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C2C Digital Magazine (Fall 2015 / Winter 2016)

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...Part 1: Gamification, A New Educational Paradigm

(from "Book Review:  All Things Gamification")

Figure 1:  NetLogo Hill Climbing Simulation from the Models Library

Eduardo Díaz San Millán and Rubén Gutiérrez Priego laud gamification as part of the new educational paradigm (Ch. 105). Gamification is seen as a way to increase class attendance and learning engagement, as in Hope Caton and Darrel Greenhill’s “Rewards and Penalties: A Gamification Approach for Increasing Attendance and Engagement in an Undergraduate Computing Module” (Ch. 50).

While the collection’s authors and authoring teams are clearly Imbued with a sense of hopefulness for what may be achieved with properly designed serious games and gamified simulations, the most effective ones are also trained to test their assumptions rigorously and to empirically test for learning effects. They ask questions such as whether learners move beyond the game and apply the relevant ideas constructively in the world.

Game Features and Gameplay

Figure 2:  Playing Lunar Lander (Not So Well) on NetLogo

What exactly is gamification? Brad Hoge, in “GBL as PBL: Guidelines for Game-Based Learning in the Classroom and Informal Science Centers” (Ch. 18), suggests that game-based learning in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields is really about project-based learning (PBL), to bring inquiry to the fore. He analyzes some widely available STEM games. He observes that for game-based learning to become successful project-based learning, games should: 

"1. Simulate real-world scenarios;
2. Combine aspects of strategy games and construction and management games;
3. Allow players to control the progression of the game through their game play and decisions;
4. Be played by teams of players formed as cooperative learning groups; and
5. Be competitive across multiple levels of difficulty” (Hoge, 2015, p. 370).

Ultimately, game-based learning in STEM should involve the seeking of knowledge to solve real-world issues.

Sharing insights about serious game features. Maurice Hendrix, Per Backlund, and Boris Vampula proposed a metadata schema to label serious games and then offer up a rating tool that may be used for users to rate serious games in “A Rating Tool for Sharing Experiences with Serious Games” (Ch. 43). Michael D. Kickmeier-Rust, Eva C. Hillemann, and Dietrich Albert, in “Gamification and Smart Feedback: Experiences with a Primary School Level Math App” (Ch. 48), emphasize the importance of the right mix of game elements and feedback to achieve learning ends. Their study of Sonic Divider showed differing young student responses to the competency-based feedback on their division, with male students engaging with the competitive points acquisitions more than the female ones. The authors noted the fragility of motivation in some, with the presence of fear of failure. Overall, though, there was an increase in learning across both genders and with both forms of customized feedback (present or non-present) (in a classic learning curve, with a diminishment of errors over experience with the tool) (Kickmeier-Rust, Hillemann, & Albert, 2015, p. 979).

Some mechanics of gameplay. Another cluster of works explore the mechanics of game play. Which game elements increase gameplay pleasure, and which encourage learning? John M. Quick and Robert K. Atkinson’s “Modeling Gameplay Enjoyment, Goal Orientations, and Individual Characteristics” (Ch. 74) deployed a survey tool to better understand the interplay between various game and player features that affect player enjoyment. They identify 41 game design features that influence player enjoyment; further, they identify varying individual player characteristics and goal orientations that affect player pleasure. A fair amount of research in gamification involves the study of the players and their motivations, as in Anton Rapp’s “A Qualitative Investigation of Gamification: Motivational Factors in Online Gamified Services and Applications” (Ch. 3). There is no current “unambiguous results on the gamification effects yet” by HCI (human computer interaction) researchers (Rapp, 2015, p. 34). Rapp suggests that effective games should tap into the intrinsic motivations of game players.

Martin van Velsen (2015) lauds the eye-popping “visual splendor” and “almost photo-realistic environment” of modern digital games in “The Persuasive Language of Action: Interaction in the Digital Age” (Ch. 93) (p. 1848). He purposefully delves below the glitzy visuals to probe the underlying narratives and decision-structures built into games based on table-top role-playing game structures.

What are the sensory effects of gaming, and how are game players affected psychologically and cognitively? Elizabeth Boyle’s “Psychological Aspects of Serious Games” (Ch. 79) provides an overview of some game-applicable psychological concepts and research approaches. Jason M. Harley and Roger Azevedo review related literature from “affective computing, intelligent tutoring systems, and psychology” (2015, p. 2148) to explore learner emotions while engaging in agent-based learning environments, in “Toward a Feature-Driven Understanding of Students’ Emotions during Interactions with Agent-based Learning Environments: A Selective Review” (Ch. 108). Mireia Usart and Margarida Romero describe some uses of time-based analysis in “Time Factor Assessment in Game-Based Learning: Time Perspective and Time-on-Task as Individual Differences between Players” (Ch. 91). These include time-on-task and subjective perceptions of time.

Jonathan Barbara, in “Measuring User Experience in Board Games” (Ch. 63), applies the Games Experience Questionnaire, designed for assessing the user experience and suitability of digital games, to board games; this creative and counter intuitive research approach may open the way to comparisons of multi-modal game designs.

Easy-to-Use Technologies

Figure 3:  A Digital Jigsaw Puzzle (created in SoftChalk) 

The creation of gamified learning experiences has long moved out of the realm of large-scale moneyed companies and into education in part because of the game engines and authoring tools with easy- to mid-level difficulty of design. Such tools enable subject matter experts (SMEs) to disintermediate their access to game design. Lucio Tommaso De Paolis, Egidijus Vaškevičius, and Aušra Vidugirienė, in “Multimedia Technologies in Education” (Ch. 45), inspire a sense of possibilities with their overview of 3D modeling tools, haptic interfaces, body motion sensors, and uses of virtual spaces. Further, there are dedicated tools that enable professors and SMEs to build their own learning games. Kuo-Yu Liu describes one such system in “The MORPG-based Learning System for Multiple Courses: A Case Study on Computer Science Curriculum” (Ch. 54). The described tool enables the building of multiplayer online role-playing games (MORPGs) for learning and enable the sharing and reusability of game artifacts.

Peter van Rosmalen, Amanda Wilson, and Hans Hummel, in “Games for and by Teachers and Learners” (Ch. 86), show how teachers and learners may co-create game-based learning given the easy access to game engines and wiki games. Even students alone are tapping into multimedia design and digital storytelling to better learn language and self-expression, as in Clifford H. Lee and Antero D. Garcia’s “’I want them to feel the fear…’: Critical Computational Literacy as the New Multimodal Composition” (Ch. 111). Maria Cipollone, Catherine C. Schifter, and Rick A. Moffat describe high school students’ uses of “Minecraft as a Creative Tool: A Case Study” (Ch. 47) in order to create machinima as part of their literary analyses in an English literature course. Here, students described fictional characters’ respective “fatal flaws” in a multimedia way.

Social Elements in Gamification

Figure 4:  "Games" Related Tags Network on Flickr (1.5 deg.)

Indeed, the sociality of the Web informs a number of works. Wajeehah Aayeshah and Saba Bebawi describe “The Use of Facebook as a Pedagogical Platform for Developing Investigative Journalism Skills” (Ch. 76); these authors describe their care in designing the learning for these future investigative journalists and using the affordances of Facebook while protecting the security and privacy of their students. Another work, by Roberta Levitt and Joseph Piro, suggests that WebQuests (#throwbackThursday) are still sufficiently useful; in “Game-Changer: Operationalizing the Common Core using WebQuests and ‘Gamification’ in Teacher Education (Ch. 40),” they describe the use of the design of WebQuests as a preservice teacher learning project for future educators and classroom practitioners.

Yulia Bacvarova and Stefano Bocconi, in “Games and Social Networks” (Ch. 83), introduce online and mobile “social network games” that are multiplayer games built on social graphs (such as those on Facebook). This collaborative play is often casual and may be based off of shared watching of television shows and resulting discussions; others are social quiz games. Renee Jackson, William Robinson, and Bart Simon model how a constructivist community of learners might interact and share innovations in “Gleaning Strategies for Knowledge Sharing and Collective Assessment in the Art Classroom from the Videogame, ‘Little Big Planet’s Creator Spotlights’”(Ch. 71). They suggest that highlighting successful work encourages high-quality production within the community.

Dominicus Tornqvist offers an amusing chapter on why adult players of simulation sandbox digital games (Sims, Minecraft, and others) will “act crazy,” such as by sending their Sim to the bathroom and deleting all doors or training their AI pet to consume its own poop. In “Exploratory Play in Simulation Sandbox Games: A Review of What We Know about Why Players Act Crazy” (Ch. 88), Tornqvist argues that such actions are types of curiosity-based exploratory play that enable them to better understand the designed universe.

Another chapter, Lei Shi, Alexandra I. Cristea, and Craig Stewart’s “Students as Customers: Participatory Design for Adaptive Web 3.0” (Ch. 95), emphasizes the participatory design methodologies of the Semantic Web and the importance of co-design. ("Web 3.0" is conceptualized not only as a machine-readable Semantic Web but also integrates the Social Web or Web 2.0.)  

Robert Gibson’s “Four Strategies for Remote Workforce Training, Development, and Certification” (Ch. 38) describes four approaches to training and credentialing remote workers, all with Web-based approaches. He describes the uses of the following:  (1) open systems; (2) badging; (3) gamification, and (4) the uses of 3D simulation strategies.

Technology and Dependencies

Figure 5:  Open and Free Lunar Lander Code on NetLogo

Some of the chapters summarize available tools. Others explore the use of the Web as a platform for the delivery of a number of Web-based learning games.

A reuse approach. There are a range of works that support game designers. One superb chapter offers a framework to evaluate software reuse environments. Sajjad Mahmood, Moataz Ahmed, and Mohammad Alshayeb, in “Analysis and Evaluation of Software Artifact Reuse Environments” (Ch. 59), summarize the importance of architecture, design, and source code-sharing in game development. They highlight various factors to use in assessing software artifact reuse environments, including artifact types, reuse phases, artifact documentation, similarity assessment, view assessment, reuse support, CASE tool integration, tool support, artifact quality rating, and reuse quality assessment (Mahmood, Ahmed, & Alshayeb, 2015, pp. 1213 - 1214).

Understanding platforms. For those who would design Web-based games, it helps to understand the technical dependencies. Nabyla Daidj’s “Video Game Consoles: Evolution of Leader and Followers’ Positions” (Ch. 44) provides an overview of commercial game consoles and how their relative presences and capabilities affect the market for software and games.

Mobile devices. Yi Xu and Shiwen Mao’s “Mobile Cloud Media: State of the Art and Outlook” (Ch. 107), describes the affordances of mobile-based computing and the affordances of delivering rich media applications through mobile devices. Anna Kasimati, Hara Bouta, Sofia Mysirlaki, and Fotini Paraskeva propose some necessary features of a virtual business environment on mobile devices for learners in higher education in “Ubiquitous Game-Based Learning in Higher Education: A Framework towards the Effective Integration of Game-based Learning in Higher Education using Emerging Ubiquitous Technologies” (Ch. 51).

Modeling Learners

An important part of customizing or adapting games to learners involves understanding and modeling learners based on their profiles and their behaviors in the game, or some other mix of information.

One work strove to analyze game players on multiple dimensions using multiple models, with the question of whether there were statistically significant associations between the models and the variables. Johannes Konert, Stefan Göbel, Michael Gutjahr, and Ralf Steinmetz’s “Modeling the Player: Predictability of the Models of Bartle and Kolb based on NEO-FFI (Big5) and the Implications for Game Based Learning” (Ch. 33) provides a theory-based approach to characterizing players to try to describe them on three dimensions—as player, as learner, and as personality. For player type, the research group used the Bartle model to map game scenarios; for learning style preference, they used the Kolb Learning Style Inventory and the Felder and Silverman Index of Learning Styles; for personality, they used the NEO-FFI (Big5) model. This team found independency between the respective models, which suggests that such profiling will require separate modeling for gameplay and for learning flow. They also found the “validity of the dimensions” (Konert, Göbel, Gutjahr, & Steinmetz, 2015, p. 668).

Gabriel Barata, Joaquim Jorge, Sandra Gama, and Daniel Goncalves’ “Identifying Student Types in a Gamified Learning Experience” (Ch. 26) involves the running of a cluster analysis of extracted performance data of student gameplay in a gamified course to “group” players by distinct behavioral patterns (a kind of behavioral stylometry?). This machine-extracted grouping (based on a simple unsupervised clustering algorithm known as “WEKA” or Well-known K-Means) resulted in three inductively-arrived-at student types, which the researchers called the Achievers, the Disheartened (becoming disheartened mid-term and being unable to recover from that), and the Underachievers. High achievers tended to engage more, be more active online, and download more slides. The researchers also collected suggestions for the course. One suggested the importance of making avatars on the leaderboard customizable to enhance this channel for self-expression. The researchers also suggested the importance of scaffolding for underachievers to guide their learning efforts and to discourage procrastination.

Torsten Reiners, Lincoln C. Wood, and Jon Dron’s “From Chaos towards Sense: A Learner-Centric Narrative Virtual Learning Space” (Ch. 27) describes a learner-centered narrative virtual learning space, with students enabled to make decisions at key points (in contrast to stories of the past which required passive consumption of story in a closed world). Here, a storyteller interacts with participants in the story, who make decisions, which then result in different plot twists and learning objectives and outcomes. The authors write:

“What can educators and instructional designers learn from these game-based examples? Simply this: it is not enough to merely create a narrative; the scope of the narrative must be suitably wide for learners to engage a sense of curiosity and develop intrinsic motivation for learning, while being limited to enable the instructor to ensure completion of learning objectives and course outcomes” (Reiners, Wood, & Dron, 2015, p. 561).

In “Towards a Subjectively Devised Parametric User Model for Analysing and Influencing Behaviour Online using Neuroeconomics” (Ch. 29), Jonathan Bishop and Mark M.H. Goode describe the application of new learning in human decision-making from neuroeconomics to design game and gamified spaces. (This reads like a next-generation building on Edward Castronova’s insights on virtual world economics.) Based on Compound Identity Theory, which suggests that people are a mix of differing selves with polar pulls, Bishop and Goode (2015) used interviews of game players and observational recordings of their online behaviors to create a model to profile individual players (in a quantized way). This work seems to show an early phase with the authors laying some theoretical groundwork, without operationalization of the model yet.

Data from Serious Games

Figure 6:  Modeling of Diffusion on Directed Networks (with data to the left) 

There are a range of efforts to extract and use data from serious games.  

Irene Celino and Danielle Dell’Aglio’s “Capturing the Semantics of Simulation Learning with Linked Data” (Ch. 13) describes an effort to fully datamine gameplay data to better understand the learning in educational simulations, tabletop exercises, and serious games. Established personality inventories may be used to psychologically profile players.

Likewise, Jannick Baalsrud Hauge, Johann C.K.H. Riedel, Elizabeth Boyle, Pablo Moreno-Ger, Igor Mayer, Francesco Bellotti, Rob Nadolski, Theordore Lim, and James Ritchie summarize different research methods used to assess the learning outcomes of serious games, in “Study Design and Data Gathering Guide for Serious Games’ Evaluation” (Ch. 21). They observed randomized control trials, quasi-experimental designs, surveys, and other methods based on case studies and findings in the research literature. The authors noted the lack of tools “for unobtrusive, ‘stealth’ data gathering and assessment, and good research designs other than randomized controlled trials” (Hauge, et al., 2015, p. 426). They also critiqued the lack of high-quality analytical methods for evaluating educational interventions involving serious games. At the high end of quality data for evaluating educational interventions are (in descending order) meta-analyses, randomized controlled trials, quasi-experimental designs, single case experimental designs (pre and post-tests), and non-experimental designs (“surveys, correlational, qualitative”) (Wolfson, 2011, as cited in Hauge, et al., 2015, p. 426).

Kate Thompson and Lina Markauskaite’s “Identifying Group Processes and Affect in Learners: A Holistic Approach to Assessment in Virtual Worlds in Higher Education” (Ch. 75) reads as a thought experiment about what may be practically observed and learned about people participating in immersive learning environments, particularly “data about deep embodied processes and multiple senses that usually underpin professional skills, such as affect, visual perception, and movement” (Thompson & Markauskaite, 2015, p. 1479). Their work suggests the importance of simultaneous and multimodal assessments for deeper understandings of learner takeaways from a game experience.

Games as a subject of study. Games themselves are a subject of study in a number of fields. Jorge Gomez’s “A Match Made in ‘Outer Heaven’: The Digital Age Vis-à-vis the Bomb in Guns of the Patriots” (Ch. 9) describes a stealth action video game about a retired soldier returning for one last task to try to protect the world from nuclear devastation. This work describes the value in examining ludonarratives and multi-channel screen-based analytics (imagery, sounds, texts, motion video, interactivity) and considering how games, while invented by people also invent people through their own influences (Gomez, 2015, p. 187). Amy Nottingham-Martin’s “Thresholds of Transmedia Storytelling: Applying Gérard Genette’s Paratextual Theory to The 39 Clues Series for Young Readers” (Ch. 41) defines a way of updating Genette’s paratextual theory to apply to transmedia storytelling. Her work typifies some of the heavy theoretical thinking about new media and digital creations. Annika Rockenberger, in “Video Game Framings” (Ch. 4), engages an argument about the applicability of the literary-based paratext concept to video game studies.  

Other Gamification Applications

Gamification has been applied well beyond the academic space. There have been applications in private industry, government, and other applications.

Business-based game applications Ben Tran applied the Tavistock Method and game theory elements to train individuals in group dynamics and problem-solving in “Rhetoric of Game: Utilizing the Game of Tavistock Method on Organizational Politics Training” (Ch. 78). Tran also proposes using insights about gamers and their characteristics (such as measures of personality and emotional intelligence) to select and train employees in “Rhetoric of Play: Utilizing the Gamer Factor in Selecting and Training Employees” (Ch. 96). Ho Wei Tshen and Angeline Khoo link depictions of leadership in some games and actual necessary real-world leadership behaviors in “Leadership Behaviors among Gamers and Student Leaders” (Ch. 89). Others look to digital games to provide career guidance to adolescents (Ch. 100).

Improving governance. One memorable and appealing game is De Burgemeester Game (“The Mayor Game”) used to train mayors in The Netherlands. This game has the distinction of having been played by half of all mayors in that country. Hester Stubbé, Josine G.M. van de Ven, and Micah Hrebovcsik, in “Games for Top Civil Servants” (Ch. 70), show how this game (“a dilemma trainer”) simulates decision-making under pressure based on authentic scenarios. Once policy decisions are made, participants can read newspaper articles showing the results of the choices they made. They also see feedback on how their answers relate to the “three different roles he or she needs to take during a crisis, (1) ‘Boegbeeld’: taking a prominent role in the media, (2) ‘Bestuurder’: focusing on the law and administration side of the situation and (3) ‘Burgervader’: acting as a father/mother to citizens that suffer from the situation” (Stubbé, van de Ven, & Hrebovcsik, 2015, p. 1392). They note that there are no real right answers but that the game is a conversation starter to encourage intercommunications and shared problem-solving among the civil servants.

Another work designed to enhance governance, albeit e-governance, is Miguel Angel Piera, Juan José Ramon, Roman Buil, and Maria Moise’s “Causal Modeling to Foster E-Participation in the Policy Decision-making Life Cycle” (Ch. 39). Their work involves the employment of petri-nets to better understand and model citizen insights (which are described as influenced by “limited cognitive horizons” and “rational ignorance”) about digital urban scenarios.

Figure 7:  A Rumor Mill Contagion on NetLogo

Enhancing crisis response. Kenny Meesters and Bartel Van de Walle, in “Serious Gaming for User Centered Innovation and Adoption of Disaster Response Information Systems” (Ch. 61), presents gaming to help emergency response personnel practice information-sharing and decision-making, to enhance overall readiness. This work describes “Disaster in my Backyard,” which is set in an urban environment with flooding caused by rain. There are escalating crisis elements, such as rioting and fires from electrical shorts. Players may use information streams such as social media to better understand what is occurring.

Eugene Brezhnev and Vyacheslav Kharchenko describe a simulation approach to consider “the safe interaction between a Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) and a Power Grid (PG)” in “NPP: Power Grid Mutual Safety Assessment” (Ch. 37), based on an application of the Bayesian Belief Network (BBN). This is not about gamification in the traditional sense, but is more part of computerized modeling of complex interaction effects to capture dynamic risks.

Some other game applications. The other authors describe a range of other applications of games. Roma P. Patel, Jerry Lin, and S. Khizer Khaderi describe the uses of video games to enhance sports performance through retinal targeting (particularly the parvocellular retinal ganglion cells) in “Beyond Gaming: The Utility of Video Games for Sports Performance” (Ch. 62). 

Claudia Ribeiro, João Pereira, Tiago Antunes, and Micaela Monteiro describe the use of a serious game to train medical students on “Critical Transport: A Serious Game to Teach the Recommendations for the Transport of Critically Ill Patients” (Ch. 80). Michel Rudnianski and Milos Kravcik describe the importance of critical thinking, empathy, and data processing, in intelligence analysis, and they conceptualize a serious game to help human analysts work around very real human cognitive limits in “The Road to Critical Thinking and Intelligence Analysis” (Ch. 35). Rudnianski and Kravcik point to the advance of information technologies and the widely available raw flows of data as streams that may be properly exploited for intel.

Figure 8:  Blue Sky (from an open-source image) 

Blue sky concepts. There are some “blue sky” concepts, too. Jonathan Bishop, a member of the European Parliament representing Belgium, advocates the uses of surveillance of emerging economies using a mix of location-based sentiment analysis, neuroeconomics, and CCTV in “Reducing Corruption and Protecting Privacy in Emerging Economies: The Potential of Neuroeconomic Gamification and Western Media Regulation in Trust Building and Economic Growth” (Ch. 106).

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