This page was created to share publications and resources with the research and game design communities from my collaborative research on why people play games, how people play, and what different individuals enjoy most about playing games.

Carrie Heeter ( is a PI in the Michigan State University GEL (Games for Entertainment and Learning) Lab where she studies game analytics, gender and gaming, play styles and player motivations.  Brian Magerko’s ( ) Adaptive Media (ADAM) Lab at Georgia Institute of Technology explores how to create digital media experiences that tailor themselves to individual users. Yu-Hao Lee (  is a recently graduate Michigan State University doctoral student. Ben Medler ( earned an MA from Michigan State University and PhD from Georgia Institute of Technology while working on this project.

This research was partially supported by an NSF grant (#0943064: Motivation and Serious Gaming).    The opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not represent Michigan State University, Georgia Institute of Technology, or the National Science Foundation.

SURVEY SCALES (including theoretical background, survey items, calculation instructions, and an example where we used the scale)


The underlying premise of our work is this:

When people play games for entertainment, they are free to choose whether to play at all and which games to play.  So-called “serious games” appropriate a media form players are accustomed to enjoying as entertainment –for serious goals.  Rather than voluntary and fun, a serious game may in fact be a mandatory class assignment, a required part of corporate training, or a prescribed activity to improve brain health.  Serious games face a much more diverse player audience than players of entertainment games because the audience is not self-selected.    A serious game’s audience may include those who rarely play any kind of game (i.e. “non-gamers”) and those who dislike and normally avoid playing the genre used by that particular game.  The ramifications of this are obvious, though surprisingly overlooked in the digital game-based learning community at present: while certain games may be fun for many people (e.g., the Civilization series of games are some of the best-selling games ever and are widely used as educational games (Squire, 2005)), they may not be “fun,” “engaging,” “motivating,” or whatever other words may be used to describe the rationale for using games by academics or designers for a distinct subset of the target audience.

Motivation is known to be important for school learning.  Motivation for serious games is likely to be a combination of players’ motivations for learning and their general gaming motivations.  It is not yet known whether players easily and enthusiastically adapt to games which do not fit their preferred gaming motivations, or if such mismatches interfere with engagement and learning.

By definition, serious games piggyback on players’ entertainment gaming experiences, yet they do so with no consideration of why and how different people play entertainment games, nor what the implications of those individual gaming motivation and experience differences are for how a serious game will be received.


Lee, Y., Heeter, C., Magerko. B., and Medler, B.  (2013). Feeling right about how you play: the effects of regulatory fit in games for learning. Journal of Games and Culture.

Heeter, C., Lee, Y., Medler, B., and Magerko, B. (2013).  “Conceptually Meaningful Metrics:  Inferring optimal challenge and mindset from gameplay.” In Seif El-Nasr, M., Drachen, A., and Conassa, A., Eds., Game Analytics: Maximizing the value of player data.

Heeter, C., Lee, Y., Magerko, B., Cole, C., and Medler, B. (2012).  Regulatory Focus and Serious Games: A Quasi-Experimental Study. Poster presented at the Society for the Study of Motivation ( in affiliation with the Annual Convention of the Association for Psychological Science (APS), Chicago.


Heeter, C., Lee, Y., Medler, B., and Magerko, B. (in press).  “Designing Gameplay Metrics to Identify Player Behaviors Associated with Failure to Benefit from Serious Games.” In Seif El-Nasr, M., Conassa, A., Drachen, A., and Isbister, K., Eds., Game Telemetry and Metrics: Maximizing the Value of your Data.

Lee, Y., Heeter, C., Magerko, B., and Medler, B. (2012).  “Gaming Mindsets: Implicit Theories in Serious Game Learning,”Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networks, 15(4): 190-194.

Moser, J., Schroeder, H., Heeter, C., Lee, Y. (2011). “Mind your errors:  Evidence for a neural mechanism linking growth mindset to adaptive post-error adjustments,” Psychological Science.

Heeter, C., Lee, Y., Medler, B., and Magerko, B. (2011).  “Beyond Player Types:  Gaming Achievement Goal,” SIGGRAPH, Vancouver, Canada: August.
conference proceedings: 

Heeter, C., Lee, Y., Magerko, B., and Medler, B. (2011).  “Impacts of Forced Serious Game Play on Vulnerable Subgroups,” International Journal of Gaming and Computer-Mediated Simulations (IJGCMS), 3(3), 34-53.

Magerko, B., Heeter, C., Medler, B. (2010) Tapping into the Hidden Potential of Serious Games: Accommodating Individual Differences. Interdisciplinary Models and Tools for Serious Games: Emerging Concepts and Future Directions. Van Eck, R., Ed.   IGI Global. 

Winn, J., & Heeter, C. (2009) Gaming, gender, and time: Who makes time to play? Sex Roles, 61, 1-13. 

Heeter, C., Magerko, B, Medler, B., and Fitzgerald, J. (2009). Game Design and the Challenge-Avoiding ‘Validator’ Player Type. International Journal of Gaming and Computer-Mediated Simulations. 1, 3, 53-67.

Heeter, C., Maniar, A., and Winn, B.  (2009).  Making Sense of Brain Games: A scientific analysis of game design in the brain fitness market. Game Developer’s Conference, San Francisco. 

Heeter, C., Egidio, R., Mishra,P., Winn, B. and Winn, J. (2009). “Alien Games: Do girls prefer games designed by girls?” Games and Culture. 

Heeter, C., Winn, B. (2008). Implications of Gender, Player Type and Learning Strategies for the Design of Games for Learning. In Kafai, Y., Heeter, C., Denner, J., and Sun, J, Eds., Beyond Barbie to Mortal Combat: New perspectives on games, gender, and computing. MIT Press, Cambridge, MA. 

Heeter, C. (2008) “Playstyles and Learning Styles,” in Ferdig, Rick, ed., Handbook of Research on Effective Electronic Gaming in Education, IGI Global.

Winn, B. and Heeter, C.  (2006/2007) “Resolving Conflicts in Educational Game Design Through Playtesting.”  Innovate 3 (2).

Heeter, C. and Winn, B. (2006). Using Player Research to Mediate Battles between Pedagogy, Learning Content, and Fun, presented at the Serious Games Summit during the Game Developers Annual Conference in San Jose, CA, March 2006.

Heeter, C., B. Winn, and D. Greene. 2005. Theories meet realities: Designing a learning game for girls. Conference Proceedings of the DUX (Designing the User eXperience) conference, San Francisco, November.

Heeter, C., Chu, K., Maniar, A., Mishra, P., and Egidio, R. Comparing 14 Forms of Fun (and Learning and Gender Issues) In Commercial Versus Educational Space Exploration Digital Games, International Conference on Digital Games Research conference, Netherlands, November, 2003. 

Heeter, C. Girls as Space Game Designers: Extreme baseline research: Designing for User Experience conference, San Francisco, June, 2003.