Educational Game DesignDavid FarrellGlasgow Caledonian Universitydavid.firstname.lastname@example.org@unthank
Games in Education• Games used as motivator (especially boys) • extrinsic motivator “ﬁnish your work and you can play” • intrinsic motivator • “since they like play, we’ll put learning in their games!!”
Problem?• These products are not particularly successful as games or / education
Shavian Reversal + Text =Beauty Brains Beauty & Brains?
Chocolate Covered Broccoli• Thin layer of chocolate (game) on a piece of broccoli (educational content)
Top Selling Educational Game on Amazon
Raph Koster • Game Designer • Ultima Online • Everquest • Star Wars Galaxies • Author • Theory of Fun for Game Design
Wil Wright • Game Designer • sims • sim city • spore
Will wright @ GDC2010 • Said that designing games is like building a model of the universe. Playing a game is like testing a world model and learning from how it behaves. • like a child playing with water or shapes.
• Neither Raph Koster or Wil Wright are educational game developers - but they have noticed the potential of games to teach through modelling some aspect of the world.
Kurt Squire• Indeed, this kind of learning seems to be something that games do particularly well• Kurt Squire’s work with Civilization 3 - just by playing scenarios in this commercial game, students gained a deep, meaningful understanding of history • not as a series of facts - but as patterns, relationships - as a model of how history works
(for those keeping track, that was 20 slides before I mentioned Civ)
David W Shaffer• Similar idea - game models physics. (Svarovski & Shaffer, 2006)• By playing with it, students get a really deep understanding of physics.
• Instead of separating the game from the learning, it seems that one of the best ways to teach through play is to have the game model the learning outcomes.• By playing with a simulation, students can attain a deep learning experience.
GM Choccoli• If games teach what games model, then we can design game mechanics that model learning outcomes• by doing that, we can create ‘genetically modiﬁed broccoli’ • Broccolate? Choccoli?
• This puts an emphasis on the ‘game’ part of educational game design.• Educational game designers need to understand the game development process.
e-Bug• European Commission project to improve microbial education• Two audiences. • 9-12 year olds • 13-15 year olds• Games to be suitable for play in class or at home.
Audience Research• Mix of desk and primary research • Amazon for cartoon sales • Focus groups with Scottish children for further information• Looking for kinds of games that they enjoy that I could see being adapted for e-Bug
Genres (13-15yrs)• Older children ALL liked shooters and sports games (problem!)• There wasn’t much consensus beyond that.• I brought in some games for them to play and give feedback. They were receptive to story based games like Monkey Island and Phoenix Wright.
Genres (9yrs)• Surprisingly, the young pupils were less opinionated on what they liked.• Few owned a console. Most played whatever games were on the popular Flash portals (Kongregate etc)• They liked arcadey, simple games and TV quiz games like Millionaire.
Design Process• Audience research identiﬁed possible appealing genres.• Pragmatic element • > 60 scientists & teachers from 18 countries. • I pitched ideas that I thought would work and they ruled most of them out for various reasons
Abandoned Ides• Some ideas were ruled out for political reasons.• Sneezing game where you played AS a virus was ruled out because some thought it would encourage children to sneeze on each other!
Accepted Ideas• Two ideas were approved by the team: • an action / platform game with lots of speciﬁc mechanics tied to LOs for young children • a story based game with scenarios tied to LOs for older children
Detective Game• Narrative / conceptual model based.• Heavily inspired by the Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney games• Players explore locations, looking for clues, and speak to characters.
Using Scenarios• The idea was that each learning outcome would be modelled through story.• The characters in the game would describe a mystery and a possible solution.• The player would use evidence to disprove these solutions and in the process would learn the science.
For example...• One learning outcome was: • You should use a separate chopping board for meat and vegetables.
Another Example• LO: There are good microbes in the body and we should look after them.
• Using dialogue, the player knows that the Coach Beveridge character is sick.• The player is talking to a girl called Allison who tells the player that Coach Beveridge has been taking her antibiotic pills.• When the player confronts Coach Beveridge, it emerges that he has killed his good bacteria and that is why he is sick.
Younger Children• For researching the younger audience, we had decided that: • we couldn’t use too much text. • we wanted a visual and simple interaction • I wanted an interaction that was very immediate in its response
Converting LOs to Mechanics• Learning Outcome • Some microbes are good for us.
Platform Game Solution• Used different art to represent good and bad microbes
• Contact with bad microbes hurts the player whereas good microbes can be stood on to jump higher.
• When good and bad microbes come in contact with each other, they kill each other - showing the good microbe protecting the body.
Another Example• LO: We use microbes to make foods like bread and yogurt.
Some areas that worked• Enjoyable - why? • Platform game - good play-testing throughout • levels tweaked to ﬁnd appropriate difﬁculty level. • Didn’t ‘feel like’ an educational game • Detective game - good stories / dialogue • stories discussed with children before hand
• Teachers liked the games • teacher involvement in conceptual stage helped ensure their concerns were met• rolled out to 10 EU countries, more coming
• High production values• good team work / art / management in-house / personal investment / communication • Because of the internal art production, we managed to get 2 man-years’ worth of production from what would have been 3 months of outsourced work.
• Internationalisation • technical solution that decentralised the process • allowed for cultural sensitivity • allowed for variation in puzzle emphasis• Google Spreadsheet used to coordinate. • because the game was data driven, could pretty much ‘save as’ the spreadsheet straight into the game.
• Some positive knowledge change results • in platform game, particular areas very successful in short period of time (30 minutes of play covering multiple LOs) • in detective game, some encouraging results but not statistically signiﬁcant - too many pupils already aware of correct answer - need further study
Data Collection• We used two methods of data collection• The platform game had a built-in quiz show that asked the players questions. Their answers were automatically saved in a database.• The detective game featured a pre and post-play web-questionnaire.
differences• found many players post-game questionnaire did not match their pre-game one • name differences • claimed to have played a different mission• many players did not ﬁll out post-game questionnaire• having a questionnaire up front scares of players
whereas...• having mini-quizes at each stage of platform game meant that even if a player left early, we still got some data• also we could validate and contextualise data (identify player, level, what content exposed to etc)
Some areas of difﬁculty• Detective game did not get enough player testing during development. • before and after - but not during implementation (3 month) • didn’t paper-prototype • a number of UI issues • some conceptual issues causing difﬁculty for some players
UI Issues• Implied buttons
Phoenix Wright• Lifted some menu terminology that wasn’t appropriate when put in the context of our game.
• Users underlying conceptual model didn’t match game behaviour
• Why would you need to use your phone to speak to someone who is in the same room as you?• Why would you need to use your phone to change room?
How could this happen?• Phone metaphor was popular with children pre-development, but we did not use UI design best practice
How could we avoid?• Paper prototype would have found that the phone interface wasn’t meeting player expectations before software development• Use of cognitive walkthrough and other established UI techniques could have identiﬁed problems during early stages of development - before any art or programming
Didn’t allow for player error • If players accidentally clicked through a dialogue without fully understanding it, there was no way of getting that information • because the game is totally reliant on players understanding this content, we should have considered this.
Complicated• The Detective Game required some actions from the player that were intended to emulate the real-world investigation practices of institutions like the UK’s Health Protection Agency• These were functionally unnecessary in terms of game play and players found them confusing.
Platform game• Mostly successful• Hard to adapt because each LO has a hard coded mechanic• some of the LOs weren’t successfully taught because the mechanic wasn’t evident enough