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  • Daniel J. King

Dissertation Blog #23

First Citation of the Day

Ravyse, Werner Siegfried, A. Seugnet Blignaut, Verona Leendertz, and Alex Woolner. “Success Factors for Serious Games to Enhance Learning: A Systematic Review." Virtual Reality 21, no. 1 (2017): 31-58.


This article describes requirements for a serious game to be effective for education (based on an analysis of 63 articles):

  • Integrate educational content into the game’s narrative.

  • Design a realistic game environment, but focus primarily on aspects related to learning.

  • Program the game to track and respond to player behavior to prevent frustration or unproductive gameplay.

  • Use a straightforward interface and increase complexity slowly over time.

  • Provide constant in-game feedback as well as post-game debriefing related to learning objectives.

The authors argue that the true measure of success for a serious game is that it is enjoyable enough that players will choose to engage with its learning material even if they are not assigned or incentivized to do so.


Second Citation of the Day

Smith, Katherine, John Shull, Yuzhong Shen, Anthony Dean, and Patrick Heaney. “A Framework for Designing Smarter Serious Games.” Smart Innovation, Systems and Technologies 70 (2018): 263-294.


This article presents a model for smarter serious games that includes the following modules:

  • A learning status detecting module to monitor player actions and detect in-game events

  • A module to record progress and store user data, possibly online so that developers can use the user data to inform their player model

  • A player model and inference engine to make the game adaptive

  • A single persistent entity where individual player information is stored and accessed

  • Three modules for Learn, Play, and Assess modes (adaptive learning content module, adaptive learning task module, and learning performance evaluation module), which may be seamlessly integrated in the gameplay from the player's point of view

  • An adaptive and responsive user interface

  • An module directing players to external and internal learning support resources as needed

Modular design and development makes it easier for each feature of the game to be revised individually without requiring other features of the game to be redesigned as well.


The authors also describe an iterative design process for serious games that spirals through “(Re)Define,” “Develop,” and “Enhance” phases, driven by feedback from demonstrations and playtesting.


Design and Mechanics

The readings above bid me to reflect on the following themes.


Integration of content into game narrative: The game narrative about running a pharmaceutical company puts the decision points based on the serious content in a relevant context.


Realism in learning aspects: The realism will not come from the graphics or the mechanics, but from the decision-point dialogues explaining real-world issues in research ethics.


Adaptive gameplay: The game could track how easily the player solves the puzzles and use that to scale the complexity of the puzzles.


Easy user interface and slowly increasing complexity: I will focus on designing an uncluttered interface with room for features to be added gradually.


Internal and external support for learning objectives: Building curricular resources into the game is outside the scope of my project, but I could come up with a visual way of emphasizing what pieces of content are based on real-world issues.


Modular design and development: Colleagues who are better programmers than I have explained the value of having a central entity for data management, which all other entities in the code work with. I think I'm beginning to understand the value of this.


Iterative design and development: I have already made three iterations of the game, and I plan to do three more for my dissertation.


Current Events

I'm going to be a poll worker on Election Day! Thank God I'll have something to keep me busy that day.

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