Mapping Game Mechanics for Learning in a Serious Game for the Energy Transition

Mapping Game Mechanics for Learning in a Serious Game for the Energy Transition

Cristina Ampatzidou (University of Groningen, Faculty of Spatial Sciences, Groningen, Netherlands) and Katharina Gugerell (University of Groningen, Faculty of Spatial Sciences, Groningen, Netherlands)
Copyright: © 2019 |Pages: 23
DOI: 10.4018/IJEPR.2019040101
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The integration of learning goals with game mechanics in serious games used in urban and spatial planning processes has the potential to enable game designers and planners to create games with narratives tightly aligned to particular processes and lead to increased learning outcomes. This study presents the results from testing Energy Safari, a serious game for the energy transition in the province of Groningen, and empirically associates specific game mechanics with learning events, derived from players' reports. The research is based on the analysis of post-play questionnaires. Play-testing Energy Safari illustrates that different learning events can be triggered by the same game mechanics, an observation which can be applied in serious game design to facilitate players with different learning needs and styles. In addition, play testing to evaluate the learning performance of serious games should be integrated in the game design process. However, to achieve lasting learning and actionable knowledge, serious games should be used complementarily with other civic participation methods.
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The application of serious games spans a range of topics including healthcare, military training, resources management, energy literacy, risk governance, raising awareness on the energy transition to name a few. Serious games are increasingly used as educational resources within urban planning and policy making to promote the understanding of complex urban issues and facilitate negotiations among stakeholders, or to motivate citizens to participate (Devisch, Poplin, & Sofronie, 2016; Mayer, 2009; Poplin, 2012; Tan, 2014; Thiel & Fröhlich, 2017). Their learning potential is connected to games’ capacities to produce skill-based, cognitive, and affective learning outcomes (Kraiger, Ford, & Salas, 1993), and combine learning with entertainment (Abdul Jabbar & Felicia, 2015; Boyle, Connolly, Hainey, & Boyle, 2012). Co-located gaming especially facilitates learning because players are physically present at the same location and interact with each other while playing either analogue (i.e. board games), digital or hybrid games (digital and analogue mixed). In such co-located settings, games have been reported to improve the interpersonal relations among players (Fang, Chen, & Huang, 2016) and contribute to the ‘fun aspect’ (Gajadhar, de Kort, & Ijsselsteijn, 2008), which is considered a fundamental condition for learning (Abdul Jabbar & Felicia, 2015; Dahlgren, 2009; Whitton, 2011). A number of authors discuss spatial and urban planning, and civic engagement as collective learning processes (e.g. Friedmann, 1984; Horelli, 2002; Kuhk, Dehaene, & Schreurs, 2015) that are expected to foster problem-solving skills, enhance spatial understanding, establish stakeholder networks, and test out difficult scenarios (e.g. Crookall, 2010; Erhel & Jamet, 2013; Gee, 2005; Granic, Lobel, & Engels, 2014; Luederitz et al., 2016; Shaffer, Squire, Halverson, & Gee, 2005). Over the last four decades planners have experimented with games, to investigate their potential in supporting and facilitating such learning processes (e.g. Gugerell, Jauschneg, Platzer, & Berger, 2017; Medema, Furber, Adamowski, Zhou, & Mayer, 2016; Sakonnakron, Huyakorn, & Rizzi, 2014).

Much existing game literature discusses the gaming-learning experience as one entity. Some authors take a differentiating approach advocating for the importance of a strong integration of game mechanics and explicit learning goals within the game structure (e.g. Habgood & Ainsworth, 2011; Denham, 2016; Malone & Lepper, 1987; Dörner et al., 2016). Also, only few empirical case studies (e.g. Habgood & Ainsworth, 2011; Denham, 2013) demonstrate the practical integration of learning goals within the game structure during the design process. These stress that the selection and balancing of game mechanics is one of the most difficult steps in the design process that requires careful attention.

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