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Design Games to Learn: a New Approach to Playful Learning Through Digital Games. 
Emanuela Marchetti, 
Aalborg University,...
How do children play? 
We worked with pupils (primary schools) 
digital 
tangibles 
MicroCulture museum installation about...
How do children play? 
•2 previous projects: 
–MicroCulture 
–Prime Slaughter 
•In both cases participatory workshops show...
Pupils learn when desigining games 
•Research in games based learning (Kafai 2006) shows that learning through the design ...
Altering games: digital VS tangible 
Consider the difference between the 2 domains when... 
social agreement: 
easy to re-...
(some) Existing ”programming” environments for children 
Typical solutions to alter digital games are: 
1.provide menu/edi...
Our vision: a middle ground 
edit 
Program- ming
Our experiment 
Uni students as experts of both TCG and programming! 
changes + suggestions 
play/design
Suppa Merio 
•How was Super Mario transposed to a TCG? 
•following PlayDT (Playful Domain Transposition) 
–structuralist a...
Example of game play
Player ”Merio” 
”board master” 
”Enemy Manager” 
Board 
”b.m.” hand 
”Enemy” hand 
M 
”Merio” hand 
M 
Merio’s next move 
...
Player ”Merio” 
”board master” 
”Enemy Manager” 
Board 
”b.m.” hand 
”Enemy” hand 
M 
”Merio” hand 
M 
Merio’s next move 
...
Player ”Merio” 
”board master” 
”Enemy Manager” 
Board 
”b.m.” hand 
”Enemy” hand 
M 
”Merio” hand 
M 
Merio’s next move 
...
Player ”Merio” 
”board master” 
”Enemy Manager” 
Board 
”b.m.” hand 
”Enemy” hand 
M 
”Merio” hand 
M 
Merio’s next move 
...
Player ”Merio” 
”board master” 
”Enemy Manager” 
Board 
”b.m.” hand 
”Enemy” hand 
M 
”Merio” hand 
M 
Merio’s next move 
...
Reflection 
•two fold contribution: 
–a new games based learning scenario in which children and their educators engage in ...
On going work 
•Testing game(s) with pupils in local schools 
–transpose more games (related to school subjects) 
•Find ou...
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Design games to learn (presented at ECGBL 2014)

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How can pupils alter digital games?
Is there another way, than simply teaching everybody programming?

We (me and Emanuela Marchetti) argue that there is a need for digital games that could be easy to alter by young learners. Unfortunately it was found that digital games do not enable children to express their creativity at full, in contrast with low-fidelity prototypes and non-digital toys (such as card or table top games). Therefore, we propose here a middle ground between digital and traditional table top games, so to grant children more freedom to express themselves, articulate their understanding and difficulties individually or socially; this approach is an alternative to the current trend of associating programming with digital creativity. In our preliminary study we transposed a digital game into a card game and observed students while shifting between playing and design thinking. Results from this study suggest that the notion of altering a digital game through a card-based transposition of the same game, could be used to create a new model for reprogramming existing games. The next step is to involve primary schools in more complete evaluations of our new game development approach.

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Design games to learn (presented at ECGBL 2014)

  1. 1. Design Games to Learn: a New Approach to Playful Learning Through Digital Games. Emanuela Marchetti, Aalborg University, Department of Learning and Philosophy, Denmark ema@create.aau.dk Andrea Valente Maersk Mc-Kinney Moller Institute, University of Southern Denmark anva@mmmi.sdu.dk
  2. 2. How do children play? We worked with pupils (primary schools) digital tangibles MicroCulture museum installation about historical processes Prime Slaughter factorize by slicing monsters and trees
  3. 3. How do children play? •2 previous projects: –MicroCulture –Prime Slaughter •In both cases participatory workshops showed different ways of play: digital VS paper/low-tech •We observed: complex forms of play (e.g. playful play) happen more spontaneously in low-tech contexts
  4. 4. Pupils learn when desigining games •Research in games based learning (Kafai 2006) shows that learning through the design of digital games elicits a richer experience than learning through play •How to enable primary school pupils to design their own digital games? –difficult: it requires programming skills (or very good editors) •But: when looking at traditional forms of play (supported by tangibles, cards, drawing and modelling materials) children DO ENGAGE in: –designerly and playful play (Marchetti & Petersson 2013, Sutton-Smith 1997) –designerly ways of thinking and learning (Cross 2006) -> reflect on their new artefacts and the subject they are supposed to learn; social aspects support critical thinking •Our approach: seek for a middle ground between traditional tangible games, (card or tabletop), and digital games •So: the activity of designing a new digital game (or altering an existing one) is re-conceptualized as designing (or altering) a trading-card game
  5. 5. Altering games: digital VS tangible Consider the difference between the 2 domains when... social agreement: easy to re-define rules, add/change pieces changing rules -> coding!
  6. 6. (some) Existing ”programming” environments for children Typical solutions to alter digital games are: 1.provide menu/editor (reduced options, easy to use) 2.programming or modding (universal, but complex skills required) (1.) (2.)
  7. 7. Our vision: a middle ground edit Program- ming
  8. 8. Our experiment Uni students as experts of both TCG and programming! changes + suggestions play/design
  9. 9. Suppa Merio •How was Super Mario transposed to a TCG? •following PlayDT (Playful Domain Transposition) –structuralist analysis of elements and operations in the source and target domain cards transposition •Mario, enemies, obstacles •move left/right, jump, ... actions state modifiers enemies
  10. 10. Example of game play
  11. 11. Player ”Merio” ”board master” ”Enemy Manager” Board ”b.m.” hand ”Enemy” hand M ”Merio” hand M Merio’s next move next move next move Merio’s lives Merio’s state
  12. 12. Player ”Merio” ”board master” ”Enemy Manager” Board ”b.m.” hand ”Enemy” hand M ”Merio” hand M Merio’s next move next move next move Merio’s lives Merio’s state turn
  13. 13. Player ”Merio” ”board master” ”Enemy Manager” Board ”b.m.” hand ”Enemy” hand M ”Merio” hand M Merio’s next move next move next move Merio’s lives Merio’s state turn
  14. 14. Player ”Merio” ”board master” ”Enemy Manager” Board ”b.m.” hand ”Enemy” hand M ”Merio” hand M Merio’s next move next move next move Merio’s lives Merio’s state turn
  15. 15. Player ”Merio” ”board master” ”Enemy Manager” Board ”b.m.” hand ”Enemy” hand M ”Merio” hand M Merio’s next move next move next move Merio’s lives Merio’s state turn
  16. 16. Reflection •two fold contribution: –a new games based learning scenario in which children and their educators engage in game design as part of their lecture –a proof of concept of an alternative model for game programming in which digital games are re-conceptualised as card-based games. •Side effect: –We were (also) looking for an activity to explain programming, that is non-technical –And our cycle shows an alternative way to programming, through low- fi/tangibles –The main problem (to investigate further) is how to close the cycle in a semi-automatic, natural way –A kind of language to describe games (as in Fowler’s DSL)
  17. 17. On going work •Testing game(s) with pupils in local schools –transpose more games (related to school subjects) •Find out how children prefer to represent TCG rules –basis of our DSL •How to ”close the loop” automatically? Digital -> tangible -> re-design -> Digital •More technical question: Is there a minimal game that works as universal language to define interaction in the others?

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