On Educational Game Design: Building Blocks of Flow Experience
Kiili, Kristian (2005)
Tampere University of Technology
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The main objective of this research is to study how game design aspects can be integrated with relevant learning theories in educational games in order to develop games that are both engaging and educative. The design-science framework was employed to construct an experiential gaming model answering to this problem. This research is based on reviews of literature, the design of educational materials, as well as empirical studies. The empirical studies, including both quantitative and qualitative data analysis methods, were conducted in controlled situations during the years 2002-2005. All the materials described in this thesis were developed especially for research purposes in order to ensure that attention could be focused on certain aspects of the phenomenon studied. The thesis presents the construction process of an experiential gaming model that can be used to design and study educational games. The research was carried out in two phases related to two basic activities of design-science, building and evaluating. First, an experiential gaming model was constructed by combining existing knowledge. The aim of the model was to describe the mechanism of learning with games by integrating pedagogical aspects into the design process. Furthermore, the meaning of flow theory, that can be considered as a universal model of enjoyment, was emphasized as a design principle. The experiential gaming model was used to design and implement an educational content management game called IT-Emperor. The evaluation results of IT-Emperor indicated that the experiential gaming model was useful as a design framework, but needed to be revised to better answer the needs of game designers. The final state of this research was reached when the flow antecedents of the revised experiential gaming model were validated through two problem-solving games. This research indicate that flow antecedents that should be considered in educational game design are: challenges matched to a player s skill level, clear goals, unambiguous feedback, a sense of control, playability, gamefulness and a frame story. Further, the results supported the assumption that concentration, time distortion, autotelic experience, and loss of self-consciousness dimensions can be considered as being indicators of flow experience which has a positive impact on learning. As a conclusion, this research has shown that a game design model that takes both pedagogical and game design aspects into consideration, as well as ways of facilitating the experiences of players, could be constructed. The model does not provide a simple recipe for designing effective educational games, but it surely helps to refine the design of successful ones. The overall benefit of the experiential gaming model is in developing fast, low budget educational games that are educative while still engaging and rewarding.
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