Watching Gameplay or Playing Games: Measuring the Effects of Physical Interactivity on Language Learning


computer-assisted language learning (CALL)
game-based language learning (GBLL)
watching gameplay
physical interactivity
foreign language learning


Game-based language learning involves learners playing digital games for language-learning purposes. Such applications have predominantly involved users playing the games, as 'games' have been synonymous with 'play'. Nevertheless, watching gameplay online has gained significant popularity in which people elect to watch someone else play a game instead of playing it themselves. While watching gameplay has been addressed in the literature, its effectiveness for foreign language learning remains underexplored. In this regard, the main difference between playing and watching a game is the inclusion or exclusion of physical interactivity, or the utilization of a controller to manipulate the gameplay. This study includes a five-week experiment where thirty-two (n = 32) participants were assigned to player or watcher roles. A mixed-method approach was employed consisting of vocabulary tests, questionnaires, and interviews. The main results indicated positive vocabulary recall for both groups and slightly higher for the players. Nevertheless, no statistical difference was found. Additionally, the survey showed players expressing better attitudes toward pedagogy. Next, players recorded a higher mental effort and task difficulty, yet this did not hinder vocabulary recall or perceived effectiveness. The interviews suggest that, while some believed watching allows better learning opportunities, most participants felt watching games will hinder learning due to the loss of concentration.


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