Game Dimensions and Pedagogical Dimension in Serious Games

Game Dimensions and Pedagogical Dimension in Serious Games

Begoña Gros (University of Barcelona, Spain)
Copyright: © 2017 |Pages: 16
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0513-6.ch019


Designing serious games is a complex process because finding the right balance between the ‘serious' and the ‘game' dimensions is vital, as pointed out in some meta-analyses (Wouters, et al. 2013). If educational content prevails over the entertainment element, users' motivation may decrease and this can have a negative impact on the effectiveness of learning. On the other hand, if entertainment predominates over content, this can also limit learning opportunities. Another major concern identified regarding the use of digital games in education is the difficulty in assessing effectiveness in achieving the learning goals. This chapter discusses and analyses different models for guiding the design cycle of serious games with the aim of supporting not only the design process but also the implementation and assessment of serious games in education. This contribution emphasises the importance of in-game assessment and the need for further research on adaptive serious games.
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Electronic games were initially developed in the entertainment market without considering their impact on learning. However, in recent years, educators and researchers have gradually focused their attention on the use of digital games for educational purposes. Since the 1980s, several studies have identified the potential of games for learning (e.g. Arnseth 2006; Clark, et. 2014; de Freitas & Oliver 2006; Gee 2003; Hainey et al. 2011; Kafai and Chin 1996; Malone 1981; Prensky 2001; Squire 2002;). In general, it is believed that video games offer virtual environments in which players can become engaged in learning activities (Connolly et al. 2012; Gee 2003). Some authors consider that video games help to develop strategic thinking, group decision-making and higher cognitive skills (Arnseth 2006; Clark, et. 2014; de Freitas & Oliver 2006). Researchers claim that games permit constructive, situated and experiential learning, which is enhanced by active experimentation and immersion in the game (Squire 2008). Moreover, it is hoped that the use of games might not only increase motivation but also improve specific abilities, such as problem solving and collaboration (Sánchez & Olivares, 2011).

Important developments in producing digital games and the increasingly positive view that digital games are a useful tool for supporting learning have helped to extend the production and use of gaming beyond formal learning. It has spread as a common resource in training at all levels and for all ages. According to the Serious Game Market (2015), North America has the largest market for serious games and this trend is expected to continue during the next decade. Meanwhile, Europe is the second-largest market for serious games. The U.S. government has continually supported the serious game market, with serious games mainly being developed for training purposes by the military and in the healthcare sector, as well as for a broad spectrum of industry, such as government, education and corporate. This explicit support has helped to boost the development of serious games.

Before the development of computer games, the term ‘serious game’ was introduced by Abt (1970; p.9) to refer to games that have “an explicit and carefully thought-out educational purpose and are not intended to be played primarily for amusement.” The term was primarily used in regard to board games and card games. Later, Michael and Chen (2006) promoted serious games initiatives which consider that serious games are those “in which education (in its various forms) is the primary goal, rather than entertainment.” (Michael & Chen, 2006, p.16) These serious games may be differentiated from educational games because of their focus on the post-secondary market and training. According to Djaouti, Alvarez and Jessel (2011), serious games can be designed from scratch but there are also some serious games that are built as software modifications of successful entertainment video games. For example, Escape from Woomera1is a serious game that provides information about living conditions inside an Australian immigration centre. It is based on the video game Half-Life2, which originally referred to fighting an alien invasion. Both games use similar gaming mechanics, but the content and aim have nothing in common.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Game Dimensions: Game dimensions of serious games include the features of the game that control how it is played. This dimension consists of shared goals, gameplay customisation, feedback system, team progression and team ownership.

In-Process Assessment: In-process assessment examines how, when and why the player made their choices.

Pedagogical Dimensions: Pedagogical dimensions of serious games include the pedagogical features of the game that control the content and the activities the learner has to perform.

In-Game Assessment: In-game assessment. Some serious games can use modules to deploy learning assessment and even adapt to the learners’ progression. The combination of different assessment agents could improve the quality and accuracy of activity-related assessment.

Completion Assessment: Completion assessment refers to whether the player successfully completes the game or not.

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