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Exploring Serious Games Mechanics via a Card Game

This year, GALA is organising a series of Serious Game Mechanics (SGMs) workshops in order to disseminate, collect and validate current developing knowledge in the area of SGMs. This work is a collaboration between Gala partners (HWU BiBA, SGI, UNIGE, OUNL, COVUNI, MAN and CNR).

 

One aspect of these workshops is a card-based game developed in order to engage participants in actively thinking about the design and impact of a Serious Game Mechanic when used in context. The PPSM (Purpose, Process and Structure Methodology) card game activity has been conducted at both Gamedays (Darmstadt) and GALA (Bucharest) conferences and education at Heriot-Watt University (UK) with game design students. In this post, we discuss the card game design and the rationale behind its design.

 

The aim of the PPSM card game is really to provide participants with Serious Game design elements such as generic game mechanics along with pedagogy-related concepts and statements. The overall purpose of the game is for participants to consider a wide range of activities with regards to specific topics in order to creatively describe existing or novel Serious Game Mechanics. As we mentioned in a previous blog, Context is essential in determining what is or isn’t a Serious Game Mechanic. A simple game mechanic can act as a serious game component by providing content or context to an educational activity in one situation or just act as a simple game mechanic with no other purpose than to entertain in another situation.

 

The PPSM card game was designed so as to explore the diversity of participants’ understanding of game-based learning and their ability to be creative in finding educational solutions by facilitating dialogue in a fun and creative way. Like any other game, the PPSM card-game has rules (see below):

 

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PPSM Card Game (Rules)

 

Game Participants

(2–7 players per group)

The aim for this game is for the players or groups of players to match game-play techniques and learning approaches towards answering a simple statement.

 

Setting up the Game

Each group of players will be provided with a set of Game-play cards (Orange) and Learning Cards (Green). The players will then be provided with statement cards (Blue) one at a time. Each player is dealt 3 Orange cards and 3 Green cards. 1 Blue card is assigned to the group and 1 White blank example card is also provided to the group.

 

Aim of the Game

It is to the players to combine the Orange and Green cards available to them in order to collectively complete the statement in the best possible way. Once a statement is completed, the group will hand-in the cards (Blue, Orange and Green) to the panel experts along with a fictional example (on a White blank card).

On delivery of a statement card, the experts will issue the group with another Blue card and replace Orange and Green cards to compensate for the ones already submitted.

 

Scoring

The expert panel will be made of experts in instructional design, serious game research, pedagogy and serious game design. On reception of a statement, the expert panel will read and discuss the pedagogic or ludic values of the solution proposed by the statement and its accompanying example. On the basis of this discussion, the panel will decide to allocate 0 – 3 – 6 or 9 points for each statement.

Allocated points will be fed through to the groups during the game.

 

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The cards have been designed so as to reflect common game mechanics (SCVNGR –http://techcrunch.com/2010/08/25/scvngr-game-mechanics/) and well-known pedagogical approaches (Gagne, GEL Learning Paradigms, the CRESST model of learning and Gee’s learning principles for good games).

 

Gameplay exampleTeaching ExampleStatement Example

 

 

 

The card game has also been used in education at Heriot-Watt University for introducing the notions of Serious Games Mechanics to Computer Science and Game Design students in 4th year. The exercise takes between 1 and 1.5 hour per set of 10 statement card.