Attitudes of Adolescent users of Electronic Games towards Extramural EFL/ESL Exposure and Language Skills - Gabriel Hjalmarsson

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Attitudes of Adolescent users of Electronic Games towards Extramural EFL/ESL Exposure and Language Skills - Gabriel Hjalmarsson
Attitudes of Adolescent
users of Electronic
Games towards
Extramural EFL/ESL
Exposure and
Language Skills
Gabriel Hjalmarsson

Department of English

Individual Research Project (EN04GY)
English Linguistics

Autumn 2020

Supervisor: Peter Sundkvist
Attitudes of Adolescent users of
Electronic Games towards
Extramural EFL/ESL Exposure and
Language Skills

Gabriel Hjalmarsson


Studies relating to Electronic Games (EG) and the development of language acquisition
for ESL learners have shown remarkable results. A Swedish study researching
vocabulary proficiency reported that “frequent gamers had a higher total mean score
than the moderate gamers, and in turn the moderate gamers had a higher score than the
non-gamers” (Sundqvist & Sylvén, 2012, p. 313). Regarding oral proficiency,
willingness to communicate and language strategies Horowitz (2019) illustrates that
verbal linguistic competence increases concurrently with extended periods of exposure
to EG. Games and grades in English similarly seem to have some overlap (Sundqvist &
Sylvèn, 2012; Uuskoski, 2011). “Massively multiplayer online games, role-playing
games, strategy games and shooter games also had noticeable statistically significant
correlations with good grades” (Uuskoski, 2011, p. 43). The adage of the more you use
it, the better you become seems to have further implications when the use of EG seems
to not only increase the average grades, vocabulary, and oral skills in addition to
possibly increasing the motivation of EFL students. However, a vital aspect that has
often been overlooked in other studies is how students and users of EG perceive their
own language learning and what implications this entails for learners of English. This
study consists of the attitudinal values of 50 adolescent students in an International
School in Stockholm towards L2 language skills and language motivation through EG.
In order to measure the study a quantitative analysis was conducted based on answers
from a questionnaire. The results showed that a majority of the students had positive
attitudes towards the use of Electronic Games (EG) and increasing their English
proficiency. It was additionally discovered that both receptive and productive skills
when playing were considered useful with significant differences between girl and boy
gamers. In regards to EG and student motivation to learn more in school by playing EG
a majority however found EG to not give any major contributions. Furthermore,
students believed they learned the most English at school although EG and other
sources had some importance.

Electronic Games, Extramural English, L2 acquisition, Attitudes, Motivation

1.     Introduction ............................................................................... 1

2. Background and previous research ................................................... 1
     2.1 Quick overview of the term electronic games ............................ 1
     2.2 Extramural English and outside the classroom learning .............. 2
     2.3 Attitudes towards electronic games ......................................... 3
     2.4 Motivational studies regarding gaming and L2 proficiency ........... 4
     2.5 Types of games played by boys and girls ................................. 5
     2.6 Previous studies of electronic games and language acquisition. ... 6
     2.7 Electronic games and grades ................................................. 8

3. Hypothesis ................................................................................... 9
     3.1 Research questions .............................................................. 9

4. Methodology ................................................................................. 9
     4.1 The questionnaire ............................................................... 10

4.2 Participants .............................................................................. 10

4.3 Ethical considerations ................................................................. 11

4.4 Limitations of the study and questionnaire. .................................... 11

5. Results ...................................................................................... 12
     5.1 Participants’ self-perception of English proficiency .................... 12

5.2 Attitudes towards EG as a medium for L2 acquisition ....................... 13
     5.3 Electronic game medium ...................................................... 13
     5.4 Genre and types of games. ................................................... 14

5.5 Frequency of games and other hobbies. ........................................ 15

5.6 Attitudes towards the usefulness of EG and EFL language skills ......... 16

5.7 Language Skill use for boys and girls ............................................ 18

5.8 Behavioral use of L2 skills in various game genres. ......................... 19
     5.9 The Impact of Motivation and Learning Environments. .............. 20

5.10 Where language learning takes place. ......................................... 21
6 Discussion and Conclusion ............................................................. 22
  6.1 Question 1 ......................................................................... 22
  6.2 Question 2 ......................................................................... 24
  6.3 Question 3 ......................................................................... 27

6.4 Conclusion and Future research ................................................... 29

References ..................................................................................... 30

Appendix A .................................................................................... 32
1.      Introduction
English is one of the most widespread and popular languages in the world. In terms of a
connecting lingua franca within online communities and social media it may very well
be the most influential and omnipresent language. A UNESCO report stated that
approximately 25% of the total content on the Internet is English based (Pimienta,
Prado & Blanco, 2009). Horowitz (2019) shows an estimate that seven hundred million
people, or 44 percent of the worldwide online population, play online video games.
English may be viewed as a dominant power online as well as offline within the gaming
community, with most of the users of Electronic Games (EG) using English as their
main language.

Considering that a relatively vast number of users that play games have English as their
lingua franca it is not surprising that there is a need to identify which effects this may
have on language learning and proficiency. The core skills of reading, writing, listening,
and speaking may all be present in a variety of EG depending on user preference and
specific game played. Although all aspects may or may not be featured in EG it is
seldom the case that all games include all aspects. This study aims to identify which
receptive and productive skills students believe they use the most or find most useful
when playing Electronic Games in addition to motivational factors and the use of EG in
education. Understanding the implications of what students themselves perceive as
stimulating and rewarding in terms of language proficiency and development may guide
the way for understanding what role EG may play in the future for both learners and
teachers of English.

2. Background and previous research
2.1 Quick overview of the term electronic games

During the 21st century the evolution of digitalized media has increased and the
emergence of a variety of games and game genres have emerged. The definition of a
game is according to the Cambridge Dictionary “an entertaining activity or sport,
especially one played by children”. With the increase in technology and smartphones
the gaming industry is now easier than ever to access. Often computer and console
games have been what is mentioned when talking about digital types of games.
However, with the inclusion of mobile games, VR games and other types of games
related to digital gaming it is necessary to find a term that includes a large variety of
gaming devices. Therefore, in this essay I will use the term Electronic Games (EG) to
encompass all the devices used for games today.

2.2 Extramural English and outside the classroom learning

English learned outside of the classroom is not a new phenomenon. Many second
languages (L2’s) are gained through implicit sources such as listening to other people
speak or watching a language on the TV. Several models have been presented
attempting to describe how language is acquired: Krashen’s input hypothesis, Long’s
interaction hypothesis and Vygotsky all define stages of L2 learning (Liu,
2015). Krashen (1992) for instance introduced several hypotheses for how language is
acquired, the foremost of these being The Input Hypothesis, which suggests that
language is acquired through comprehensible input: phrases and words that are
conveyed and understood. The respondent in turn must also be “open” to the input and
the understood utterance or message and these should slightly challenge the learner.
Similarly, the Simple Output Hypothesis and the Reading Hypothesis claim that
language is obtained through simply producing the language (Krashen, 1992). These
hypotheses relate mainly to the possible methods of accumulating knowledge by
exposure and unguided learning. All the previous definitions mainly focused on only
one type of exposure, which led Sundqvist to use the term Extramural English in 2009
to encompass both the input and output of unintentional learning outside the classroom (
Sundqvist & Sylvén, 2012).

What does Extramural English then entail for adolescent students of English? A large
amount of English that youths learn in Sweden is through unintentional input and
simply being surrounded by English. A study by Sundqvist (2009) showed that
Mediarådet surveyed large groups of adolescents in 2008 and found that TV was the
most common means of implicit Extramural English with 78% of the participants
watching English shows on a daily basis. The Internet was also used by 62% of the
participants stating that they used it daily. Another interesting side note from the study
is that the number of computers inside student’s rooms became larger than the number

of televisions which was a “paradigm shift” (Sundqvist, 2009, p. 29) in terms of which
was the most accessible medium for Extramural English.

2.3 Attitudes towards electronic games

Most types of digital media have undergone controversial discussions where both
positive and negative aspects have been lifted. With music and television, the arguments
have often revolved around how influential they have been towards youths’ attitudes.
With regards to EG, the outlook has however been rather positive. According to several
studies theoretical foundations that may be of great practical use to educators have been
found in video games (Galvis ,2015; Gee, 2003; Horowitz, 2019). Some of the key
factors have been that video games may allow students to create a situated space of
learning which gives the opportunity to be exposed to a target language both actively
and passively. Participants can create and adapt the type of learning input based on
which genre or game is chosen and furthermore give meaning and identity to the content
learned (Galvis, 2015). EG are also a past-time that is widespread and can provide an
opportunity to associate learning with a social and emotional sphere where youths tend
to spend a significant amount of time. Galvis (2015) states that “video games could
finally reconcile theory and practice in schools, and one may even add the need for
designing more suitable pedagogical materials for learners” (p. 112). Therefore, if EG
can be used as a tool to engage, motivate, and teach students at their own pace and
customize learning to individuals, the possible beneficial implications could be far-

Additional research has presented positive attitudes towards EG games and the
implications for L2 learners. Gee (2003) views EG as a tool that can challenge students
since they can be easily adapted for a variety of situations. Vygotsky’s and Krashen's +1
Hypothesis of Language Acquisition also suits well with the idea of learning material in
games that can be adapted to each individual player. The diversity of EG lets players
operate at the limits of their linguistic capabilities, while also trying to complete
difficult tasks. A few of the beneficial aspects of EG are summarized by Laveborn
(2009) encompassing the learning values of EG, their influence on L2 learners and the
motivational aspects that enforce learning. Some of these are “Active Learning/Co-
Design: Learners should be producers, not just passive consumers”, “The ability to use
literacy in order to solve new problems” and “Customization: Different learners need
different ways to learn” (Laveborn, 2009, p. 6-7). All these aspects relate to how EG
can be used at a personal level and how they let students find their own level of L2
proficiency and challenge themselves.

One area where EG have shown benefits is the idea of personalization when learning
and non-graded achievement which is the opposite of formal classrooms. According to
Horowitz “[t]he fact that learners can use English correctly or incorrectly, without the
risk of failure or criticism, may encourage them to use it more and thus create a sort of
English language comfort zone in which they maintain the behavior consistently”
(Horowitz, 2019, p. 386). While EG may challenge a player’s competence, traditional
school education “often operate[s] at the lowest common denominator” (Gee, 2003, p.
2). While teachers may have to focus on the weaker students to ensure everyone
completes the tasks at hand, EG theoretically gives students the freedom of limiting
their constraints by their own prowess (Gee, 2003). EG Extramural English and the
freedom and customization they can provide students are some of the major factors that
research discusses in comparison to classroom-based instruction learning.

2.4 Motivational studies regarding gaming and L2 proficiency

One of the common factors among users of EG is that there is an intrinsic will or
driving force that allows players to indulge in their game of choice. Whether this is a
means to socialize, learn, or simply be entertained there is always a motivating factor
(Gee, 2003). Although motivation as a concept is something cognitive science has yet to
define because of the many associated variables, the main point is desire towards an
objective. According to Gee (2003) motivation is the most important factor that drives
learning and in terms of EG and motivational aspects language educators willing to
implement video game-based learning must balance “entertainment, education, and
learners’ need[s]” (Galvis, 2015, p. 119).

Video games may be a tool for motivating language learners while also increasing
incidental learning. A study of elementary students in Korea (Suh, Kim, & Kim, 2010)
showed how players of role-playing games exponentially increased their language

capabilities in both receptive and active learning of English with motivation being a
large contributing factor.

Games as a communal platform for learning has features that are difficult to include in a
regular classroom environment. EG can include a variety of language inputs
simultaneously since many games include both active reading, writing, listening, and
speaking skills in order to play effectively. An additional feature that may increase
language learning is the motivational aspect of EG that allows players to associate
immersive gaming experiences with real life-situations. Horowitz describes the
sensation of relating gaming experiences with real-life specific situations and language
acquisition as the “Game Transfer Phenomena'' (Horowitz, 2019, p. 385). The idea of
connecting virtual games with reality has also been called the Tetris effect. The Tetris
effect can lead to gaming realities becoming so strong that “individuals have become so
immersed in the game that it patterns their thought[s] and even their dreams” (Horowitz,
2019, p. 385).

2.5 Types of games played by boys and girls

The large diversity of game genres on offer allows players a large amount of personal
choice. This in turn means that different genders, and people with extremely differing
interests, can often find at least one type of game capable of submerging them into a
virtual world that feels inclusive. A key feature of games is precisely the incentive and
voluntary will of players to purposely engage in a variety of tasks designed specifically
to challenge the user. The inherent incremental pace of many games is often what leads
to implicit learning, in combination with the effect of breaking boundaries or trying to
engage with more difficult content (Peterson, 2013).

Despite game genres differing greatly, there have been studies showing gendered
preferences associated with certain game types. In a study by (Uuskotski, 2011, p. 44)
the “game genres were divided quite clearly into genres favored by boys and girls”. In
terms of games preferred by boys the primary games were first-person shooters,
browser-based games, role-playing games and strategy games. A majority of the boys
also played sport-based games such as football and driving games. Another significant
difference between genders was that boys also played significantly more massively

multiplayer online games (MMO’s). One study showed that when it came to role-
playing games “only boys responded in the affirmative” (Sundqvist, 2009, p. 131),
which indicates there is a clear divide in terms of preferred genre between girls and
boys. When it came to the results of girls, the same Sundqvist study showed that girls
preferred to play music-based games, building and life-simulation games as well as
platformer games. The only game style both genders mutually shared was browser-
based games although this term is slightly obscure since a browser-based game may
relate to an enormous variation in terms of types of games genres.

2.6 Previous studies of electronic games and language acquisition.

The relation between language acquisition and EG has been previously observed by
Sylvén and Sundqvist (2012). Their primary observations were that boys in general are
more active in EG than girls, with almost twice as many boys responding to playing
frequently. In terms of L2 input a significant increase was found in vocabulary and
comprehension skills of avid gamers compared with non-gamers. Boys also
outperformed the girls in terms of the amount of vocabulary learnt and how long they
could play. Larger amounts of time spent playing was also included as one possible
reason for the uneven distribution. Boys might simply have spent more time playing and
therefore be able to increase their vocabulary by implicit learning.

Additionally, a measurement of the reading and listening comprehension portions of the
national exams showed that the students with high gaming frequency also scored high
within the vocabulary test. Furthermore, “the scores improved with each digital game
group, so that the frequent gamers had a higher total mean score than the moderate
gamers, and in turn the moderate gamers had a higher score than the non-gamers”
(Sundqvist & Sylvén, 2012, p. 313), indicating an increase of L2 proficiency based on
time spent with EG. Additionally, in terms of vocabulary acquisition it was found “that
intermediate to advanced-level learners increased their English vocabulary by 40%
through interactions with non-playing characters” while playing EG (Peterson, 2013, p.
78). However, learning through EG was “unsuitable for low-level learners, who seemed
to experience cognitive overload and gained little from the experience” (Peterson, 2013,
p. 78).

Another study by Suh et al (2010) researched how EG affected the reading, writing,
speaking, and listening skills of 220 elementary students in South Korea. The students
were divided into two groups, one group consisted of 118 students playing games while
the other group of 102 students retained regular face to face classroom-based education.

The gaming group was assigned to play a Massively Multiplayer Online role-playing
game (MMORPG) over a period of two months which replaced the standard English
lessons. In the gaming group there was no direct interference or instructions from the
teachers although both teachers and students were present in the classroom. The gaming
groups assignments were based on role-playing game element-based tasks such as
monster hunting and item acquisition which then led to a language level test. The
language level test in each unit consisted of at least one active or receptive language
skill such as completing quizzes, reading stories, or watching animations and
comprehension exercises. The students in the gaming group also competed against each
other in groups or player vs player.

The results of the Suh et al (2010) study showed that the mean scores differed
significantly between the gaming and non-gaming groups. In the reading, writing, and
listening portions of the test the gamers outperformed and had higher scores than the
non-gaming group. However, one skill that seemed to have no significant difference
was the student’s ability to speak, since no major differentiation was noted. According
to the study it is possible to see that the group working without structured lesson plans
but following a more game-based approach outperformed the more traditional teaching
style and improved in three of four subcategories of proficiency (Suh et al, 2010).

Piirainen-Marsh and Tainio (2009) showed results of increased speaking capabilities
based on repetition and interaction with EG. The study consisted of a limited number of
players over a period of five hours where they played Final Fantasy X (a role-playing
game with voice-over features). During the study the participants could be seen to
reproduce, practice, perform and be creative with the spoken material provided through
listening to the English audio from the game. The exposure to the target L2 combined
with a focused EG-based task provided meaningful interaction and the process of
mimicking speech to later create their own speech patterns and utterances indicated
growth of spoken linguistic capacity over a relatively brief amount of time. The players
could construct their own linguistic expertise and non-linguistic knowledge through
reaffirmation of game words and phrases. Through the interaction with the RPG genre,
an increase in the output of verbal production and awareness could be noted as the
participants produced “lexically, grammatically, and prosodically matching utterances
prior to their production in the game” while also displaying “detailed knowledge not
only of linguistic units but also of the subtle implications that utterances carry”
(Piirainen-Marsh & Tainio, 2009, p. 162). The implications of the study indicate that
gamers mimic, practice and produce their own variations of the content in the games
enhancing their language capabilities

2.7 Electronic games and grades

Grades are often a criterion for defining what an individual comprehends within an
educational environment. Several extramural activities have previously shown increases
in learner’s linguistic competence as well as proficiency over time. The correlation
between grades and EG have also recently undergone studies that show indicators of
increased proficiency based on time spent playing EG. This is based on the amount of
time spent playing and the average grades of students. One such study was of
approximately five hundred Finnish upper secondary students with ages ranging from
16 to 20 (Uuskoski, 2011). The results of the study showed that there was a correlation
between certain game types such as MMOS, Strategy games and Shooter games and
good grades in English. A specific focus was also placed on role-playing games where
there was a significant increase in terms of English proficiency and students’ grades.
The study concluded that many of the students that had high grades also had an elevated
amount of time spent on games. The results could possibly be attributed to language
input from EG though “it is difficult to say whether it is the genre, or the time spent
playing that is most influential in affecting English grades” (Uuskoski, 2011, p. 32). A
similar study was done by Sundqvist (2009) where five subsets of linguistic features
were calculated when students engaged in extramural activities. The study proved that
the students with the highest amount of Extramural English similarly had the highest
grades and the ability to perform well in school.

3. Hypothesis
Based on previous studies it is possible to assume that students exposed to English
through EG will find the experience engaging, motivational, positive and rate it as
highly useful. This study thus predicts the target group will be in favor of EG in both
receptive and productive areas of language learning as well as showing increased
motivation towards learning through EG.

3.1 Research questions

•How do students perceive their English L2 proficiency and the use of Electronic
Games to learn language?

•Which productive and receptive skills do adolescent ESL students find useful when

•Are there any perceived beneficial or negative aspects of Electronic Gaming and L2
language acquisition?

4. Methodology
The method for this study is a quantitative approach using a questionnaire and Likert
scale. Using questionnaires is a method often used to identify attitudinal and behavioral
characteristics (Dörnyei, 2007). According to Patridge and Phakiti (2010):

             “One of the most commonly used items in survey research is the Likert
             scale item. This type of item usually includes a statement, and then
             generally has four or five response options, typically including strongly
             agree, agree, don’t know (or no opinion), disagree, and strongly disagree,
             or some variation of these. These response options are then assigned a
             number by the researcher (typically 5 for strongly agree and 1 for strongly
             disagree), which can be used for quantitative analysis” (p.27)

The values of the Likert scale in this study ranged from 1 which was the lowest to 5
which was the highest. Additional questions (see Appendix A) in the questionnaire
aimed to identify which type of medium the students played, for how long and what

language skills they used while playing. This was achieved through using multiple
choice questions.

The language skills focused on in the questionnaire were the four productive and
receptive skills of: listening, speaking, writing and reading. In addition, four more skills
were added in order to try and widen the scope of the language skills the students
possibly use. These skills were grammar, vocabulary, social skills and learning
strategies. The mean values, standard deviations and percentage values of the questions
in the questionnaire where calculated using Excel and GraphPad.

4.1 The questionnaire

The questionnaire was created and administered through Google docs (see Appendix
A). It is composed of 20 questions in total. The 18 language-related questions were
divided into three sections. Questions one to four related to the age, sex and language
proficiencies of the students. Questions 5 to 13 relate to which type of game and the
amount of time they play and how proficient in English they believe they are. Questions
14 to 19 check which of the eight language skills the students perceive that they use the
most and also which they find to be most useful. Additionally, what they think they
learn from playing and where they believe they learn the most English.

The questionnaire was administered at Internationella Engelska Skolan in Stockholm
with a variety of ninth grade classes and took approximately 10-15 minutes to complete.
The students were given a link to a questionnaire and could fill it in online from the
school's computers. A portion of the students’ results were gained by the researcher
during classes while working at the school. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic and time
restrictions another portion of the results were received after the ninth graders
homeroom teacher gave the students the link to the questionnaire during their mentor
hours and after completing classroom assignments.

4.2 Participants

The participants were students from Internationella Engelska Skolan in Stockholm.
There was a total of 65 responses although due to the restrictions of the questionnaire 15
students could not participate. Five of the students were 14 years old and could not be

part of the study. Another two students were native English speakers and were omitted
and another eight participants did not play games. 50 participants remained, of them 30
were boys, 17 girls and three students identifying as other. Most of the students were
Swedish native speakers with five having another L1 than English or Swedish.

4.3 Ethical considerations

The students had to agree to fill out a form of consent which is included in the
questionnaire. For the results to be as unbiased as possible, the participants remained
anonymous and all responses were conducted online.

4.4 Limitations of the study and questionnaire.

Several negative factors arose after obtaining the results of the questionnaire. One
difficulty was initial low student participation due to Covid-19 and classes often being
very small as many students were not attending. This also caused an issue with other
schools that declined participation resulting in less student variation.

The questionnaire itself had several setbacks due to the design implemented by the
researcher. One of the main problems that arose was that it was possible to select
several answers in some questions which made some of the results inconclusive and
many answers needed to be removed due to this. The questions were also optional so
some students only answered certain questions but left others blank which will be
evident by the alternating N: value of some tables in the results section. An additional
complication was that in questions 14, 15 and 18 there were no indications of what the
numbers 1 to 5 entailed in the Likert scale. However, for all the other questions 1 was
the lowest and 5 the highest but the lack of clarity might have had some implications on
the test results.

The questions 14, 15, 16 and 17 also did not specify some of the terms, such as social
skills and language strategies. These complications became apparent in some of the
results when a few students seemed to think learning strategies meant gaming strategies
or strategies that related more to how to play rather then how to learn languages.

Participants could also choose to not fill out some sections which led to a deviation in
terms of answers. Some results sections had all or almost all the participant responses
while in others they were left blank so there are discrepancies in terms of the varying
number of responses in the questionnaire. Furthermore, questions 4,5,16 and 17 of the
questionnaire were omitted.

5. Results
5.1 Participants’ self-perception of English proficiency

The target group consisted of 50 participants in total. Of the languages spoken a
majority of the group spoke Swedish. Five participants spoke a variety of other L1
languages including Hindi and Mandarin. The target group could be considered a
relatively homogenous Swedish group in terms of their L1. In regards to the
participants’ perception of their English proficiency Figure 1 indicates that the students
have a very positive attitude towards their fluency levels in English. This view can be
seen in the Likert scale presented below where it shows values from “1=not good” to a
maximum of “5=very good”. Of the one to five scale none of the students chose option
1 or 2. Two (4%) took the third “quite good” option while 17 (34%) chose the second
highest value (4) and the remaining largest portion of 31 (62%) students opted for the
“very good” option.

                        How good do you think you are at English? (N=50)
              n=0                n=0               n=2               n=17                 n=31
           1 not good             2            3 quite good           4              5 very good

Figure 1. Self-Perception of English Proficiency

5.2 Attitudes towards EG as a medium for L2 acquisition

The students participating in the study showed a very positive attitude towards the use
of Electronic games as an instrument for learning English. Figure 2 shows the results of
a Likert 1 to 5 scale with the responses of 50 students. The results showed that 84% of
the students thought that EG could be useful or very useful. Six percent of the students
found EG somewhat useful while the final ten percent found games to not be very
useful at all.

                 How useful do you think electronic games are for learning
                                     English? (N=50)
                 n=1            n=4               n=3              n=21              n=21
            1 not useful         2          3 somewhat useful        4            5 very useful

Figure 2. Perception of EG and English proficiency

5.3 Electronic game medium

In Question 5 and 6 of the questionnaire (see Appendix A the students were asked what
type of EG they used and also which ones they used most frequently. The possible
options they could choose from were Computer Games, Console games, Mobile games
and Other Electronic games. Most of the students played several types of games and
were not limited to a specific medium. However, when asked which medium was used
the most the answers differed slightly with VR games completely disappearing. As can
be seen in Table 1 the type of EG most frequently used by students was the PC with
almost half the students (49%) using it. The second most common medium was Mobile
Games with 27% or 13 of 50 participants and finally 11 of 50 (24%) played Console
games. None of the students chose VR games as their main choice of EG.

Table 1. The most used electronic game medium (N=50)

 Medium                                                      Participants          Percentages
 Computer Games (PC)                                                  23                    49%
 Console (Video) Games                                                11                    23%
 Mobile Games (Ipad)                                                  13                    27%

5.4 Genre and types of games.

Figure 3 shows the EG genre which students perceived as having played the most.
Although many students play a variety of games it is still possible to see which genre is
played the most through the answers provided in the questionnaire question 8 (which
type of game do you usually play?). The students could choose between 12 of the most
common game genres. The options can be seen in Figure 5 with two options being
removed due to one having 0 participants (idle games) and the other option being “I
don’t play games”. In total this gave 10 options. Of the total 10 options the least used
were Real Time Strategy (RTS), MOBA, MMO and Education, with only one
participant each choosing them. Furthermore, Crafter games and Puzzle games had two
participants each. The categories that showed higher levels of student participation were
Role-playing games, Sports and First-Person Shooters (FPS). The largest portion of
students chose the unspecified “other types of games” category.

What type of Game do you usually play? (N=49)
   Number of participants

                                  Other    First   Sports   RPG   Puzzle   Crafter   Real Time   MOBA   MMO   Education
                                 Types Of Person                           Games      Strategy
                                  Games Shooters

Figure 3. Game Genre and Student Participation.

5.5 Frequency of games and other hobbies.

Figure 4 shows a representation of questions 7 (how many hours do you play EG?) and
question 11 (how many hours do you spend on hobbies besides EG?) from Appendix A.
The students could choose between 5 options ranging from 0-5h up to 30h+ each week.
The results show on average how much each student spent on EG as well as other
hobbies and activities.

There is a total of 47 student answers with 3 answers removed due to those participants
choosing more than one option. The majority of the students playing Electronic games
played between 10 and 20 hours. The main group of 17 students comprising 37% of the
total chose the 10-20h option while the other groups of 5-10h consisting of 12 students
(25%) and the 0-5h group with 10 (21%) had 10h or less gaming time a week. The
outliers that showed more extreme 30h+ gaming time each week were 6 (13%) of the
total and consisted entirely of boys. The gaming group with the lowest amount of
gaming time (0-5h) were on the opposite mainly girls.

In terms of other hobbies and activities the vast majority had sports as their main
interest as can be seen in Question 10 (What is your favorite activity?, see Appendix A)
and spent in general more time on these activities than with games. Of the total 47
responses 21 or 45% spent between 10 and 20h a week on other activities. 18 students
(38%) spent 10h or less and 8 students (17%) spent 20h or more each week. Overall, the
majority of gamers seem to spend around the same amounts of time playing games as
doing other activities.

                          Frequency of EG compared to other Activities (N=47)






          0               5                10                 15              20               25
                                           Number of participants

                                     Hobbies       Electronic Games

Figure 4. Frequency of Electronic Games and other Activities

5.6 Attitudes towards the usefulness of EG and EFL language skills

Table 2 shown below is divided into two different categories with eight language skill
sets in each. The first category is Personal Skill Perception use (PSP) or which of the
eight language skills students perceive they use the most. The second category is
General Skill Perception (GSP) where students rate how useful they find language skills
in general. By dividing these two categories and calculating the mean values it is
possible to see if there are any major differences between student attitudes. Eight skills
were chosen to represent some of the most essential skills when learning languages.
These consist of speaking, listening, reading and writing which are the productive and
receptive skills. Additionally, vocabulary, grammar, social skills and learning strategies
are included to further identify which language features students find the most
influential when playing EG.

The results from the PSP section in Table 2 show that reading was considered the most
      used skill for the students with a 4.1 mean. Other means of language skills that ranked
      highly were listening (3.8) and learning strategies (3.6) as well as vocabulary (3.5).
      Language skills that showed considerably less use were grammar with a mean of 2.4
      and writing with a mean of 3.2.

      The GSP values were slightly higher than PSP values in seven of the eight skills. The
      reading skill was the only exception with a difference of 0.1 (4.1 PSP>4.0 GSP) points.
      The results showed that listening was rated the highest with a 4.2 mean and reading
      with a 4.0 mean. Speaking was also regarded as very important (3.9) as well as learning
      strategies (3.7). The language skills that showed the lowest means in the GSP row were
      grammar (2.7) and writing (3.2). The two largest differences between PSP and GSP
      skills were speaking which held the largest difference of 0.7 (3.2 PSP
(PSP)        48           48          48         46         48            45          48         46
(GSP)        46           46          47         46         45            44          44         44

       5.7 Language Skill use for boys and girls

       Table 3 compares the responses of boys’ and girls’ behavioral values towards which
       language skills they use the most from question 14 (which skills do you use the most,
       Appendix A). Of the total 45 participant responses 29 were boys and 16 girls.

       The highest language skill mean average for the boys was listening (4.1) and learning
       strategies (3.8). The receptive skill of reading had a mean of 3.7 and the productive skill
       of speaking had a mean of 3.6. The skills that the boys ranked the lowest were grammar
       with a mean of 2.1 and writing with a mean of 2.7. The results of the girls showed that
       the highest means were in reading (4.2) and vocabulary (3.8). Writing had a mean of 3.4
       while listening and learning strategies shared a 3.2 mean. The language skills that were
       used the least by girls were speaking with a mean of 2.4 and grammar with a mean of

       The difference between the boys means (MB) and the girl’s means (MG) regarding the
       use of language skills can be seen by the largest deviations. The speaking skill showed
       the largest difference between the genders with a 1.2 difference (2.4 MG < 3.6 MB)
       while listening had a 0.9 difference (3.2 MG < 4.1 MB). The skill that had the least
       difference between girls and boys was social skills with 0.4 mean difference (3.1 MG <
       3.5 MB). The other skills had an average difference range between 0.5 - 0.7.

       Table 3. Perception of language skill use for Boys and Girls (N=45)

                                                                    Social Learning
              Speaking Listening Reading Writing Vocabulary Grammar Skills Strategies
Boys                3.6         4.1        3.7        2.7           3.3         2.1        3.5        3.8

Girls                2.4         3.2       4.2       3.4            3.8         2.7     3.1           3.2

StD Boys             1.4         0.9       1.1       1.2            1.3         1.0     1.2           1.0

StD Girls            1.3         1.3       1.1       1.4            1.2         1.5     1.1           1.5
Difference           1.2         0.9       0.5       0.7            0.5         0.6     0.4           0.6

29 Boys              29          29         28        27            26          27       27           27

16 Girls             16          16         15        16            15          16       16           16

        5.8 Behavioral use of L2 skills in various game genres.

        To identify if there were any significant differences in game genres, question 8 (which
        type of game do you play the most?) and question 14 (which language skills do you use
        the most?) were used. From these questions it was possible to divide the participants
        into gaming groups and calculate the mean values of the most frequently used language
        skills. The four genres with the largest number of players were Sports, First Person
        shooters (FPS), Role playing Games (RPG) and the category Other Games as can be
        seen in Table 4.

        What the results showed were that a majority of boys chose the Sports and FPS genres
        while mainly girls chose the category other types of games category. Additionally, the
        RPG genre had a variety of genders playing but the majority were boys. The following
        four sections are the mean values of each game genre in terms of which language skills
        are used:

            1. The Other games category consisted of ten girls, four boys and one other. The
               results showed that reading (4.6) and vocabulary (4.1) were the skills that were
               perceived as most used. Speaking had the lowest mean value of 2.9 and
               grammar 3.2.
            2. The sports genre was composed of nine boys. Of the eight skills that were
               featured listening had the highest mean (4.4) and speaking had a mean of (3.9).
The skills that were perceived as the least used in the sports genre were grammar
             with a mean of 1.7 and vocabulary with a mean of 2.7.
       3. The RPG genre had seven boys and one girl and one other. The skills that were
             perceived as the most used were listening with a mean of 4.3 and reading with a
             mean of 4.1. The skills that were perceived as least used were grammar (2.8) and
             writing (2.8).
       4. The group of FPS players were nine boys and one girl. The skill that had the
             highest mean was listening (4.3) and learning strategies with (4.2). The skills
             that were perceived as the least used were grammar with a mean of 2.0 and
             writing with a mean of 2.9.

  Table 4. Mean values of language skill use and game genre

                     Sports      RPG         FPS        Games      StD    StD       StD        StD
Game genres          N=9        N=9          N=10       N=15       Sports RPG       FPS        Other

Speaking             3.9        3.6          3.8        2.9        1.5    1.5       1.3        1.4

Listening            4.4        4.3          4.3        3.5        0.7    0.9       0.8        1.4

Reading              3.3        4.1          3.9        4.6        1.2    1.1       1.1        0.9

Writing              2.4        2.8          2.9        3.5        1.3    1.3       1.4        1.6

Vocabulary           2.7        3.1          3.7        4.1        1.6    1.3       0.9        1.1

Grammar              1.7        2.8          2.0        3.2        0.5    1.0       1.1        1.7

Social Skills        3.0        3.5          3.8        3.3        1.7    0.7       1.3        1.2
Strategies           3.8        3.6          4.2        3.4        1.2    1.1       0.8        1.6
                                7 boys,                 4 boys,
Players of           9 boys,    1 girl,      9 boys,    10girls,
each genre           0 girls    1other       1 girl     1 other

  5.9 The Impact of Motivation and Learning Environments.

  The motivational aspects of learning EFL in an extramural setting may be a large factor
  when students learn languages. Question 18 in the questionnaire asked the students if
  they were more motivated to learn in school if they played EG at home. The results
shown in Figure 5 presented below were from a total of 47 participants. The graph was
divided into a Likert scale from 1-5 (1 being the lowest and 5 the highest) and also
includes the percentual values. The results showed that 41% of the students chose the
lowest possible option of (1) in the scale indicating that they did not find any motivation
from playing EG at home. An additional 23% chose (2) in the scale which also was a
negative value. Neutral results (3) were composed of 20% of the participants.

The positive results that had a very high motivational attitude towards EG or students
that chose a (5) in the Likert scale were only 6%, or a total of three students. An
additional 11% or five students chose the (4) option. In total 16% had a more positive
attitude towards EG as a motivational instrument for learning more while 64% had a
negative attitude. The remaining 20% perceived EG as somewhat beneficial.

          Does playing English games at home motivate you to learn more
                                 in school? (N=47)
 20                                                                                            45%
 18                                                                                            40%
 16                                                                                            35%
 14                                                                                            30%
  6                                                                                            15%
  4                                                                                            10%
  2                                                                                            5%
  0                                                                                            0%
         1 not at all          2            3 somewhat             4            5 very much

                                            Series1      Series2

Figure 5. Motivational aspects of EG and Education

5.10 Where language learning takes place.

A large portion of language learning comes from a variety of situations and places. The
students were asked where they think they learn the most English. The results from
question 19 in Appendix A showed the results of the 37 students that responded. The
results from Figure 6 show that the majority of students 51% (21 of 37) found school to
be the place where they learnt the most. The electronic games category showed that
27% (10 of 37) students found this to be the medium where they learnt the most.
Finally, the other sources category received the last 16% with 6 of the total 37

Figure 6. Student perception of where language learning takes place

6 Discussion and Conclusion

6.1 Question 1

 •How do students perceive their English L2 proficiency and use of Electronic Games?

Swedish students’ fluency in English is considered to be very high according to the EF
English Index (Education First, 2020) and is even ranked as the fourth highest in
Europe. That students have such high scores might be due to a variety of factors ranging
from cultural to educational. In general, Swedish students that play games also seem to
have a positive attitude regarding their own English capabilities. A study by Sundqvist
and Sylvén (2014) showed that:

             At least half of the learners in each digital game group consider
             themselves to be ‘good’ or ‘very good’ at English (see Fig. 1). The non-
gamers include the largest proportion of positive assessments, ‘very good’
              and ‘good’ making up 67.8% of the group members (i.e.,21 individuals),
              but on the other hand there are also learners here who responded that they
              are ‘not very good’ at English (6.5%; two individuals). Among the
              moderate gamers, some consider themselves as ‘not very good’ (11.1%; 3
              individuals). In comparison, none of frequent gamers rated themselves that
              low. (p. 14)

The results from Figure 1 in this study showed that the students participating in the
questionnaire showed a similar attitude with a very high belief in their English language
proficiency. Of the 50 students asked 96% perceived themselves as having “good or
very good” abilities in English. None of the students perceived themselves as having
low abilities in English and the two students that chose the lowest score in the Likert 1-
5 scale chose a 3 indicating that they were “quite good”. That students seem to have a
high perception of their own abilities in English could in the case of this study be due to
it being an English-speaking school although the native English speakers were removed
from the results section. The students were also mainly Swedish native speakers with 45
of 50 having Swedish as their L1 with only 5 having another L1 which seems to be in
agreement with the statement that “in Swedish compulsory school, the majority of the
pupils (80%) have Swedish as their mother tongue and one out of five (20%) has an L1
other than Swedish” (Sundqvist & Sylvèn, 2014 p. 14). Swedish students seem to
therefore besides being ranked highly globally also have the perception of being good at

In terms of time spent playing extramural English games Figure 4 showed that many
students spent approximately the same amount of time playing games as doing other
hobbies or interests. Of the students asked 37 percent spent between 10-20h a week
playing while 44.5 percent spent the same amount of time on other activities. There
were also some differences in terms of time spent playing games and gender. Of the
students that played 30h+ each week all were boys while the eight participants that were
excluded from the study because they did not play games at all were all girls. There
seems to therefore be a quite significant division between who plays games and to what
extent which agrees with previous research (Sundqvist, 2009; Uuskoski, 2011). That

boys and girls have different interests is perhaps not a new phenomenon; however,
when it comes to language learning and EG it seems as though there are quite large
gender gaps in terms of both who uses games and the amount of time spent playing

Student perception regarding the use of EG and possible language learning showed
significant positive attitudes. In Figure 2 the majority of the students 84% thought that
“electronic games would be useful for learning English”. Only a small number of the
students that played games thought they would not be useful for learning languages with
a total of 8%.

The results from this study show that students seem to have a very high perception of
their English skills. The students that play games also spend a considerable amount of
time playing them and the majority think that they are also influential very influential
for learning English. That students seem to have a high opinion of games as a learning
instrument could be related to how they learn. Krashen (1992) discusses how language
is gained through using it and games have become a past-time for many students that
they engage and interact with daily. That students use English while gaming is not
surprising considering that games are largely in English and a large portion of gamers
use English as their lingua franca.

6.2 Question 2

•Which productive and receptive skills do ESL students find useful when gaming?

Language acquisition can be attributed to a combination of factors. In regards to EG and
L2 language acquisition previous research has shown that in many cases there are
considerable advantages. Suh et al (2010) showed in a study that students taking part in
a game-based approach in a classroom setting outperformed traditional style teaching in
three out of four proficiency categories. In the reading, writing, and listening portions of
the test the gamers outperformed the non-gaming group. However, one skill that seemed
to have no significant difference was the student’s ability to speak, since no major
differentiation was noted.

Additional studies agreed that playing games increased both communicative and verbal
skills as well as the vocabulary of frequent gamers (Horowitz, 2019; Piirainen-Marsh &
Tainio, 2009; Sundqvist & Sylvén, 2012). That English extramural input from games
can benefit students’ proficiency is an opinion that seems to be relatively justified by
many researchers. However, although these previous studies have shown that
extramural L2 English input has been beneficial there is limited information about the
participants’ attitudes towards which skills they themselves find useful or improved.
That students learn in a variety of ways is not a new concept; however, which skills are
perceived as useful is not something many have yet researched.

The results from this study (Table 2) showed several differences between students’
perceptions of personal use of language skills (PSP) and a general perception of
language skills usefulness (GSP). The students were asked which skills they use the
most as well as which skills they believe are most useful.

The skills that students perceived as the most used when gaming were the receptive
skills with reading (4.1) ranking the highest and listening as the second highest (3.8).
That passive language skills are considered the most used might be somewhat surprising
as most games generally require players to be active. This could possibly be due to how
games let the player be drawn into the game world and to a large extent require the
player to implicitly understand the context and content in order to complete the game. In
contrast the productive skills of speaking and writing showed quite low mean values.
The only skill that showed a lower mean than the productive skills of speaking (3.2) and
writing (3.1) was the grammar skill with a mean of 2.4.

The differences between the PSP and GSP categories mainly showed that the speaking
skill in the GSP section had the third highest mean (3.9) of the eight skills that could be
chosen while in the (PSP) section speaking had the third lowest mean with (3.2). The
division between the general usefulness and personal use illustrates that the speaking
skill is considered to be very useful in terms of language gains; however, the students
seem to not think they actually use it as much while playing.

That students found the possible usefulness of language skills in EG larger than their
own use seemed pervasive as can be seen in Table 2. The results in the GSP category
showed that the means of the language skills were higher in 7 of 8 categories compared
to the PSP category. The only skill where the students’ perceived use (PSP) showed a

higher mean was the reading skill where there was a difference of 0.1 points (PSP 4.1>
GSP 4.0). These scores indicate that students believe in the usefulness of EG language
skills to a higher degree than they actually believe they use the various skills.

Some differences between genders and language skills also became apparent in Table 3.
The boys’ highest means were in the skills listening (4.1) and also learning strategies
(3.8) with the speaking skill (3.6) ranked as the third highest. The girl’s favored skills
differed quite significantly from the boys with reading (4.2) and vocabulary (3.8)
having the highest mean scores. This may indicate that girls prefer playing games that
deal with understanding content and are more inclined to play games that most likely do
not include other players as skills that deal with communicating were not prominent.
This could also be seen in the skills with the lowest means where the girls chose the
speaking skill as the least used while boys found grammar to be the least used language
feature when gaming.

The highest and lowest means of the girls’ and boys’ skill use showed that boys used
skills related to socialization such as speaking and listening the most while the girls
used skills more associated with reading and learning new words. One similarity in
terms of a skill that both genders found to be one of the least used skills was grammar
with a mean of 2.1 for boys and 2.7 for girls. The low means for grammar is most likely
because games, especially in an extramural context, are meant to be used as enjoyment
and for fun. That games are an extramural activity is also connected with the large
amounts of genres and types of games.

Language skills used in each genre may significantly differ depending on the genre.
Previous studies (Sundqvist, 2009; Uuskoski, 2011) showed differences in gender
division and genre and indicated that boys preferred to play FPS, RPG and strategy
games. Girls on the other hand preferred life-simulation, platform and building games.
When comparing four of largest game categories in this study some similarities as well
as some irregularities were identified both in terms of gender distribution as well as
skills. When it came to the number of players in each genre boys dominated the Sports
and FPS genres with a significant amount playing RPG’s as well. Girls on the other
hand seemed to have a broader spectrum of preferred styles with crafter, puzzle, RTS
and the other types of game categories.
In Table 4 the language skills are divided by genre in order to see if there are any
significant differences between them. Some similarities between the genres were that
the Sports, FPS and RPG genres all had listening as the highest mean value of the skills.
Considering the majority of the players were boys it seems as though that the listening
skill is more related to gender than genre. The other games genre with a majority of
girls had listening as their third highest mean value. The genres show more difference in
terms of their second highest mean score with Sports having speaking at 3.9. The RPG
genre had reading with a mean of 4.1 and FPS had learning strategies with a mean of
4.2. The other games category had reading as the highest mean language skill and
vocabulary as the next highest which correlates with the previous gender divide in terms
of skills.

Here it is possible to see that depending on game genre the students also seem to use
different skill sets, which is perhaps not surprising but can give important information
in terms of explicit learning and which skills are perceived as the most useful. Boys
seemed to have listening as their most used skill regardless of genre. The second-most
used skill after listening varied with each genre. Sports focused on speaking, RPGs on
reading and FPS on learning strategies. The other games category showed that a
majority of girls preferred games that included reading and vocabulary. These results
show that there is a significant difference in which skills are used both divided by game
genre as well as gender and give insights into how extramural English games skills are
perceived by students.

6.3 Question 3

•Are there any perceived beneficial or negative aspects of Electronic Gaming and L2
Language Acquisition?

Language learning and motivation are intricately interwoven. The intrinsic will to learn
and also find it enjoyable may increase the possible language gains significantly.
According to Figure 2 most of the students that played games also perceived EG as
possibly being very useful for learning English. An additional factor to consider is also
the reason why students play games and how that affects language learning.

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