Design rules for learning through simulated worlds
New models that enable designers to improve specific learning results
Serious games can enable players to acquire and improve domain specific knowledge and sharpen cognitive skills such as spatial abilities, media literacy, decision making and problem solving. New models have been developed that can help game designers and developers to discuss and improve the design and learning effects of educational games. Although serious games have become a very popular medium, developers still require theoretical models that can help them to improve the design and thereby the learning results of serious games. This research wants to fulfill this need by focusing on three specific topics: how meanings are made through games and game play, how narrative structures can be designed to improve learning processes, and how rhetorical strategies can be designed to convince players of certain perspectives (e.g. political games), or behavioural changes (e.g. health games). With the insights gained from this research, we will formulate specific design rules for game-based learning.
Building on the analysis of the medium specificity of serious games, we created a heuristic tool or model - the gaming dispositif - that takes into account the interplay between technical, textual, contextual, psychological as well as social processes involved in the game-playing situation. This model enables us, for example, to understand how serious games trigger different educational readings, depending on the context in which they are embedded. We also developed a theoretical model that can be used for the analysis and design of emergent narratives in serious games. Breaking with a classical narrative approach, this model focuses on space and spatial exploration, and on how games offer players firsthand narrative experiences in the here-and-now. Finally, we studied the qualities of serious games that enable, promote, limit or impede persuasion. We are using these insights to formulate effective and efficient strategic guidelines for persuasive game design. Taking into account the differences and similarities between persuasion, manipulation and learning, this model can elucidate why and how serious games can be so exceptionally persuasive. Designers can use these models to improve specific learning results.
To be able to formulate specific guidelines for designing educational games, we will extend and improve the new models we have developed so far. A specific issue of learning is that it should be accountable and measurable. That's why we want to start with an empirical evaluation of how serious games make use of narrative structures and rhetorical strategies to engage players in learning processes. We will not only summarize the empirical evidence on the effectiveness of existing best practices of serious games (e.g. Food Force), but also participate in the design of new games (e.g. Schiphol SmartGate). The latter will be done in close collaboration with gaming companies in a so-called knowledge transfer project. Furthermore, we also want to include social network games in our research (e.g. FarmVille). We will bring together knowledge on social networking mechanics and serious game design fundamentals to investigate the potential of social networks such as Facebook for game-based learning.
4.2 Design rules for learning through simulated worlds
J. Raessens (2010). A taste of life as a refugee: How serious games frame refugee issues. In: Changes in Museum Practice. New Media, Refugees and Participation, pp. 94-105.
J. Raessens (2009). The gaming dispositif. An analysis of serious games from a humanities perspective. In: Serious Games: Mechanisms and Effects, pp. 486-512.
S. Lammes (2009). Terra incognita: Computer games, cartography and spatial stories. In: Digital Material. Tracing New Media in Everyday Life and Technology, pp. 223-235.
Prof.dr. Joost Raessens, Utrecht University
For a detailed description of the project, click here.