Rooney, P. (2012). A Theoretical Framework for Serious Game Design: Exploring Pedagogy, Play and Fidelity and their Implications for the Design Process. International Journal of Game-Based Learning (IJGBL), 2(4), 41-60. doi:10.4018/ijgbl.2012100103

This study explores a framework in serious games design called a triadic theoretical framework. Rooney (2012) provides theories that support this framework and tries to identify challenges and problems which are related to the balancing pedagogy, play, and fidelity in the serious games design process. The first pedagogical theory that underpins this framework is the constructivist theory which the authors state that this theory is important to create an authentic learning environment. The second theory to support this framework is situated learning theory. The author argues that serious games offer an opportunity for situated learning because the virtual world of such games can allow students to be immersed in the provided situation inside the games. Problem-Based Learning and experiential learning also underpin this framework in pedagogy aspect. The author states that Problem-Based Learning is used to foster high order cognitive skills such as critical thinking, and experiential learning may allow students to participate in the experience that they cannot access in the real-world context. As well as pedagogical theory, the authors also use gameplay theories in their framework, including the theory of motivation, engagement, and flow. In relation to these theories, the authors support their argument with triadic framework comprising player positioning, narrative, and interactive design. The authors also support their framework with the concept of fidelity, referring to the extent to which the game emulates the real world. 

This framework is interesting as it combines the theory of pedagogy and game design. I am interested in the concept of serious games for scaffolding which this study discusses in the Problem-Based Learning section. I think it is a key part of constructive learning, and I will try to incorporate it into my instructional design context. What makes this study become more interesting is that while providing the underpinning theories, the author also states challenges and issues relating to each theory. For example, when he provides an insight that serious game can scaffold students in learning as a part of constructive learning, he also mentions that how much scaffolding that game should give is not easy to judge. He also states that in order to make serious games replicate reality as close as possible (high-fidelity), it often increases cognitive load, which can distract students. Similar to Traspalacios and Chamberlin (2012)’s study, this framework may foster 21st-century skills, especially problem-solving skill, because Problem-Based Learning is used as one of the underpinning theories. However, while Traspalacios and Chamberlin (2012) provide an example of the game which uses their concept, Rooney (2012) does not provide an example of his framework in the real context, indicating that balancing both pedagogy theories with game design is a very difficult process. To conclude, the idea in which three aspects, including pedagogy, gameplay, and fidelity, combined and balanced with the game design process seems to be interesting but utopian. 


Moreno-Ger, P., Burgos, D., Martínez-Ortiz, I., Sierra, J. L., & Fernández-Manjón, B. (2008). Educational game design for online education. Computers in Human Behavior24(6), 2530-2540. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2008.03.012

This article analyses some requirements in designing educational games to be used in online courses. In the beginning, the authors provide some different approaches related to the design of educational games in general. There are three approaches, including edutainment, repurposing existing games for education, and specifically designed games. Then, they suggest that there is a need to identify pedagogical requirements to be integrated with online education which is different from offline education. These requirements include game integration to e-learning standard, game adaptation to the Learning Management System (LMS) as a delivering media, and games that can be a part of the assessment which can monitor students activities. The authors also suggest a design guideline to incorporate those pedagogical requirements started by choosing an appropriate genre of games, adding assessment, and integrating the games to an online environment, which is LMS. They also provide the example of game design implementation of an e-adventure educational game.

One of the valuable insights which I can get from this study is that game designers need to consider not only teaching content but also pedagogy and assessment aspect of digital games. Moreover, the authors’ suggestion about including adaptability of a serious game in the online environment is also beneficial for game design because the use of technology in online education becomes more complex time by time. In the assessment aspect, this study relates to the study from Hess and Gunter (2013). While Hess and Gunter (2013)’s experiment assesses students learning outcomes with a separated assessment task outside the game, this study provides a new way to assess students learning outcomes with the assessment embedded in the game. However, as this approach requires a mastery skill in computer and programming, it may need collaboration between content experts and IT programmers as what has been done in Wilson and Williams (2010)’s study which also use this kind of collaboration. Then, as this study was conducted in 2008, it means that the digital education trends in that time may not be applicable at this time or have been changed by the newest trends. For example, in this study, an online environment that the authors focus on is LMS which serve as delivering system. Nowadays, there are various tools which can replace the role of LMS, such as social media. This is related to Moot (2010), stating that “Many students, teachers, instructional technologists, and administrators consider the LMS too inflexible” (p. 1). Unlike Rooney (2012), the authors also do not provide a theoretical framework to support this design method. Then, the authors who come from non-education area expertise may too focus on the technological features rather than the pedagogy and assessment aspects.


Mott, J. (2010). Envisioning the post-LMS era: The open learning network. Educause Quarterly33(1), 1-9. Retrieved from https://maaz.ihmc.us/rid=1KCNR85HR-1TZLSG8-VZY/Mott%202010.pdf


Wilson, S., & Williams, L. (2010). Serious Games for the Classroom : A Case Study of Designing and Developing a Massive Multiplayer Online Game. In Van Eck, R. (Ed.), Interdisciplinary Models and Tools for Serious Games: Emerging Concepts and Future Directions (pp. 264-288). IGI Global. doi:10.4018/978-1-61520-719-0.ch011

This article presents a case study of project design and development of a cross-curricular game called McLarin. Wilson and Williams (2010) aim to give theoretical framework as a foundation of the project, elaborate the framework into the design process, and describe the methodology of the project. Wilson and Williams (2010) state that the decision to focus on Massive Multiplayer Online Game (MMOG) because this kind of game may provide an opportunity for students to collaborate in a virtual world. In this study, the authors use constructivist theory for authentic learning to be underpinning theory in the design and development of the game. The methodology of the project includes several stages. The first stage is the selection of learning standard in which content experts from literacy, mathematic, science, and social studies work. The next stage is the development of the game which is done by a group of practitioners and instructional designers. In this stage, the game will be developed from the prototype until the beta test.

The significance of this study is that it provides insight into how to incorporate a cross-disciplinary learning scenario in serious games. This insight can be useful in game design context because it can support 21st-century learning which focuses on interdisciplinary practice rather than separated subject. The concept of collaborative learning in a virtual world which this study provides can also give an idea that serious games is not only about individual activities. This is related to Trespalacios and Chamberlin (2012)’s study which also tries to incorporate collaborative learning. However, the difference between both studies is that in this study, Wilson and Williams (2010) incorporate collaborative learning inside the game environment. It is also good to know that in this study, the concept of authentic learning is implemented by the storyline of the game. For example, in order to move to the next stage, players need to solve a mathematic problem. As each stage requires knowledge of different disciplines, players will learn interdisciplinary knowledge when finishing the game. 

However, the in-game collaboration among students only uses a chat system which may cause misunderstanding because of typo or the use of incomplete sentences. This study also does not provide a way to assess students performance while and after playing the game. The number of effective students who can collaborate at the same time is also not addressed in this study. I think it will be confusing when many students interact at the same time by using the chat system and will be worse if there is no moderator to manage the chatroom. Therefore, I will try to incorporate communication system in my instructional design context which allows students to communicate through voice to prevent those issues.


Hainey, T., Connolly, T. M., Chaudy, Y., Boyle, E., Beeby, R., & Soflano, M. (2015). Assessment Integration in Serious Games. In Management Association, I. (Ed.), Gamification: Concepts, Methodologies, Tools, and Applications (pp. 515-540). IGI Global. doi:10.4018/978-1-4666-8200-9.ch025

This study focuses on addressing issues related to incorporating assessment in serious games. These issues are mainly about the type of assessment that will be adopted, whether it should be embedded in games or segregated, and which form of assessment should be used. At the beginning of the article, the authors provide some different types of assessment according to different categorisation, such as formative and summative assessment and embedded and external assessment. Then, the authors provide the results of a literature review from 31 previous studies that use different approaches to incorporate assessment to serious games. From the results, it can be seen that there are several approaches in incorporating assessment in serious games, such as monitoring of states-completion assessment, process assessment, teacher evaluation, quizzes, and peer assessment. The authors then provide the example of assessment integration in the serious games from the reviewed articles. For instance, they mention the use of quizzes in a game called CHERMUG. In this game, the form of assessment is multiple choices.

This study is significant because it provides an insight that the assessment aspect can be embedded in serious games. The results of this study may be useful for game designers as it gives various examples of assessment that have been embedded in serious games from previous studies. In my opinion, some examples of assessment forms that are provided in this study are interesting to be adopted in my instructional design context. For instance, the assessment form of Junior Doctor game can produce the report of gameplay. This record can prove whether or not the player doing the right steps or process. Another interesting assessment that can be identified from this study is the assessment from a serious game called Taiga Park. In this game, Bayesian networks are used to conclude how much the amount of knowledge and skills which students process based on his or her action. Therefore, this study expands my knowledge about assessment which can be added into serious games. However, the author of this study does not discuss which kind of assessment that most suitable to each genre of serious games. Moreover, as some of the assessment samples in this study are multiple-choice, it seems that it only assesses lower-order thinking such as remembering and recalling basic concepts according to Bloom’s Taxonomy. In my instructional design context, I will try to incorporate assessment form into serious games which can assess higher-order thinking.


Trespalacios, J. H., & Chamberlin, B. (2012). 21st century learning: The role of serious games. In Handbook of research on serious games as educational, business and research tools (pp. 782-799). IGI Global. doi: 10.4018/978-1-4666-0149-9.ch040

Traspalacios and Chamberlin (2012)’s article discusses what can be done by serious games in 21st-century learning. In this article, the main aim expressed is incorporating 21st-century skills, such as problem-solving, communication, collaboration, creativity, and innovation skills into serious games. Another intention of this study is incorporating the theory of generative learninginto serious games. Generative learning requires students to relate new information to their previous knowledge and real-life situations. Thus, generative learning strategies provide students with authentic learning. To support these aims, Traspalacios and Chamberlin (2012) provide an example of a Mathematics game they argue can hit the element of 21st-century learning. In this study, students are asked to relate concepts in the game with their personal experience based on generative learning strategies. Students are also required to engage in collaborative learning to discuss the problems provided in the game as a part of the assessment. These activities may promote students problem-solving skills, communication, and collaboration. 

From this study, I can know how important to underpin the design of serious games with learning theories. This article suggests that designing and developing serious games need to combine both theoretical and technological aspects. Traspalacios and Chamberlin (2012) can provide and combine both of these aspects in this article. One of the most significant concepts that I can adopt from this study to my instructional design context is how to incorporate generative learningtheory in game design. It will be useful when the game used for learning related to students experience in order to provide authentic learning. However, this study also has some limitations. The main limitation of this study is that it only focuses on Mathematic content to be presented in serious games. This is quite contradictive with the design framework from Wilson and Williams (2010), which focus on the interdisciplinary subject rather than focus on one single subject. Therefore, while this article is useful for providing the concept of generative learning,its focus on fostering 21st-century skills may be more influential if they adopt interdisciplinary subject as one of the 21st-century learning standards (Alismail & McGuire, 2015). The last limitation of this study may be the lack of explanation regarding the correlation of the 21st-century skills and the generative learning strategies in the design and implementation of the game. What I can perceive is that generative learning serves as the base theory of authentic learning, and 21st-century skills can be fostered by learning materials and activities provided in the game. 


Alismail, H. A., & McGuire, P. (2015). 21st century standards and curriculum: Current research and practice. Journal of Education and Practice6(6), 150-154. Retrieved from https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1083656.pdf


Hess, T., & Gunter, G. (2013). Serious game‐based and nongame‐based online courses: Learning experiences and outcomes. British Journal of Educational Technology44(3), 372-385. doi:10.1111/bjet.12024

This study compares serious game-based and non-game-based online course in terms of their ability in improving students’ learning performances and motivation. In this study, 92 students participate who come from an American history course from Florida Virtual School. The game-based course used a serious game called Conspiracy Code, while the nongame-based course used a content delivery system called Blackboard. This study investigates four research questions. The first question is whether it is different in the amount of time between two cohorts in completing the courses. The second question is whether there is any difference in learning performances between both courses. The third question is whether there is any connection between students’ learning performance and motivation, and the last question is what element of both courses that students perceive it as useful. An experimental approach addresses the first three research questions, while the last one is examined by a qualitative method. Although the results suggest that students in the serious game-based course have a greater learning outcome and motivation, they need a longer time to finish the course. This study also reveals that visual aspect in the game is really helpful to enhance students’ motivation based on the interview with students.

The article provides an insight that serious game can be an effective tool in learning, not only in face-to-face class but also in an online class. It also can be seen from the study that the use of serious game provides a beneficial effect on student performance and motivation compared to the use of other delivery systems. This study is also useful for instructional designers and serious game designers to consider which part of the serious game they need to focus on in order to make these game become more motivating. 

However, this study did not consider the gender factor which may determine the experimental results as both group courses consist of randomly chosen students. It can be seen from Garneli, Giannakos, and Chorianopoulos (2017)’s study that gender factor can determine the effectiveness of serious games. In addition, the result provided in this study is biased because it is not clear whether the greater learning outcomes and motivation gained by the serious game-based group came from purely when students play the game or when they interact with their peers and teachers. The authors also cannot confirm why students in the serious game-based course need a longer time to finish the course. In this study, the students communicate using other platforms like email. This may be more useful to incorporate communication features embedded in the game like the study from Wilson and Williams (2010). Lastly, although the findings of this study suggest that the visual aspect of games such as video and graphic can be motivating and engaging, it needs to consider the cognitive load that can be a demotivating aspect if these elements of the game are too rich. It is related to Killi (2005) who claims that the richness of interface may result in higher cognitive load.


Kiili, K. (2005). Digital game-based learning: Towards an experiential gaming model. Internet and Higher Education, 8(1), 13-24https://doi.org/10.1016/j.iheduc.2004.12.001 


Garneli, V., Giannakos, M., & Chorianopoulos, K. (2017). Serious games as a malleable learning medium: The effects of narrative, gameplay, and making on students’ performance and attitudes. British Journal of Educational Technology48(3), 842-859. https://doi.org/10.1111/bjet.12455

This study is intended to assess whether or not there are effects of serious game features which are narrative and making (modifying) on students’ learning outcomes and attitudes. In regards to measuring the learning outcome, an experimental method is used by dividing students into four groups consist of 20 students. The first group play a game with a narrative feature, the second group plays a game with no narrative feature, the third group play a game containing a modification feature and the fourth group act as control which learn in a conventional paper-based way. The learning outcomes of each group are measured using pre and post-test. After that, the authors conduct an interview section to analyse the impact of each treatment on students motivation and attitudes. In terms of learning outcomes, the results suggest that there are no significant differences between narrative, non-narrative, and modifying group. However, the interview results suggest that students prefer to use the game with a modification feature rather than the game with no modification feature.

Interestingly, the authors find that girls improve their math knowledge better when using traditional method than using the serious game. The authors argue that this may be because girls’ time in playing games is less than boys. This is useful to consider in my instructional design context that gender also plays determining roles in the effectiveness of serious games. Thus, there is a need to look for a game genre that can motivate both genders. I will also try to adopt the concept of modification into my serious game design as it can be motivating for students. Moreover, the findings which suggest the narrative or storyline of the serious game does not affect students’ learning performance may relate to Rooney (2012)’s article which also has a concern on storyline or narrative of serious games. In this study, the storyline is provided by text which may be less motivating. I think that the concept by Rooney (2012) may improve its impact because the storyline is built as players work on each stage by solving problem relating to the real-world context. 


Chen, H. J. H., & Hsu, H. L. (2019). The impact of a serious game on vocabulary and content learning. Computer Assisted Language Learning, 1-22. doi:10.1080/09588221.2019.1593197

Chen and Hsu (2019)’s study aims to measure the effect of a serious game in English vocabulary and content acquisition. The participants of this study are non-English students from a Taiwan’s university with the average of their English proficiency is around CEFR B2 level or higher intermediate level. The game used in this study is an online game called Playing History which also contains historical knowledge. Chen and Hsu (2019) use an experimental method to measure whether or not there are impacts of the game on English vocabulary and content acquisition by conducting pre and post-test. The findings suggest that there is an improvement in students’ vocabulary and history knowledge scores. 

The findings from Chen and Hsu (2019)’s study is significant because it can prove that serious games can provide a beneficial impact on content acquisition. The most interesting insight that I can adopt from this study is the concept of multimedia annotation which can help students to acquire words easier. According to Chen and Hsu (2019), words in multimedia are associated with other elements, such as sound and images which can be easier to remember rather than text in books.

Thinking beyond this finding, I will try to adopt the ability of serious games in enhancing vocabulary acquisition into my instructional design context as a biology teacher. In my experience, I often found that my students find it difficult to acquire biology terms which mainly come from the Latin language. Thus, I will design a serious game to improve students acquisition of biology terms and knowledge base on a concept of multimedia annotation.