The issue of learner engagement is an important question for education and for instructional design. It is acknowledged that computer games in general are engaging. Thus, one possible solution to learner engagement is to integrate computer games into education; however, the literature indicates that pedagogical, logistical and political barriers remain. Another possible solution is to derive principles for the design of engaging experiences from a critical examination of computer game design. One possible application of the derived design principles is that instruction may be designed to be inherently more engaging. The purpose of this dissertation was to look for operational principles underlying the design of computer games in order to better understand the design of engaging experiences. Core design components and associated operational principles for the design of engaging experiences were identified. Selected computer games were analyzed to demonstrate that these components and principles were present in the design of successful computer games. Selected instructional units were analyzed to show evidence that these operational principles could be applied to the design of instruction. An instructional design theory—called Challenge-driven Instructional Design—and design considerations for the theory were proposed. Finally, suggestions were made for continued development and research of the instructional design theory.



College and Department

David O. McKay School of Education; Instructional Psychology and Technology



Date Submitted


Document Type





computer game, video game, engagement, instructional design, experience design, design theory, reverse engineering, agency, agentive learning, operational principle, feedforward, automaticity, learning experience, challenge-driven design, core component, primary generator, intrinsic motivation, recoverability, core performance, agentive means, variable challenge, thematic signaling, player presence, game world, self-consistent setting