetics assisting in learning and the challenges of daily life.

By addressing AI biases through a teacher-led intervention, this research aims to create a ripple effect that benefits the entire educational ecosystem, ensuring a more equitable, inclusive, and technologically advanced future in education. (OECD, 2021).


Challenges In Finding One’s Self and Fitting In At School

The literature is clear on the fundamental role of identity formation and belonging in shaping students' developmental trajectories and future self-concepts. Research indicates that a strong sense of identity and belonging during formative years profoundly influences students' aspirations, academic achievements, and social integration, impacting their long-term life outcomes (Strayhorn, 2012; Voelkl, 1995). The introduction of AI tools into the educational ecosystem will play a crucial role in either facilitating or hindering this developmental process (Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University, 2023; Buolamwini & Gebru, 2018).



The Role Of AI in Shaping Identities in Digitally-Enhanced Classrooms

Recent studies have brought attention to the nuanced ways AI biases in educational tools can shape students' sense of identity and belonging. These biases, often mirroring societal prejudices, can negatively influence underrepresented students' self-perception and sense of inclusion, thereby impacting their academic engagement and future prospects (Arajou et al., 2020; Bedué & Fritzsche, 2021). The literature highlights the critical need for a conscious and critical use of AI tools to prevent the reinforcement of existing societal biases (Caliskan et al., 2017; Garg et al., 2018).


Design-Based Intervention Research (DBIR) and Co-Development with Teachers

The DBIR framework has proven to be an effective approach for developing educational interventions. It emphasizes collaborative, context-specific program development with active teacher involvement, seen as essential for creating responsive and impactful educational practices, especially in the realm of AI integration (Holm & Kajamaa, 2020; Holstein et al., 2021)


Next Generation Digital Natives: Teachers' Roles in AI-Integrated Learning

The literature robustly supports the crucial role of teachers in shaping AI-influenced educational experiences. It advocates for teacher training and development that focus on fostering positive identity formation and belonging among students. The expected roles of teachers from the research, outlined in Table 2, include facilitators, guides, and critical mediators of AI integration in the classroom (Beauchamp & Thomas, 2011; Hobson et al., 2009).




Theoretical Frameworks for the Study

The study adopts Social Identity Theory (SIT) and concepts from Digital Sociology as its guiding theoretical frameworks. SIT provides a lens to understand the impact of AI-generated content on students' social identities (Tajfel & Turner, 1979). In contrast, digital sociology offers insights into the broader social dynamics and relationships influenced by digital technologies in educational settings (Lupton, 2014).


Adding It All Up

This literature review establishes a comprehensive understanding of the critical intersection between AI in education and steps that can be taken to steer its impact on students' identity formation and sense of belonging in the right direction. By exploring how educators can effectively utilize AI tools to foster positive developmental outcomes, the review sets the stage for investigating transformative educational practices that align with the evolving digital landscape and the diverse needs of students. The proposed study, grounded in robust theoretical frameworks and supported by empirical evidence, will contribute significantly to the discourse on AI in education, emphasizing the pivotal role of teachers in this dynamic field.


Research Methods Overview

Drawing Up The Blueprints: Methodological Approaches in Researching AI Education

This intervention study adopts a participatory action approach, placing teachers at the forefront of integrating Artificial Intelligence (AI) in education. It involves a collaborative exploration of AI's impact within diverse school settings in a large northeastern city in the U.S., providing a realistic context to evaluate the efficacy and repercussions of AI interventions.



Fostering Active Participation in AI-Led Classrooms

Key to this research are the educators and students involved. The central figures include a technology curriculum coordinator from a federally funded MAGNET school and afterschool educators from a large non-profit organization. Their diverse expertise in technology integration is crucial for implementing and appraising the AI interventions' outcomes. Students, especially from underserved populations, aged 8-14 years, are pivotal to understanding AI's influence on vulnerable and underrepresented groups at an important stage in their psychosocial development. The study aims to capture the diverse experiences of these students during interactions with AI-enhanced learning tools.


Intervention Design and Implementation

The intervention framework includes several innovative activities aimed at fostering deeper engagement with AI:

  • "Digital Dualities: Quest for Authenticity" is an RPG designed to delve into the realms of digital and physical identities.

  • "Digital DNA" emphasizes the critical analysis of digital footprints.

  • "Mirror/Mirage: Visions of Self in the Digital Age" is an art project that encourages students to express and reflect upon their digital identities.


These activities, ranging from character creation workshops to gameplay sessions and narrative reflections, are orchestrated by teachers. This empowers educators not only to guide students through these exercises but also to glean insights into the students’ understanding and interaction with AI. Teachers will also partake in these activities, co-discovering the AI landscape alongside the students. 



Educators at the Helm: A Teacher-Centric Approach to AI in Education

A significant focus of this study is the identification of specific teacher roles. Table 2 outlined some of the anticipated responsibilities and functions of teachers within the research framework. Roles such as co-researchers in AI integration and advocates for inclusive AI tools underscore the project's commitment to empowering educators as primary agents of AI application in education.


Data Collection and Analysis

Qualitative methods form the foundation of data collection in this study. Techniques include: in-depth interviews with teachers to grasp their perspectives and experiences; detailed analysis of student work and artifacts, offering a window into the students' responses to AI interventions; and classroom observations to capture the dynamic interaction between students, teachers, and AI tools. Data collected will undergo thematic analysis to identify emergent patterns and themes, providing insights into the multifaceted impacts of AI in educational settings. Figure 1 (below) outlines the study flow. 



Looking Beyond: What Lies Ahead for AI in Educational Landscapes?

Key Findings and Implications

This research, grounded in Design-Based Intervention Research (DBIR), provides vital insights into the role of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in education, with a particular focus on the pivotal role of teachers. The study highlights the critical importance of teacher training in AI literacy, underscoring its impact on shaping students' identity and sense of belonging, especially among racially and ethnically minoritized, underrepresented elementary and middle school students. This aspect is not just an educational imperative but a socio-technological responsibility, ensuring that AI integration in classrooms is both ethical and effective.


Addressing Challenges and Limitations

While the research presents a forward-thinking approach to AI in education, it also recognizes potential challenges and limitations. These include the rapidly evolving nature of AI technology, the diversity of student populations, and the varying levels of teachers' technological proficiency. The research will address these challenges through continuous adaptation and refinement of interventions, ensuring relevance and effectiveness. 



References


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about automated decision-making by artificial intelligence. AI & Society, 35. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00146-019-00931-w


Beauchamp, C., & Thomas, L. (2011). Beyond 'what works': Understanding teacher identity as a 

practical and political tool. Teachers and Teaching, 17(5), 517-528. Retrieved from Taylor & Francis Online.


Bedué, P., & Fritzsche, A. (2021). Can We Trust AI? An Empirical Investigation of Trust 

Requirements and Guide to Successful AI Adoption. Journal of Enterprise Information Management, 35. https://doi.org/10.1108/JEIM-06-2020-0233


Benjamin, R. (2019). Race after technology: Abolitionist tools for the new Jim code. Polity 

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Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University. (2023). Exploring the 

Impacts of Generative AI on the Future of Teaching and Learning. Retrieved from https://cyber.harvard.edu/story/2023-06/impacts-generative-ai-teaching-learning


Buolamwini, J., & Gebru, T. (2018). Gender shades: Intersectional accuracy disparities in 

commercial gender classification. In Conference on fairness, accountability and transparency (pp. 77-91). PMLR.


Caliskan, A., Bryson, J. J., & Narayanan, A. (2017). Semantics derived automatically from 

language corpora contain human-like biases. Science, 356(6334), 183-186.


Dorton, S., & Harper, S. (2022). A Naturalistic Investigation of Trust, AI, and Intelligence Work. 

Journal of Cognitive Engineering and Decision Making, 16. https://doi.org/10.1177/15553434221103718


Ferrario, A., Loi, M., & Viganò, E. (2020). In AI We Trust Incrementally: A Multi-layer Model 

of Trust to Analyze Human-Artificial Intelligence Interactions. Philosophy & Technology, 33. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13347-019-00378-3


Garg, N., Schiebinger, L., Jurafsky, D., & Zou, J. (2018). Word embeddings quantify 100 years 

of gender and ethnic stereotypes. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 115(16), E3635-E3644. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1720347115



Hobson, A. J., Ashby, P., Malderez, A., & Tomlinson, P. D. (2009). 'Support our networking and 

help us belong!': Listening to beginning secondary school science teachers. Teachers and Teaching, 15(6), 701-718. Retrieved from Taylor & Francis Online.


Holm, P., & Kajamaa, A. (2020). Teachers' professional learning when building a research-based 

education: context-specific, collaborative and teacher-driven professional development. Professional Development in Education, 47(2-3), 345-362. Retrieved from Taylor & Francis Online.


Holstein, K., McLaren, B. M., & Aleven, V. (2021). Advancing the design and implementation 

of artificial intelligence in education through continuous improvement. International Journal of Artificial Intelligence in Education, 31, 101-130. Retrieved from Springer Link.


Jayanti. (2023). OpenAI’s ChatGPT Breaks User Adoption Rates to 1 million. Retrieved 


Lupton, D. (2014). Digital sociology. Routledge.


Naik, N., Hameed, B. M. Z., Shetty, D. K., Swain, D., Shah, M., Paul, R., ... & Somani, B. K. 

(2022). Legal and ethical consideration in artificial intelligence in healthcare: Who takes responsibility? Frontiers in Surgery, 9, 862322. https://doi.org/10.3389/fsurg.2022.862322


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all students. Routledge. Retrieved from Google Books.


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Exergaming combines physical movement and gaming, and has become a research focus for eSports. It has been found to positively impact cognitive functioning, physical fitness, and mental well-being. Exergames, or movement-based gaming, may require players to control game actions through physically active body movements or may simply require a suite of physical skills in order to be successful in a gaming environment.


Physical exercise has been shown to trigger various beneficial metabolic brain pathways and mechanisms that can enhance cognitive functioning (Thomas et al., 2012; Hötting and Röder, 2013; Voelcker-Rehage and Niemann, 2013; Bamidis et al., 2014; Erickson et al., 2015; Ballesteros et al., 2018; Netz, 2019). Studies have also indicated that combining physical and cognitive exercises yields the best outcomes (Fissler et al., 2013; Bamidis et al., 2014).

Exergames have been found to improve cognitive functions, such as attention and visual-spatial skills (Staiano and Calvert, 2011; Best, 2015; Benzing et al., 2016; Mura et al., 2017; Stojan and Voelcker-Rehage, 2019; Xiong et al., 2019), and physical factors, like energy expenditure and heart rate (Staiano and Calvert, 2011; Sween et al., 2014; Best, 2015; Kari, 2017). Additionally, they have been shown to positively influence mental aspects, such as social interaction, self-esteem, motivation, and mood (Staiano and Calvert, 2011; Li et al., 2016; Joronen et al., 2017; Lee et al., 2017; Byrne and Kim, 2019).


Exergames are known for their appealing and motivating impact, especially for physically less active individuals (Lu et al., 2013; Kappen et al., 2019). They have been shown to increase training adherence, long-term motivation, engagement, immersion, and flow experience in players from different populations (Valenzuela et al., 2018; Macvean and Robertson, 2013; Lyons, 2015; Lu et al., 2013; Martin-Niedecken and Götz, 2017).



For eSports athletes, exergames can provide a motivating and holistic training approach, helping maintain cognitive, physical, and mental processes to increase their performance and overall health. However, to achieve the desired benefits, exergames need to be specifically designed and evaluated by an interdisciplinary team of experts from the fields of eSports, game design and research, movement and cognitive science, as well as psychology (Plank Board and Game Ball; Beat Saber, ExerCube).


The table below is an example of a framework that includes some foundational exergaming skills, types of physical activities to strengthen them, and their relation to eSports or gaming.



Physical Activity and Cognitive Function


Physical activity and exercise have long been recognized for their positive effects on cognitive functioning and performance. Multiple studies and reviews have investigated the relationship between exercise and cognitive abilities, finding consistent evidence of the benefits of physical activity on various aspects of cognition.


Aerobic exercise, in particular, has been found to improve cognitive functions across the lifespan. A review by Colcombe and Kramer (2003) showed that aerobic exercise has significant positive effects on attention, processing speed, memory, and executive functions in older adults. Moreover, a meta-analysis conducted by Smith et al. (2010) found that aerobic exercise improved cognitive performance in adults aged 55 to 80 years, with effects on attention, processing speed, and executive functions.


Physical activity has also been shown to benefit children's cognitive development. A review by Tomporowski et al. (2008) found that children who engage in regular physical activity exhibit better cognitive performance, including improvements in perceptual skills, attention, and memory. Another review by Donnelly et al. (2016) provided evidence that school-based physical activity programs can enhance cognitive functions, including attention and working memory, and academic achievement in children.



The benefits of exercise on cognitive performance are supported by studies on the underlying neurobiological mechanisms. Exercise has been shown to promote neuroplasticity by increasing the production of neurotrophic factors, such as brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) (Vaynman et al., 2004), and growth factors, such as insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) (Trejo et al., 2001). These factors are critical for the growth and maintenance of neurons and synapses, which contribute to better cognitive performance. Furthermore, exercise can enhance brain perfusion, leading to improved supply of oxygen and nutrients to the brain (Hötting and Röder, 2013).


In addition to aerobic exercise, strength training has been shown to improve cognitive performance. A study by Cassilhas et al. (2007) found that elderly individuals who participated in strength training exhibited improved cognitive functions, including memory and executive functions. Another study by Liu-Ambrose et al. (2010) demonstrated that resistance training improved selective attention and conflict resolution in older women.

In summary, physical activity and exercise play a crucial role in enhancing cognitive performance across the lifespan. Engaging in regular exercise, such as aerobic activities and strength training, can improve attention, memory, and executive functions, which are essential for maintaining cognitive health and optimizing performance in various domains, including academics and gaming.

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