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: © 2013 |Pages: 10
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-1864-0.ch017
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Abstract

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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Background

The instructionist approach of framing school-like exercises in the form of digital media is being replaced with the constructionist approach of allowing pupils to construct their own learning through design of new materials (Kafai, 2006). Serious-games design projects aim to create “constructionist learning environments” where the learner is actively engaged in creating something as part of a supportive community (Bruckman, 1998). Investigations using simple text-based virtual reality environments in the classroom (Bruckman & DeBonte, 1997) found existence of “peer experts” who provide supportive feedback, and help others sustain interest in an activity which the authors consider vital to the success of games-based learning activities. These “powerful learning environments” stimulate both active and autonomous learning amongst young learners but most teachers do not make use of these practices and so computers are often used to complement rather than enhance current pedagogies (Smeets, 2005). Research outside of the classroom into Massively Multiplayer Online games such as World of Warcraft has uncovered that these online gamers express a “collective intelligence” driven by a desire to learn the mechanics of play through exploration and competition with others (Steinkuehler, 2008). Here, gamers are motivated to produce unofficial user manuals which supersede their official counterparts and create social scaffolds for new players via digital discourses. An important question for both designers and researchers of serious-games is how to adapt these products from simple teaching agents into modern facilitators of discourses between learners and their educators.

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