Game Mastering in Collaborative Serious Games: A Novel Approach for Instructor Support in Multiplayer Serious Games

Game Mastering in Collaborative Serious Games: A Novel Approach for Instructor Support in Multiplayer Serious Games

Viktor Wendel (Technische Universität Darmstadt, Darmstadt, Germany), Stefan Krepp (Technische Universität Darmstadt, Darmstadt, Germany), Michael Oliver Gutjahr (Technische Universität Darmstadt, Darmstadt, Germany), Stefan Göbel (Multimedia Communications Lab (KOM), Technische Universität Darmstadt, Darmstadt, Germany) and Ralf Steinmetz (Multimedia Communications Lab (KOM), Technische Universität Darmstadt, Darmstadt, Germany)
Copyright: © 2015 |Pages: 23
DOI: 10.4018/IJGBL.2015100103
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In collaborative learning scenarios, the role of the instructor is vital. This aspect directly carries over to the concept of collaborative multiplayer Serious Games, where a group of players is learning together using a Serious Game. In this paper, the authors propose a novel approach for integration and support of instructors in collaborative multiplayer Serious Game scenarios. Their approach considers instructor tasks and responsibilities. It defines an interface for 3D action adventure-like games, defining relevant game information and adaptation access. It further includes a Game Mastering framework for orchestrating and adapting such games at runtime via an instructor. The concept was implemented on top of an existing Serious Game (Escape from Wilson Island) and evaluated in a user-centric study with N=40 participants (age m=23.39; SD=3.05). Results show that an instructor using our framework in a collaborative learning scenario can positively influence players' game experience (p<.05) and success towards the intended goals, as well as recognize and counteract problems at runtime.
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The role of the instructor in collaborative learning scenarios has been discussed and researched profoundly (Haake, Schwabe & Messner, 2004), (Hämäläinen & Oksanen, 2012), (Olivares, 2007), (Sandford & Williamson, 2005). It is agreed that the role of the instructor in collaborative learning scenarios is vital due to the various tasks like preparation of the setting, observation, moderation, coaching, adaptation, and others.

It has been suggested by Gee (2005) and Prensky (2003) to combine the features of collaborative learning with the promising opportunities that arise from using games in a learning scenario. As instructors are traditionally a part of collaborative learning scenarios with many obligations and responsibilities in the process, there is a need to integrate them into the game-based collaborative learning process in a way such that they are able to fulfill those obligations and responsibilities.

In terms of difficulty adaptation, the presence of an instructor in a game-based collaborative learning scenario can have additional advantages. They can dynamically perform difficulty adaptations which is usually much better than using a predefined difficulty level which is then fixed for the whole game. A predefined difficulty might later turn out to be too easy or too difficult requiring a restart of the game. Even compared to an automatic dynamic difficulty adaptation during runtime, a human instructor might be able to better adapt the game difficulty as a human is usually better able to recognize game situation, problems and obstacles. This is because a human can better interpret human behavior and draw conclusions from it in contrast to a computer algorithm. This statement, however, is only valid if the human instructor has the necessary means to observe and adapt the game according to his /her professional understanding. Therefore, the instructor needs to be able to get detailed information about the game and to influence/adapt it in sound ways. This is not possible in a traditional classroom scenario where students play a game and the instructor can ‘look over their shoulders’ and/or give orders and hints.

It is, however, necessary to examine the role of the instructor in a game-based collaborative learning scenario. Orchestrating a session of digital game-based collaborative learning bestows additional challenges onto the instructor. The instructor needs to orchestrate the process in the dimensions of learning, gaming, and interaction.

Hence, the problem to be addressed is how to support an instructor in a game-based collaborative learning scenario such that the instructor is able to orchestrate the learning session according to his/her professional opinion as he/she would do in a traditional setting. A major challenge here is presenting relevant information to the instructor as well as providing meaningful adaptation options with foreseeable effects on the players and the game.

In this work, we focus on a scenario of small collaborative learning groups where all the learners are in close proximity to each other (i.e. same room) and able to freely communicate with each other. This scenario applies to working groups in class as well as to corporate training groups. Groups consist of three to six learners/players and a teacher or trainer which we refer to as ‘instructor’ or, in context of orchestrating the game, as the ‘Game Master’ (GM). The learners might know other team members prior to the learning session or might meet for the first time. The learning/training goal can be either learning certain content in a playful way, or training of collaboration soft skills (e.g. communication, teamwork, etc.).

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