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Online Video Games: Leadership Development for the Millennial College Student

Joshua Hettrick, Johnson & Wales University


Leadership development has become a significant focus in higher education. As more frameworks for leadership development continued to be generated, researchers suggest that higher education can play a prominent role in educating traditional-aged college students for leadership roles (Connaughton, Lawrence, & Ruben, 2003; Northouse, 2010). Recent research suggests that video games may provide new and innovative opportunities that college students are looking for with regards to leadership development (Reeves & Malone, 2007). The current population of college students is learning in new and innovative ways, making it more difficult for educators to provide programs that will effectively educate students for leadership development (Roettger, Roettger, & Walugembe, 2007). The purpose of this study was to explore how traditional-age college students develop leadership skills by engaging in massive multiplayer online games (MMOGs). This was explored by identifying participants' perceptions of the development of leadership skills by engaging in MMOGs and how they perceived their opportunities for leadership development within MMOGs. The primary research question guiding this study is: How do traditional-age college students develop leadership skills through massive multiplayer online video games? This qualitative, descriptive, interpretive study utilized personal interviews, a focus group, and reflective questionnaire to explore how traditional-age college students developed leadership skills by engaging in MMOGs. Seven participants (N=7) were selected for personal interviews and six participants (N=6) were selected for the focus group and a reflective questionnaire; all participants were enrolled in a public university in western Massachusetts. Findings confirmed the existence of leadership roles within MMOGs, revealing that opportunities for leadership development in MMOGs do exist. Participants described several different ways in which these video games establish avenues for gamers to explore leadership roles. Integral to leadership development were the relationships gamers established with other gamers; these relationships provided the foundation for participants to interact with other gamers and to utilize their leadership skills in group settings. This research suggests that colleges and universities may find it useful to examine the educational benefits of including online video in a student's curricular and co-curricular experiences.

Subject Area

Educational leadership|Multimedia Communications|Educational technology|Higher education

Recommended Citation

Hettrick, Joshua, "Online Video Games: Leadership Development for the Millennial College Student" (2012). Dissertation & Theses Collection. AAI3542761.