These are the slides for my thesis Design Expo presentation.
If you are not able to view the document above, or want to view a version with animation, download the file from below
The final versions of Design Document for my thesis project.
According to Ackermann (2004), constructivism provides children with the opportunity to be “the builders of their own cognitive tools, as well as of their external realities.” By creating activities that inspire students to acquire their own sense of knowledge, they will be able to see that knowledge is an experience that is “actively built, both individually and collectively” and is “both construed and interpreted through action, and mediated through symbol use”. Like Vygotsky, Ackermann (2004) emphasizes on the idea that knowledge is also “progressively shaped and formed through people’s interactions/transactions”.
Computer games are great ways (economically and cognitively) to construct knowledge and understanding of historical facts. The nature of computer games makes it easier for students to tinker around and explore all kinds of possibilities. Furthermore, it allows the history classes to dig deep into the content that was once inaccessible before. As Papert and Harel (1991) pointed out, “[c]omputer-aided instruction may seem to refer to method rather than content, but what counts as a change in method depends on what one sees as the essential features of the existing methods”. Papert (2000) also emphasized on the revolutionary effect computers have on education by saying that “[t]he metaphor of computer as mathematics-speaking entity puts the learner in a qualitatively new kind of relationship to an important domain of knowledge”.
The rich details in every single moment of history was considered impossible to be re-experienced by modern human beings, because it was hard and costly to simulate a world for an individual to explore and interact with. However, with the help of computer technology, the simulation can be virtual reality instead of physical reality, and repeating it for a second individual does not elevate the cost at all. For “[t]hose who like to play with images of structures emerging from their own chaos, lifting themselves by their own bootstraps” (Papert & Harel, 1991), computer simulation on history events and character relations gives them an opportunity to construct their own knowledge for what history is really like. By playing this game, player will be able to construct their own knowledge by making important economic, social, or strategic decisions as a character in a particular historical event.
According to Obikwelu, Read, and Sim (2012), “providing guidance to students has been necessary to enhance their learning experience, especially when introducing students to a new instructional environment such as an educational, computer game”. Therefore, it is essential to incorporate scaffolding into the game design in order to provide clearly articulated goals and learning objectives and enable the students to extend their existing levels of understanding. One way to integrate scaffolding in to design is through feedback. As Obikwelu et al. (2012) stated, “feedback provides an opportunity to support children’s learning of unfamiliar educational content by ‘scaffolding’ them into successfully solving a problem”. Scardamalia and Bereiter (1994) also acknowledged the importance of teacher’s feedback, by saying that “[w]hen there are [classroom] discussions that could be construed as knowledge building, they are generally led by the teacher. Socratic dialogue is the model, which means that the teacher, playing Socrates, gives the discussion such direction as it has and is therefore likely to be the only one whose goals have substantive influence on the outcome”. Therefore, to scaffold students’ performance and learning through the game, feedback for reasons on each historical character’s decisions is essential in providing additional support for students as they keep trying to make sense of what they experienced in the game.
Today, I officially give up on developing a full graphic version of the game I proposed. The workload for such a design disproportionately demand too much time on graphic that I find it really hard to focus on delivering the essence of my design. Had I have a team of graphic designers to support my project, what I pictured were still possible. Hard as it may be, this decision is inevitable and long overdue. I hope that one day I can come back and give this project a more vivid and intriguing user interface. For now, I will be fully focused on the core mechanisms of the game, and a low-fidelity prototype (using Twine) to justify my design.
Many researchers have found that “students can learn a variety of skills through game-based learning, which appears to enhance problem solving, critical thinking, and creativity for users” (Magnacca, 2013; Sardone & Devlin-Scherer, 2010). In addition to providing educators with the opportunity to motivate students to learn important academic content through a rewarding and engaging environment, game-based learning can also “facilitate social interaction through multi player chat and voice over internet protocol, and develop skills including pattern and rule generation, hypothesis testing, and generalization” (Annetta, Mangrum, Holmes, Collazo, & Cheng, 2009). Like Mayer and Johnson (2010) mentioned, “[a]dding instructional features that promote learning in a game-like environment,” an educational computer game promotes instructional objectives (encourage players to make desirable changes in their knowledge) and measure specific learning outcomes.
In order to stimulate student’s interests in history through games, the implementation of computer-based video games into history courses must contain enough entertainment features, such as graphic, audio and video, to maintain the players' sense of motivation as well as enough educational features (interactive text, charts, tables, etc.) to provide appropriate cognitive processing during learning.
POV-T (The Points of View Theory)
According to McCully (2012), multi-perspectivity applies to “interpretations of the past, how the past is seen by those looking back, or ‘perspectives in the past’, how actors at the time perceived events as they unfolded”. Both aspects are important in societies where the past is hotly contested. Students need insight into why the cultural and political outlook of individuals and groups today help shape attitudes to past events. They also need to understand why people at the time, depending on their point of view, may have “perceived events in very different ways … and that even partial accounts have validity and are inter-connected” (McCully, 2012).
Sometimes, history in most textbooks are taught in mono-perspectivity, and even if there’s a shift in perspective in those textbooks, it simply took place as “one master narrative replaced another and not as a conversion from one mode of knowledge to another” (Ahonen, 2001). The new narrative was perhaps “useful for the remaking of a nation-state”, but, at the same time, inevitably “excluded a large ethnic minority from any role in the task of nation-building” (Ahonen, 2001).
On designing the game for history class, the player (i.e. student) will be given the chance to select a character at the beginning of the games and play the game through this character’s point of view. The nature of video games allows player to explore the game for multiple times, and through different characters, so that it is possible for the player to experience the same historical event through different perspectives, thus have a better understanding of what really happened and why were these decisions made. As Goldman, Black, Maxwell, Plass, and Keitges (2012) pointed out:
Often, we don't learn because we can't see what the other person (or book or activity) has to offer. Or, because we don't want to let go of our previous mindsets. For many learners, learning itself is frightening. It takes one out of the safe place of knowing to not knowing. But, when we have a chance to change our viewpoints and see what it means to understand the world from another perspective, our worldview changes.
Caution: the video may contain violent images that may not be comfortable for your viewing.
The Walking Dead is an episodic video game series based on Robert Kirkman’s award-winning comic books. The dead have risen to feast on the living, and the living cannot be trusted. The story you experience in The Walking Dead is driven by the choices that you make. Because of that, your story could be very different from someone else’s. (from Reddit)
I remember playing this game a couple of years ago. It is a good illustration of the central idea I was trying to get through to my audiences: everyone makes choice based on his/her self-interest and value system. As a person who has no knowledge of the future, there is no right or wrong choices; it's just whether the consequence of your choices servers your best interests. Whatever choice you make, as long as you are still alive, life goes on.
There are several great elements in this game. One is that it successfully combines the graphic with the choices for the players without making them feel bored. The other is that it provided a reflection system for the player's choices, i.e., one gets to see a summary of what other players chose under the same circumstances.
I am a little torn between ideas right know, so I consider this logic model to be a placeholder for now. There's still a couple of decisions to make, on whether to focus on history or general perspective taking, 3D RPG adventure game or text-based non-linear story telling game, and students or any interested gamer as audience. The design in the future could change drastically based on my decision on the issues above.
As I went on with my search to know more about the trending non-linear story telling game Lifeline, I discovered that it's complicated storyline (which is shown in a picture in the previous post) is being managed by a software called Twine.
This is their official website. BTW, their software is open source and completely free.
Learning about the difficulty I could run into in the future on developing my own 3D role-playing game, I have decided to take a look at another game genre. After all, writing code and tweaking on minor application bugs is not the nature of design, and I do not want my thesis to be just another design document. The genre of my choice is very different from what I've been looking at for the past few weeks - text based adventure games. The reason behind this choice is that while text games may lack visual stimulations for the players, they do provide more room for interpretation and imagination. Furthermore, it allow the players to less distracted by the graphics and more focused on the choices.
The following are some of the games I tried out recently.
The Colossal Cave Adventure
Colossal Cave Adventure (also known as ADVENT, Colossal Cave, or Adventure) is one of the earliest computer adventure games and a precursor form of role playing video game. The original version was designed by Will Crowther, a programmer and caving enthusiast who based the layout on part of the Mammoth Cave system in Kentucky. (from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colossal_Cave_Adventure)
Being probably the oldest computer games in the world, this games still attracts a wide range of demographic. People are fascinated by the world it presents, along with the non-linear map ( going north from one room to another does not necessarily mean you can go back where you came from by going south) and almost endless mazes. With all the details being reduce to zero, players can better appreciate the core elements of the game and make the experience more memorable.
Click here to play the game yourself.