Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department

Curriculum and Instruction

Major Professor

Yiping Lou, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Sanghoon Park, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Robert Dedrick, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Ping Wang, Ph.D.


game-based learning, motivation, visual game design


The study of how aesthetic qualities of games affect student learning and motivational outcomes is an area in need of research in the instructional design field. Existing research in this realm is either lacking or does not provide comprehensive criteria for assessing its effectiveness on student outcomes. The purpose of this dissertation was to address this gap in literature by producing two articles based on a systematic literature review and a game-based learning quasi-experiment.

In Chapter Two, the systematic literature review gathered 44 studies published within the last decade to find trends in game design, visual game attributes, and research methods in STEM game- based learning studies. These trends were then compared to student learning achievement and motivational outcomes, and aligned with the findings of previous systematic studies. In Chapter Three, the experimental article tested a science inquiry game on 95 middle school students to see if a cartoon or realistic style of the graphics make a difference in student perception, game performance, and motivational outcomes. Ultimately there were no significant differences between the conditions, however the qualitative data revealed that students were sensitive to character facial expressions, the tone of the dialogue, and the amount of detail in the scenery. The relationships and contributions of these articles are discussed in Chapter Four.

Together these articles contribute to the body of knowledge by putting game aesthetics at the forefront and providing direct comparisons of how they influence the student learning experience. This dissertation was conducted in an effort to inspire enthusiasm for the study of aesthetics in game-based learning and provide ideas to consider for future directions.