Over the past two decades electronic games have become ingrained in our culture. Children's fixation with these games initially alarmed parents and educators, but educational researchers soon questioned whether the motivation to play could be tapped and harnessed for educational purposes. A number of educational electronic games have been developed and their success has been mixed. The great majority of these games are designed for single players; if there is more than one player, the players are usually required to take turns playing. Although learning within a cooperative group setting has been found to be extremely effective, designing educational games to support multiple players working together has received little attention. Using a multi-player game format could provide the motivation that children need to learn and at the same time enhance both the achievement and the social interactions of the children. In order to design multi- player educational games we must understand what motivates children to play electronic games, how to incorporate educational content into electronic games, and how to develop appropriate multi-person educational tasks. An understanding of design issues for multi-user software is also required.
This essay is a literature review that addresses the issues involved in the design of educational electronic multi-player games. The relevant bodies of literature include human-computer interaction, electronic games, educational electronic games, electronic multi-player games, educational non-electronic multi-player games, educational software, and cooperative learning. Two of the most relevant areas of the human-computer interaction literature are Computer-Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW) and Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning (CSCL). All of the bodies of literature are discussed with respect to educational electronic multi-player games, areas where further research is required are noted, and general design guidelines for educational electronic multi-player games are offered.