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  • Daniel J. King

Dissertation Blog #25

Citation of the Day

Klopfer, Eric, Jason Haas, Scot Osterweil, and Louisa Rosenheck. Resonant Games: Design Principles for Learning Games That Connect Hearts, Minds, and the Everyday. MIT Press, 2018.


This book defines a framework for resonant game design, based on four overarching principles:

  1. Honor the whole learner. Players are not empty vessels. We must hook them with a good story, understand what works for them, and meet them where they are.

  2. Honor the sociality of learning and play. Learning is both an individual and a social experience. Design games to bring players into conversation with each other.

  3. Honor a deep connection between the content and the game. Don’t try to “make [subject] fun.” Figure out what is already fun about the subject matter you intend to teach.

  4. Honor the learning context. Find the patterns necessary for fitting designed experiences into people’s lives and into contemporary classrooms.

"Games are sites of great humanity, and they are frequently sites of great learning as a result. Video games are cultural artifacts and designed experiences. Games are highly effective abstractions and models for experiential learning, as well as being deeply social. They are both powerful and intimate. They are a mess. Or a mangle. Or an assemblage. They are action and reflection. We think of our games not as interventions that can be doled out in reliable doses with predictable results, but instead as provocations, designed to solicit questions, arouse passions, and stimulate great discussion in learning communities." (Kindle Location 284)


Additional resonant game design principles:

  • Allow players to try out a new identity in the game space.

  • Scale gameplay up across time, space, and number of players.

  • Prepare players for future learning.

  • Design levels or sequences of tasks that increase in complexity in interesting ways.

  • Integrate explicit reflection activities into the gameplay.

  • Provide players with multiple pathways and freedom of effort to increase their sense of autonomy and personalization.

  • Implement social features to encourage players to collaborate.

  • Weave a strong and imaginative narrative into the game experience, leaving space for players to cocreate the fiction.

  • Create realistic settings and problems to show players the value of the skills they are learning.

  • Design systems with interesting interrelationships that players can explore and experiment with.

  • If a game is designed to work within an educational system, make sure it is accessible, flexible, and easy to adopt.

  • If a game is meant to be used by teachers, provide them with professional development so they know how to implement it.

  • When a game is used in school, there should be bridge activities to connect it to the regular curriculum.

  • A game used at school must be supported by an overall culture of inquiry.

  • Design the game to fit into the spaces of players' everyday lives.

  • Design the game to collect data that teachers can use to inform their classroom practice.

  • Design the gameplay to adapt to player performance.

  • Bring educators into the design process early and often.

  • Find partners that fit the project's goals and provide complementary expertise.

  • Make the game broadly accessible, even if it is designed primarily with an institutional context in mind.

  • Foster communities of practice for players, educators, and designers.

  • Make sure game features and associated curricular materials show clear connections to real-world situations.

Design and Mechanics

This reading bids me to reflect on the resonance of Field of Cures.


Meeting the player where they are: Integrating casual game design principles will make Field of Cures appealing to a broad range of players, and loosely connecting its narrative to the experience of the Covid-19 pandemic will make it broadly relatable as well.


The sociality of learning and play: I have no plans to design multiplayer features for Field of Cures, so the sociality of the experience will have to come from the activist nature of the game. I need to give players the chance to feel like they are contributing to something larger than themselves.


Deeply connecting the content and the gameplay: Field of Cures is not going to be an educational simulation. To be a casual game, much of the content about genetics, research ethics, and conservation will have to be abstracted in the gameplay. The fundamental points of realism in Field of Cures will be the opportunity costs and dilemmas posed to the player. The player will have to decide what to value and what to sacrifice.


Fitting the experience into people’s lives: Once again, designing Field of Cures as a casual mobile game should make it easy for players to pick up, play, and return to in any spare moment they have.


Current Events

Last night was a Halloween unlike any we had had before, and it was a great success. We hid candy for each other around the condo, and then we had a pizza and watched three Scooby Doo movies.


It also helps that Elly and her friends have been dropping off bags of candy at each others' houses all month!

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