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Dissertation Blog #15

Citation of the Day

Khaled, Rilla, and Asimina Vasalou. "Bridging Serious Games and Participatory Design." International Journal of Child-Computer Interaction 2, no. 2 (2014): 93-100.


This article presents two case studies about applying participatory design methods to serious game design:


Case 1: When the boundary object was vaguely defined as “games for conflict education,” brainstorming and storyboarding exercises were largely ineffective. This is because the participants had little domain knowledge of conflict resolution skills, so they fell back on their knowledge of established tropes in commercial games when generating ideas.


Case 2: When the focus of the participatory design activity was an actual working prototype of a game system designed around conflict resolution, learning about its mechanics provided enough scaffolding for the participants to be able to contribute useful ideas for how to expand and improve it.


Khaled and Vasalou describe the novel participatory design method they developed as a transformational approach:

  1. Design a barebones game system true to the domain knowledge the serious game is intended to teach.

  2. Present and unpack the game system to provide participants with pedagogically-appropriate ideation scaffolding.

  3. Prompt participants to suggest additions and modifications to the existing components of the game system.

  4. Recombine the new and modified game components back into the whole design concept.

Design and Mechanics

Khaled and Vasalou's transformational approach to participatory design for serious games is the key methodology for my dissertation study. It explains why I am beginning a participatory design study with a rough game prototype already in place.


However, I still need to determine how to adapt their model of a participatory design workshop to my own situation. Khaled and Vasalou worked with groups of children in 4-hour-long sessions. Originally, I had envisioned doing the same with college students, but now I realize that coordinating a group of volunteers and keeping them engaged in a 4-hour activity may not be feasible.


The plan I wrote out in my first draft of my pre-proposal is to do a workshop with three parts:

  1. A playtesting session for a digital prototype of the core game loop of my game concept Field of Cures

  2. A discussion of a paper prototype of the game’s other systems and a brainstorming activity about how to revise or expand those systems

  3. An exercise to narrow down the ideas generated during the brainstorming and reach a consensus on the group’s design recommendations

Now I am reconsidering the group format of this. It may be simpler and more feasible to work with participants one by one on parts 1 and 2 and then synthesize the recommendations myself.


Current Events

Coping with stress is not easy. I'm feeling better today though. I got to spend some quality time with my wife yesterday, and tonight I have a virtual hangout scheduled with my friends from high school. It's going to be a busy day at work again, and I need to figure out how to keep a cool head. Maybe I need to silence all my notifications for a certain block of time.

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