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C2C Digital Magazine (Fall 2015 / Winter 2016)

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Cover, page 25 of 28

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...Part 5: Quality Assurance in Game Design (and Conclusion)

(from "Book Review:  All Things Gamification")

Figure 1:  A Sample Project in Unity3D (with a generous free license within a certain threshold of use) 

While a number of works describe what quality in gameplay looks like in particular contexts, several astute works point to metrics for overall game quality across games.

Cathie Marache-Francisco and Eric Brangier’s “The Gamification Experience: UXD with a Gamification Background” (Ch. 1) describes the uses of various game elements in user interface design in non-gaming systems to increase human persistence. Within this construct is a core dynamic of competition with self and others (as typified by leveling up and leaderboards) and feedback mechanisms.

Scott E. Hamm, Jason Drysdale, and Diana Moore propose an evidence-based pedagogy “that augments, extends, and constructs learning as a result of mobility’s affordances” in “Towards a Mobile Learning Pedagogy” (Ch. 109) (p. 2167). Thomas Hainey, Elizabeth Boyle, Thomas M. Connolly, Richard Beeby, Yaëlle Chaudy, and Mario Soflano’s “Assessment Integration in Serious Games” (Ch. 25) involves a review of the serious games literature and the main types of assessments: monitoring of “states” (of completion, of formative assessments, of teacher evaluations); quest types; uses of assessment model or profile; “micro-adaptive non-invasive assessment of competencies”; quizzes, and peer assessments (p. 519). Concerning, Hainey, et al. observed the rarity of using empirical evidence for assessment. The authors wrote, “The literature review performed in this study has shown that there is a dearth of empirical evidence associated with the integration of assessment into serious games and very few relevant studies were found” (Hainey, et al, 2015, p. 534). Alex Moseley, in “A Case for Integration: Assessment and Games” (Ch. 94), observes that assessments for the learning outcomes from game-based learning often is separate from the game; he suggests the criticality of integrating assessment with the game design and making it implicit in the gameplay (p. 1877).

Stephen Tang and Martin Hanneghan emphasize the importance of pedagogical soundness in the design and development of games for learning, in “Designing Educational Games: A Pedagogical Approach” (Ch. 28). They select relevant theories of learning and show how these apply to conventional game design practices—to produce a set of guidelines for educational game design. They offer a list of 13 steps to the design within three main phases: planning, prototyping, and finalizing (Tang & Hanneghan, 2015, p. 585). Quality assurance testing is a critical final step.

Björn Strȃȃt, Fredrik Rutz, and Magnus Johansson [in “Does Game Quality Reflect Heuristic Evaluation? Heuristic Evaluation of Games in Different Quality Strata” (Ch. 101)] explore the phenomenon of game developers creating various heuristics (rules of thumb) for game design on-the-fly. They describe how they tap expert reviews, user studies, and design patterns for feedback on their games. They suggest a stronger formalization of game quality assessments and game development heuristics for usability. They found that the most commonly violated heuristic was the following: “The Player has a sense of control over their character and is able to use tactics and strategies” (Strȃȃt, Rutz, & Johansson, 2015, p. 2000).

David Farrell and David C. Moffat’s “Adapting Cognitive Walkthrough to Support Game Based Learning Design” (Ch. 42) proposes the importance of applying a user-interface design technique known as the “cognitive walkthrough” to game-based learning projects. This walk-through conceptualizes how a user will engage the game in order to make sure that their needs are met throughout the game.

Figure 2:  PacMan on NetLogo, a Free Tool 

Deploying automated agents. Goncalo Pereira, Joana Campos, António Brisson, Marco Vala, Joāo Dias, Iolanda Leite, André Carvalho, Carlos Martinho, Joana Dimas, Rui Prada, Samuel Mascarenhas, and Ana Paiva describe the work of creating non-player characters (NPCs) and artificial intelligence elements by tapping research from psychology and sociology, in order to keep human players engaged, in “Non-Player Characters and Artificial Intelligence” (Ch. 24). The modeling of autonomous behaviors (based on personality, intelligence, and emotion) is designed to particular ends. The authors summarize different computational models of agents that may be applied to NPC characters in serious games. They describe their FAtiMA (FearNot! Affective Mind Architecture), which includes “22 different emotions with configurable activation thresholds and decay rates” (Pereira, et al., 2015, p. 491).

In “l33tsp33k: How Gamers Speak with Impenetrable Efficiency” (Ch. 77), R. Kelly Aune, Matthew Sharritt, and Daniel D. Suthers describe an ethnomethodology study they conducted related to analyzing the transcripts of gamers playing in Civilization IV. They found that gamers became more and more succinct (and difficult-to-understand) in their communications during game play, and they suggest that there is a need for researchers to understand gamer talk—in order to evolve games. (One quibble: The play on l33tspeak—a substitution cipher-- is not really appropriate in the context.)

Going mobile. Several authoring teams describe unique considerations for mobile and ambient game-based learning. Ann Jones, Charlie Pearson, Mark Gaved, Petros Lameras, Agnes Kukulska-Hulme, Ian Dunwell, Eileen Scanlon, and Jan Jones, in “Creating Coherent Incidental Learning Journeys on Smartphones using Feedback and Progress Indicators: The SCAMP Framework” (Ch. 31), explain the importance of “feedback progress indicators” (FPIs) for smartphone apps for learning. The authors propose the importance of five types of feedback progress indicators: social, cognitive, affective, motivational, and progress (which the authors call the “SCAMP” framework based on the acronyms) (Jones, et al., 2015, p. 630). Timely feedback may be used to create coherence and learning resilience from fragmentary and incidental learning episodes (p. 632).

Figure 3:  A Word Find Game (created in SoftChalk, a commercial digital learning object authoring tool) 

Avoiding unintended learning. The design of games involves controlling against unintended or negative learning [such as a sense of invincibility as mentioned in Anna Ursyn’s “Challenges in Game Design” (Ch. 34).] Game design requires assiduous attention to details and user-based testing. Unintended learning may not only involve messaging but also undesirable transfer of perceptual messaging. Angelica B. Ortiz de Gortari and Mark D. Griffiths, in “Auditory Experiences in Game Transfer Phenomena: An Empirical Self-Report Study” (Ch. 67), describe the phenomenon of unintended transfer of auditory experiences from game worlds into the real, in a case of unintended non-volitional auditory experience transfer. The authors write: 
“This study suggests that intense exposure to videogame playing may be accompanied by potentially intrusive auditory experiences in susceptible individuals. Reducing the playing time and being aware of coping strategies may be beneficial” (de Gortari & Griffiths, 2015, p. 1341).
One important point is that for every learning context, there are intended and unintended learning takeaways. 


This substantive collection is organized into eight sections:

Section 1: Fundamental Concepts and Theories
Section 2: Development and Design Methodologies
Section 3: Tools and Technologies
Section 4: Utilization and Application
Section 5: Organizational and Social Implications
Section 6: Managerial Impact
Section 7: Critical Issues
Section 8: Emerging Trends

These works effectively lay the gamification groundwork in the field of learning design based on real-world and applied research, theorizing, game reviews, and framework designs. The works are apparently a mix of those elicited from authors directly and gleaned from other books in IGI-Global’s holdings (with a few that are only peripherally related to the topic and a few without a clear tie, such as Ch. 58, which is about participant preferences for ICT, Ch. 81, which is about consumer attitudes towards video game purchases, Ch. 87, which is about the work of system operators in verifying user identities, Ch. 110, which explores faculty training for distance education). The cover visual itself, while eye-catching, lends itself to the male gamer stereotype and is non-inclusive.

Gamification shows the importance of interdisciplinary collaboration for this work and the importance of local expertise. It also captures the sense that while gamification has potential, there is early research in the field but also plenty of research gaps.

Notes: Thanks to IGI-Global for the permission to access an electronic version of the text for this review. For more information about this resource, please visit the related page.

To return to the main review start page, click here.

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