Date of Award

Summer 2012

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Modeling Simul & Visual Engineering

Committee Director

Yuzhong Shen

Committee Member

Amy Adcock

Committee Member

Frederic D. McKenzie

Committee Member

ManWo Ng

Abstract

This dissertation examines the research question "How do video game design principles affect learning outcomes in serious games?" This research first develops a theoretical foundation concerning the meaning of the terms "game" and "serious game". This conceptual clarification is broken down into analytic propositions, which state that games have participants, rules, goals and challenges, and synthetic propositions, which state that the games should be intrinsically compelling, provide meaningful choices, and be self encapsulated. Based on these synthetic propositions, three hypotheses were developed. The hypotheses are that games with an enhanced aesthetic presentation, more meaningful choices, or provide player competition will elicit higher learning outcomes than identical games without these factors.

These hypotheses were tested via a quantitative experiment involving 172 undergraduate students in the Old Dominion University Chemistry Department. The students were asked to play a chemistry-oriented serious game entitled Element Solitaire©, which was created by the research author. The students were randomly given different treatments of the Element Solitaire© game to play, and the difference between their learning outcomes were compared. The experimental results demonstrated that the aesthetic presentation of a game can have a significant impact upon the learning outcome. The experiment was not able to discern significant effects from the choice or competition conditions, but further examination of the experimental data did reveal some insight into these aspects of serious game design. Choices need to provide the player with options that have a sufficient value that they will be considered and the application of competition within games needs to be judiciously implemented to promote a positive affect for all players.

The results of the theoretical foundations and empirical evidence were then combined with additional theoretical research to develop a set of design principles and a proposed serious game development process. These guidelines were researched and examined via the design and development process of several serious game prototypes and the examination of a large body of existing serious games. The end result is a practical procedure that is rooted in theory and quantitative experimentation.

DOI

10.25777/t49y-5a51

ISBN

9781267649560

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