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Dissertation Blog #26

Citation of the Day

Tang, Ying, Christopher Franzwa, Talbot Bielefeldt, Kauser Jahan, Marzieh S. Saeedi-Hosseiny, Nathan Lamb, and Shengtao Sun. “Sustain City: Effective Serious Game Design in Promoting Science and Engineering Education.” In Wee Hoe Tan, ed., Design, Motivation, and Frameworks in Game-Based Learning (Chapter 3). IGI Global, 2019.


This book chapter discusses lessons learned during the development of Sustain City, an educational serious game system for STEM content. The authors present five main design strategies for maintaining a balance between fun and learning:

  1. Weave the educational content into an unusual setting and narrative to make it more interesting.

  2. Guide the player by slowly stacking core concepts rather than providing all instruction at once.

  3. Provide supplemental feedback by rewarding the player with some kind of spendable virtual currency.

  4. Pay close attention to the implementation of metacognitive strategies to achieve the best learning outcomes.

  5. Integrate machine learning and sensor informatics into the game to allow automatic adaptation and personalization.

Design and Mechanics

For the scope of my dissertation project, I will focus on the first three strategies above.


Weave the educational content into an unusual setting and narrative to make it more interesting. This is an aspect I haven't figured out yet. I want Field of Cures to be fundamentally a game about science and integrity, and I worry that making it too fanciful will detract from that. Maybe the answer is to be fully transparent -- give the game a cutesy sci-fi treatment, but then also explicitly explain the connections to the real-world information that inspired the game. I need to put on my world-building hat do some deep brainstorming about the setting and narrative of Field of Cures.


Guide the player by slowly stacking core concepts rather than providing all instruction at once. This is already a basic tenet of casual game design. To determine how I will do it in practice, I need to get the construction kit up and running so I can see how to scale the game's complexity.


Provide supplemental feedback by rewarding the player with some kind of spendable virtual currency. I have gone back and forth about whether and how to track money in the game. I don't want to add a fake currency as a layer between real money and microtransactions, but I do like the idea of allowing the player to unlock things through earning points. When I create a way for the game to track player performance, that same system can award the player points.


Current Events

I worked as a poll worker on Election Day. My job was to disinfect the pens and voting booths after every use. The election results were disappointing in Florida, but perhaps I saved someone somewhere a Covid diagnosis.


Now we are waiting for Nevada, Pennsylvania, Georgia, and North Carolina to finish counting their votes. Waiting, waiting, waiting...

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