N. 19, Winter 2013/14

Table of contentsAuthor index

This special issue of the IxD&A journal intends to expand the results of the Games for learning workshops at the Intelligent Tutoring Systems 2012 and Foundations of Digital Games 2013 conferences, by discussing issues related to serious games (mostly) related to the educational practice. Serious games are usually defined as games not initially designed for entertainment; hence, they serve purposes related to teaching and learning, but not necessarily related to a classroom environment. However, the term ‘serious’ should not denote the lack of fun, when playing these games, since that would make them hugely unappealing to both student and adult players. Important aspects relevant to serious games include the design process, which should involve the end users so that the game is relevant to their needs and understanding of the concepts included in it, the game mechanics and how they support the game story and its narrative and the ‘fun’ factor to make the game experience more pleasant and keep player coming back for more. In addition to those factors, which are relevant to all games regardless of genre or aim, learning games are relevant also to the evaluation of their teaching objectives, which can be performed either via conventional means (e.g. written or oral tests) or by measuring specific elements in the game play and the ability of player to transfer acquired knowledge in real life settings (e.g. in the case of social games).

The papers included in this special issue cover a wide range of approaches and test cases and discuss different aspects of learning games. The paper “Profiling the Educational Value of Computer Games” by Alex Frazer, Alejandra Recio-Saucedo, Lester Gilbert, Gary Wills discusses a game framework to assist in the design and selection of games for a particular educational scenario. The paper discusses different game parameters and objectives, as described in a number of studies, which can be used to facilitate the update of games in the educational practice.

The paper “Psychological Perspectives on Motivation through Gamification” by Michael Sailer, Jan Hense, Heinz Mandl and Markus Klevers focuses on concepts related to gamification and provides hints on how these can be related to a classroom or ubiquitous educational setting. Although not necessarily related to games per se, gamification has been advertised during the past years as an effective means to motivate and engage students and, possibly, alleviate problems related to gender barriers in conventional education (e.g. attract boys to classroom teaching because of its reference to the games they play in their free time).

In “The Relation between Virtual Presence and Learning Outcomes in Serious Games – The Mediating Effect of Motivation”, authors discuss the virtual presence of a learner in a gaming environment and how it may affect the learning process. They argue that serious games bring in a number of positive effects, but do not solve all problems related to passing on knowledge and ensuring that it’s retained.

In the paper titled “Designing Serious Games for getting transferable skills in training settings” by Félix Buendía-García, Sol García-Martínez, Eva Mª Navarrete-Ibañez and Mª Jesús Cervelló-Donderis, authors discuss the design and development of games for training courses in a public working context, based on a framework for rapid game development and testing. They conclude that, even though further exploration is needed, the games developed and the analytics they describe in their paper show good potential, especially towards assessing or predicting the transfer of knowledge in actual work practices.

Troy Abel and Michael Evans, in “Cross-disciplinary Participatory & Contextual Design Research: Creating a Teacher Dashboard Application”, utilise visualization techniques on the teachers’ tablets to help them identify student affordances based on game play data. Although the application is still under development, authors claim that teacher participation in the design phase is expected to maximize the impact of this approach.

The paper “Using an Agent-Based Modeling Simulation and Game to Teach Socio-Scientific Topics” by Lori Scarlatos, Micha Tomkiewicz, and Ryan Courtney describe Energy Choices, a learning tool that models energy choices, growth and climate change and their interdependencies. The game was piloted in two different settings (knowing who was controlling their opponents or not) and authors report on how the different settings and game data visualization affected student engagement and performance.

In “Children with Motor Impairments Play a Kinect Learning Game: First Findings from a Pilot Case in an Authentic Classroom Environment”, Giannis Altanis, Michalis Boloudakis, Symeon Retalis, and Nikos Nikou present their initial evaluation results from a suite of natural interaction games for children with dyspraxia and other related disorders (autism, Asperger's Syndrome, and Attention Deficit Disorder). Authors discuss the measurable progress in performing specific actions, as identified in two particular cases, and conclude that the game-based approach was found to be both engaging and beneficial for the young patients.

The paper “The Virtual Runner Learning Game” by Reinhold Behringer, Roderick King, Abraham Smith, Jamie Matu, Andrew King, Bengamin Taylor, and Parichay Parivesh, discusses a game which allows learners to study three important variables in human physiology (lactate, glycogen, and hydration) and measure their influence on performance while running. User experience evaluation of the game with sports science student was promising, both in terms of playability and effectiveness of the game-based approach.

Finally, Hiran Ekanayake, Per Backlund, Tom Ziemke, Robert Ramberg, Kamalanath Hewagamage, and Mikael Lebram in “Comparing Expert and Novice Driving Behavior in a Driving Simulator” present a comparison of expert and novice drivers in a driving simulator. This comparison was based on measurements of performance, psychophysiological measurements, and self-reported user experience under different conditions and showed that driving behavior largely depends on driver experience and the particular task at hand.

The editors of the special issue would like to thank all authors for their submissions and the reviewers for their valuable feedback and timely response.

Evangelia Dimaraki, Ginevra Castellano, Kostas Karpouzis, Rilla Khaled