GAME Model: Environment
Design a game environment (game world) that support the chosen mechanics, provides engaging gameplay scenarios, and supports a game narrative that places the learning content within the game context.
Although this is the last step that I’m discussing, it is certainly not the least important. This is where all the previous steps come together in a satisfying way. In this step, the designer creates an overarching framework for all the content that’s been outlined in the previous steps.
Context is important in learning – people tend to be poor at remembering information received out of context, or before they are able to apply it to a real situation (Gee, 2003). The narrative of an adventure game creates an environment in which players gain practical skills which can then be applied to the real world (Dickey, 2006). Additionally, humans can remember information with high emotional content much more easily than they can random lists of words – emotion adds meaning to the information (Egan, 1989). A well framed game narrative easily manipulates the player’s emotions as the player progresses through the game world (Rogers, 2010). Educational games can be thought of as narrative spaces where players can construct understanding through the use of plot (Amory, 2007).
Situated learning theory explains that learning is more successful when placed within a real world context and students perform better when they can see how information is applied to practical situations (Schunk, 1999). Rieber (1996) applies this to educational gaming when he talks about endogenous fantasy (as opposed to exogenous fantasy), where the learning comes naturally out of the gameplay. For example, in a game called Treasure Hunt described in a study by Ke (2008), students have to map X and Y coordinates in order to find treasure. In order to win the game, students have to master the skill of coordinate mapping – the learning is intrinsically tied to mastering game tasks.
Adventure games are natural problem solving environments. Players must synthesize the information they gather through gameplay and analyze strategies for beating the game (Dickey, 2006). Games allow players to become immersed in the gameplay experience, which encourages them to critically reflect and actively solve problems (Gee, 2008). Ideally, educational games should present engaging environments where solutions to game challenges require integration of skills and strategies as well as complex negotiations of relationships between real and simulated characters (Amory, 2007).
Games and game stories immerse the learner in the content and provide an immediate context for applying the information without which students have a harder time both remembering and retrieving knowledge (Nelson, 1989). Although there is much more that can be said on this topic, in this series I’ve attempted to provide a concise, practical guide for educational game designers that focuses on combining relevant educational theory with game design theory. Please provide feedback and comments and any suggestions for improving this series. Thank you for reading! 🙂
Amory, A. (2007). Game object model version II: a theoretical framework for educational game development. Educational Technology Research & Development, 55(1), 51-77. doi:10.1007/s11423-006-9001-x
Dickey, M. (2006). Game Design Narrative for Learning: Appropriating Adventure Game Design Narrative Devices and Techniques for the Design of Interactive Learning Environments. Educational Technology Research & Development, 54(3), 245-263. doi:10.1007/s11423-006-8806-y
Egan, K. (1989). Memory, Imagination, and Learning: Connected by the Story. The Phi Delta Kappan, 70(6), 455-459.
Gee, J. P. (2003). What video games have to teach us about learning and literacy. Computers in Entertainment, 1(1), 20. doi:10.1145/950566.950595
Ke, F (2008). “A case study of computer gaming for math: Engaged learning from gameplay?”. Computers and education (0360-1315), 51 (4), p. 1609.
Nelson, O. (1989). Storytelling: Language Experience for Meaning Making. The Reading Teacher, 42(6), 386-390.
Rieber, L. P. (1996). Seriously considering play: Designing interactive learning environments based on the blending of microworlds, simulations, and games. Educational Technology, Research, and Development, 44(1), 43–58.
Rogers, S. (2010). Level Up!: The Guide to Great Video Game Design (1st ed.). Wiley.
Schunk, D. H. (1999). Learning Theories: An Educational Perspective (3rd ed.). Prentice Hall.
Elisa teaches online professional development courses for teachers at teachertechtraining.com.
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