A THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK FOR SERIOUS GAME DESIGN: EXPLORING PEDAGOGY, PLAY AND FIDELITY AND THEIR IMPLICATIONS FOR THE DESIGN PROCESS

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. 

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