Formulating a Serious-Games Design Project for Adult Offenders with the Probation Service

Formulating a Serious-Games Design Project for Adult Offenders with the Probation Service

Matthew Ian Bates (Nottingham Trent University, UK), David Brown (Nottingham Trent University, UK), Wayne Cranton (Nottingham Trent University, UK) and James Lewis (Nottingham Trent University, UK)
Copyright: © 2011 |Pages: 10
DOI: 10.4018/ijgbl.2011100101
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This paper documents an investigation evaluating if adult offenders can benefit from a facilitated serious-games design project as part of their probation program. Research has observed a participatory design group of adult offenders working with their probation managers and a PhD researcher to create a new serious-game for use by the probation service. A voluntary participant group of six male offenders was observed over a five week design process using the game authoring software Game-Maker. Weekly meetings have allowed participants to learn basic game authoring skills and share design ideas within a multi-disciplinary team. Investigators have observed the amount and type of assistance required by participants when interacting with new software, the range and suitability of ideas communicated by participants, and the ability of participants to convert their ideas into functional media. This paper presents qualitative results from this exploratory field study and compares the results to previous investigations with secondary school children.
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1. Introduction

The field of serious-games represents new markets for non-entertainment uses of gaming technology. Previous work exploring the design of serious-games with secondary school children (Bates et al., 2009a, 2009b) has enabled learners to collaborate with their educators via a process of learning by designing. This generation of learners represent digital natives (Prensky, 2001) who regularly create and modify content to educate their peers via social networking and multiplayer gaming (Steinkuehler, 2008). To advocate the potential of serious-games design projects as effective methods of engaging with learners of all ages, the serious-games design methodology must also be applied to Prensky’s digital immigrant adult learners.

This paper documents a serious-games design project working with adults at risk of social exclusion. The project has formed part of a new diversity objective for a regional probation service to address the under representation of Minority Black Ethnic (MBE) offenders entering employment, training and education upon conclusion of their probation program. The project has allowed offenders an opportunity to improve their communication and presentation key skills through interactions within a multi-disciplinary team of learners, educators and researchers. Participants have attended weekly design workshops using the Game-Maker authoring software to design and create a new serious-game for use by probation managers. Participants have combined their own experiences using the probation service to create a prototype for a serious-game to educate offenders on making appropriate lifestyle choices upon leaving probation. Probation managers have praised the project for its ability to encourage communication and team work amongst participants and are now looking at methods of expanding the project to complete the game design for use as a training tool within the service.

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