The Learning Games Design Model: Immersion, Collaboration, and Outcomes-Driven Development

The Learning Games Design Model: Immersion, Collaboration, and Outcomes-Driven Development

Barbara Chamberlin (New Mexico State University, USA), Jesús Trespalacios (New Mexico State University, USA) and Rachel Gallagher (New Mexico State University, USA)
Copyright: © 2012 |Pages: 24
DOI: 10.4018/ijgbl.2012070106


Instructional designers in the Learning Games Lab at New Mexico State University have developed a specific approach for the creation of educational games, one that has been used successfully in over 20 instructional design projects and is extensible to other developers. Using this approach, game developers and content experts (a) work collaboratively to ensure educational goals and outcomes are appropriate for the learner and the learning environment, (b) immerse themselves’ in both content and game design, and (c) test extensively throughout development with members of the target audience. The authors describe the model, discuss the implications of this approach for the creation of effective educational games, and share case studies based on the design model in practice.
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There is an explicit concern that efforts to promote effective design models for the creation of educational video games are lacking (Bjork & Holopainen, 2005; Shafer et al., 2005). As Salen and Zimmerman (2006) mentioned, game designers or design teams have unique processes to elaborate video games; however, little is offered in the literature regarding instructional design models for creating video games with educational purposes (Watson, 2007), or what literature calls serious games (Kankaanranta & Neittaanmaki, 2009), epistemic games (Shafer et al., 2005), or instructional games (Hirumi et al., 2010a). This may be because game design is a complex process (Gunter et al., 2008; Hirumi et al., 2010b). While game designers or design teams offer distinctive approaches to video game development, the relevance of an iterative design process in the creation of video games is undeniable (Salen & Zimmerman, 2006).

Game design involves groups of people with different academic backgrounds (Hunicke et al., 2004; Tang & Hanneghan, 2011). Development of educational and serious games is often done in an environment in which instructional designers or content specialists establish educational goals and possibly even begin game development, then employ a development team to create the game. Anecdotal reports from serious game design teams describe recurring disagreements, and sometimes tension, between the instructional designers and developers, as well as perceived competition between engaging gameplay and measurable learning outcomes. Hirumi et al. (2010a) pointed out that “instructional designers know little about game development and video game developers may know little about training, education and instructional design” (p. 27). The design approach followed by instructional designers, content experts, and game developers at NMSU’s Learning Games Lab overcomes this obstacle by integrating content, instructional design, and gaming aspects of the process.

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