Designing for Collaborative Play: Why Games Need MUVEs and MUVEs Need Games

Designing for Collaborative Play: Why Games Need MUVEs and MUVEs Need Games

Louisa Rosenheck (Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA)
Copyright: © 2018 |Pages: 24
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-3719-9.ch002

Abstract

Games and MUVEs each have distinct features that make them rich environments for learning. The MIT Education Arcade has worked to capitalize on the affordances present in both genres by designing The Radix Endeavor, a multiplayer online game for STEM learning set in a rich virtual world. This chapter presents the game as an example of how collaborative learning theory can be applied to game design within a MUVE. It will discuss the process of intentionally designing game features and content with the goal of bringing about social experiences, as well as the concrete game features that resulted. Then it will describe the importance of implementation design and the ways that teachers can leverage a multiplayer educational game based on the Radix pilot project. More broadly, it will explore how this type of social game can lead to authentic scientific inquiry and deep STEM learning.
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Introduction

Games can be rich environments for learning, given their playful qualities and opportunity for scaffolded experimentation. MUVEs can also be rich environments for learning, due to their immersive nature and support for collaboration. While the design of games often focuses on a set of rules and mechanics, MUVEs tend to be more open-ended and invite exploration of the virtual world. When it comes to designing for learning, many games could benefit from the exploratory affordances of a MUVE. Similarly, many MUVEs could benefit from the framing and scaffolding of a game. When we combine these characteristics into one digital experience, we get something like an educational MMO. An MMO, or massively multiplayer online game, is a game genre in which hundreds or thousands of players simultaneously interact with the game and with each other. They typically take place in a large, persistent, open world in which players are given quests, or loosely guided tasks, to complete as they progress through the game. By incorporating key design elements of both games and MUVEs, the resulting MMO has the potential to provide a deep and authentic learning experience for its players.

To capitalize on the affordances present in both genres, and build on the commonalities between MMOs, science inquiry, and collaborative learning, the MIT Education Arcade set out to design a multi-user virtual environment that deeply integrates science and math practices as core game mechanics and allows players to learn by doing, in authentic contexts and in social ways. In this chapter, we will present this game, called The Radix Endeavor, as an example of how collaborative learning theory can be applied to game design within a MUVE. We will discuss the process of intentionally designing game features and content with the goal of bringing about social experiences, as well as the concrete game features that resulted from that design process. Then we will describe the importance of implementation design and the ways that teachers can leverage an educational MMO based on the Radix pilot project. Through this journey, we will explore how this type of social game can lead to authentic scientific inquiry and deep STEM learning.

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