It is not actually simulations and educational games that increase learning and motivation; rather, it is the characteristics inherent to simulations and educational games that cause the effect.
I've summarized some different author's analysis of game characteristics:
- Belanich et al. (2004) Challenge, Realism, Control, Exploration
- Crawford (1984) Interaction, Safety, Conflict, Representation
- Dickey (2005) Interaction, Challenge, Story, Role Play
- Garris et al. (2002) Fantasy, Rules/Goals, Sensory Stimuli, Challenge, Mystery, Control
- Kapp (2007) Goals, Player Control, Feedback, Challenge
- Malone (1981a, 1981b) Fantasy, Challenge, Curiosity
- Prensky (2001) Rules, Goals, Conflict, Feedback, Story, Interaction
Characteristics common to the body of literature in both motivational design and educational games and simulation include: fun, learner control, relevance/importance, challenge, curiosity, and encouragement/feedback.
I would be naive to think that I have a complete list, so I'm interested to hear of other game characteristics readers have found to be motivating.
* Belanich, J., Sibley, D. E., & Orvis, K. L. (2004, April). Instructional characteristics and motivational features of a PC-based game. U.S. Army Research Institute for the Behavioral and Social Sciences. (Research Report 1822).
* Crawford, C. (1984). The art of computer game design.
* Dickey, M. D. (2005). Engaging by design: How engagement strategies in popular computer and video games can inform instructional design. Educational Technology, Research and Development, 53(2), 67-83.
* Garris, R., Ahlers, R., & Driskell, J. E. (2002). Games, motivation, and learning: A research and practice model. Simulation & Gaming, 33(4), 441-467.
* Kapp, K. M. (2007). Gadgets, Games, and Gizmos for Learning.
* Malone, T. (1981a). Toward a theory of intrinsically motivating instruction. Cognitive Science, 4, 333-369.
* Malone, T. (1981b). What makes computer games fun? BYTE, 6(12), 258-277.
* Prensky, M. (2001). Digital game-based learning.