Applying formal design methods to serious game design: a case study

Ivo Bril, Nick Degens

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An important step in the design of an effective educational game is the formulation of the to-be-achieved learning goals. The learning goals help shape the content and the flow of the entire game, i.e. they provide the basis for choosing the game’s core (learning) mechanics. A mistake in the formulation of the learning goals or the resulting choice in game mechanics can have large consequences, as the game may not lead to the intended effects. At the moment, there are many different methods for determining the learning goals; they may be derived by a domain expert, based on large collections of real-life data, or, alternatively, not be based on anything in particular. Methods for determining the right game mechanics range from rigid taxonomies, loose brainstorming sessions, to, again, not any method in particular. We believe that for the field of educational game design to mature, there is a need for a more uniform approach to establishing the learning goals and translating them into relevant and effective game activities. This paper explores two existing, non-game design specific, methods to help determine learning goals and the subsequent core mechanics: the first is through a Cognitive Task Analysis (CTA), which can be used to analyse and formalize the problem and the knowledge, skills, attitudes that it is comprised of, and the second is through the Four Components Instructional Design (4C-ID), which can be used to determine how the task should be integrated into an educational learning environment. Our goal is to see whether these two methods provide the uniform approach we need. This paper gives an overview of our experiences with these methods and provides guidelines for other researchers on how these methods could be used in the educational game design process.
Translated title of the contributionFormele design methodes toepassen op serious game design: een casus
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2016
Event10th European Conference on Games Based Learning 2016 - The University of the West of Scotland, Paisley, United Kingdom
Duration: 6 Oct 20167 Oct 2016
Conference number: 10th


Conference10th European Conference on Games Based Learning 2016
Abbreviated titleECGBL 2016
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


  • education
  • game design
  • methodology


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