Initial Analysis for Creating a Generic Online Educational Game Shell

Initial Analysis for Creating a Generic Online Educational Game Shell

Louise Sauvé, Lise Renaud, Mathieu Gauvin
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61520-731-2.ch022
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As the first of five chapters describing the development process for a generic educational game shell, this chapter discusses how the authors analyzed 40 computerized educational games to determine the main characteristics built into digital educational games. The analysis allowed comparison of game attributes with the pedagogic and technical needs of target populations (i.e., primary and secondary school teachers and students) and their learning contexts.
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Introduction: Definitions And Development Process

This and the next four chapters describe in detail the development process used by the research team at SAVIE (Société d’apprentissage à vie

Before defining a GEGS, we note that any game can be broken down into two components:

  • The game’s structure determines the way the game is played: rules, the stages of the game and player moves, challenges that the players face, and strategies which they can use to win. In the context of a game, we say that we “empty” the game of its content to uncover its unique underlying structure. This structure, once clearly defined and analysed, becomes a “frame,” or a “generic game shell,” when it is programmed and put online.

  • The game’s content consists of the information employed in the game: this content is generally found (for non-computerized games) in cards and on game boards. In the case of educational games, it also includes stated learning goals and competencies to be developed by playing the game. Once a frame game is fully defined, it is enough to insert new content, accompanied by predetermined learning objectives, to generate an up-to-date educational game adapted to a particular target group.

Based on this division, a frame game is an existing game, e.g., ParcheesiTM, with its content emptied and only the structure retained (Hourst & Thiagarajan, 2007; Stolovitch & Thiagarajan, 1980).

Board games are the easiest to adapt into frame games because they have simple structures with few rules, which makes adaptation easier, and they are likely to fit the definition of a game as distinguished from simulation, because they take place in an imaginary environment rather than a simulated “real” environment (Sauvé, Renaud, Kaufman, & Marquis, 2007; see also Chapter 1 of this volume). They are often well-known; who has not played Snakes and Ladders, Tic Tac Toe or Parcheesi?

When used for online learning, a frame game becomes a generic educational game shell (GEGS). A GEGS is an online design environment that facilitates game creation by teachers and trainers, providing them with the tools they need to: (1) set technical and pedagogical parameters for the game; (2) create strategies and rules that direct players’ actions; (3) create learning materials; (4) set criteria to define the end of the game and determine the winner; and (5) expand on the tools required for game review and evaluation, ensuring that the game is regularly updated and strengthening its learning impact.

The SAVIE development process for an online GEGS was adapted by Sauvé (2002) from learning design models that generally include five stages (Brien, 1981; Dick & Carey, 1996; Grafinger, 1988; McGriff, 2000). The process, validated by Sauvé et al. (2002, 2004) during the creation of four online GEGS, consists of the following five stages:

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