Designing Game Based Learning – a Participatory Approach (ED-MEDIA 2008)

ED-MEDIA 2008 paper: Designing Game Based Learning – a Participatory Approach.

Abstract: Game Based Learning seems to be an interesting new possibility of teaching and learning, but the effort spent on designing games and the possible positive outcomes have to be weighed carefully. The following paper describes the development process and the conceptual design of a simulation game on sustainability for teenagers. The design process is participatory in nature. Members of the future group of learners are involved in the design process at every stage. This involvement is especially important to overcome the contradiction between the goal of the game as such and the pedagogical goal of the designers.

Playing games is a natural form of learning. Advantages of games include motivation, interactivity (constructivist approach) and cooperation (MMOGs). In the digital game-based learning environment there are two problems that the authors wanted to try to address:

  • Problem 1: Contradiction between playing the game (making lots of money but not in a sustainable living way) and learning (making choices that demonstrate an understanding of sustainable living choices).
  • Problem 2: There can be too much interactivity with a game and not enough reflection. Thus is there a need for accompanying lectures/discussions — yes/no?

There is simply not enough research in this area.

Game that the researchers developed: Suli (Sustainable Living)

  • Target audience: students in secondary schools in Austria
  • Topic: sustainable living
  • Goal: raise awareness about sustainable product design
  • Method: game-based learning to motivate the learners to reflect about sustainability
  • Simulation: avatars as well as top-view of world with islands (each player gets an island)
  • 8 rounds to play over 10 days

Participative design:

  • Students of a Viennese school helped design the game
  • Questionnaire given to students to define consumer behaviour
  • Core groups used in the three iterative development phases

Open questions:

  • In Suli, different strategies are possible: either earning money or supporting sustainable living. Earning money is more attractive to teens.
  • Accompanying lectures: Focus group with the teens after playing the game proved very valuable for the teens. They reflected and understood the complexities of sustainable living.

Initial results:

  • Methods used: focus groups, diaries, chat, questionnaire, log file analysis
  • Focus groups: students did understand that you cannot follow a dominantly economic and ecological approach simultaneously
  • Some students tried to cooperate to increase their success (buying each others products)
  • From the diaries it was clear that the students tried out different strategies to playing the game

Conclusion: The simulation approach is very positive for raising awareness, but the challenges above need to be addressed.


Authors: Margit Pohl, Institute of Design and Assessment of Technology, Vienna University of Technology, Austria;  Markus Rester, Institute of Design and Assessment of Technology, Vienna University of Technology, Austria; Peter Judmaier, Institute of Engineering Design and Logistics Engineering, Vienna University of Technology, Austria; Daniela Leopold, Department of Education and Human Development, University of Vienna, Austria

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s