Thoughts and ideas from gaming papers and articles 2

The last post is getting a little long so time for another.

Larsen, T. (1999) Designing games for novice gamers Gamasutra (3338) Retrieved June 7th, 2008 from

On the other hand, several games let players start immediately without having to know lots of stuff about how to control the game. Many adventure games, in particular Myst, are easy to get started with and give immediate enjoyment. Novice players also have an easy time getting into 3D shooters such as Doom. Thus, it’s not surprising to see that these games reach a wider audience than other games with a higher entrance barrier.

So when you design games for novice gamers, a low entrance barrier is critical. The player should be able to start playing the game almost immediately and understand at once what is happening.

Visible Game Mechanics

Most people have played one board game or another, such as Monopoly, Ludo, and so on. In these games, the game mechanic is totally visible. In Monopoly, players roll the dice and move that number of squares. That square has an effect on the player that is explicitly written on the square itself or on a corresponding card. Novice gamers are used to visible game mechanics.

Themes and settings that seem quite acceptable to experienced gamers may seem weird or disgusting to people who aren’t accustomed to computer games. For example, experienced gamers are quite accustomed to excessive graphic violence and may think that more blood and gore make a game more entertaining. However, many others tout this excessive depiction of violence as a reason not to buy computer games.

Intellectual Manageability

An experienced gamer is often accustomed to managing many tasks at once. At one extreme are the strategy gamers who can handle up to 20 to 30 structures and 100 to 150 individual units at once with only a mild sense of panic. But even these people prefer to manage the units in groups because, intellectually, it’s easier to manage fewer objects — fewer objects means higher intellectual manageability.

Many independent studies in various professional fields conclude that seven is the highest number of objects that a person can comfortably keep in mind at once. This maxim applies to computer games as well. Maintaining an overview of what’s going on is easier if you have a maximum of (more or less) seven things on which to concentrate. If you’re making a game for novice gamers, you should pay attention to the game’s intellectual manageability.

Alternatives can also be arranged in hierarchies to adhere to the seven-object rule. At any one time, a player in a role-playing game may choose to move, rest, fight, or administrate his or her character. If the player chooses to fight, he or she can attack, guard, shoot, or use an item. At any level in the hierarchy, the player is never faced with more than seven alternatives from which to choose.

Ryan, T. (1999) Beginning Level Design, Part 1 Gamasutra (3329) Retrieved June 7th, 2008 from

Level design is the data entry and layout portion of the game development cycle. A level is, for all intents and purposes, the same as a mission, stage, map or other venue of player interaction. As a level designer, you are chiefly responsible for the gameplay.

Challenge comes from difficulty. The trick to good level design is to present challenges that are difficult enough to merit the players’ attention and make their heart or mind race, but not so difficult as to always leave them failing and disappointed. It’s a delicate balance based on what is perceived as the median player skill, and it is a variable constantly adjusted up until the game ships.

People don’t like playing the same level twice. Not only does it ruin the entertainment value, it also fails to spark the imagination. It’s therefore incredibly important that levels introduce some variation in the plot, challenge, setting, and characters (i.e. the enemies).

Thesis, Antithesis and Synthesis

Stories essentially come in three parts:

  1. The thesis, which is the introduction to the setting, the characters and the hero
  2. The antithesis, which is where the conflict and villains are introduced and is what amounts to the majority of the story
  3. Synthesis, where there is some form of resolution, be it triumphant or tragic.

Understanding and Developing the Thesis in Level Design

Each level in itself is its own story. As level designers, you set up the thesis by preparing the initial situation. You position the player and perhaps indicate his initial arsenal or force or set of spells or pieces. You render the setting with your map or your puzzle board. The setting and the situation can change over the course of the level as portions of the level are revealed to the player or new characters or other elements are introduced such as power-ups or new player or enemy forces. As games are interactive, you have to be very conscious about every possible situation a player can be in at any given time or place over the course of the playing the level.

Introducing and Refining the Antithesis in Your Level

The antithesis is where the players interact with your level. By positioning enemy forces and scripting their behavior, or by setting the timing and speed of the bugs they have to zap or the puzzle pieces they have to place, you are creating conflict. This should be where the core gameplay of your level is.

Synthesis – Making Your Levels End in a Satisfying Tone

Synthesis is the result of an encounter or the entire level. It’s a moment of reflection for players to evaluate the encounter or level and what they got out of it. Whether players fail or succeed, they should be able to recognize why and how they might do better next time. This keeps them interested in trying again or just replaying for a better score or reward.

Victory or failure should be obvious. Players should understand why they lost. Victories should come as the direct result of the final acts of the player, not as the result of something the player does midway through the level (the latter tends to make players bored). Ending the mission on a big, satisfying note leaves a player feeling good.

Everything the player sees or does must further the story. All of the players’ accomplishments should move them toward the completion of the story or pull them further into the conflict with the villain.

Most gamers have a short attention span, especially those who play console games. They don’t have as much patience with minor details and game subtleties. If you present them with too much detail, or if your gameplay hinges on the player understanding the significance of minor details (like a single dialogue message), then you will lose them… Spending a lot of time working on non-interactive details can be a waste of time and resources, although it’s important to put some effort into it because the player will pay some attention to it.

Ryan, T. (1999) Beginning Level Design, Part 2: Rules to Design by and Parting Advice Gamasutra (3332) Retrieved June 7th, 2008 from

20 Rules to Design By

1) Maintain the vision.

The “vision” is the core idea of the game design.

2) Learn the design palette.

One of the first things you need to establish before you begin your machinations is the design palette. The design palette includes all of the art and game play elements at your disposal.

One grave mistake that all designers make at some point is to create mazes. Why is that a mistake? Mazes are one of the first forms of puzzles introduced in computer games. It’s old now. Because all it takes to make a maze is placing walls or other terrain that blocks movement, it’s the easiest game play to create. It is sort of a last resort when you are fresh out of game play elements and ideas. When you get to this point, stop. Try to improve your design palette by coming up with new ways to use existing elements or by pushing the game designer to create more.

4) A level will only ever be as good as you imagine it.

A great sculptor doesn’t begin chiseling a block of stone until he envisions in his mind what the completed sculpture will look like. The same is true with level design: there’s no point in beginning to design your map if you can’t truly see what you’re working towards. You might have a vague idea about what you are trying to make, but to start designing away without a clear vision can lead to a lot of wasted time and effort.

This isn’t to say that you should leave some time to experiment, but the core idea of the game play for your level should stand on its own. It’s also best to choose a core idea that leaves a lot of room for a variety of game play. When you implement the level, establish the core idea with broad strokes, and just make it work. With that done, decide if the idea has merit and whether you want to go further with the level. If so, fill in the fine details and experiment with subtle game play details. Often it’s the subtler elements and details that make the difference between a good level and a great one.

5) If there’s no difference, what’s the point?

Having multiple routes to the same goal is a good way of giving players choices and a sense of freedom while still ensuring they end up at the same point. Yet, if each choice exposes the players to the same types of enemies, the same rewards, and the same risks and costs, then players will only get frustrated and bored when they discover that there is essentially no difference.

6) Cater to different playing styles and abilities.

When presenting options, challenges or puzzles to players, try to offer multiple solutions that cater to different player styles and abilities. Some players play conservatively, while others like to play it risky.

7) Reward player imagination and efforts.

Players like to experiment and explore. The more solutions, secrets, alternate paths, and so on, that you provide in your level, the more satisfied players will be. It’s a great feeling when, as a player, you come up with a not-so-obvious solution that succeeds. Remember that players almost always go off the main route hoping to find shortcuts, hidden caches of goodies, or other unexpected items. When designing a level, try to think about what players may want to try, and give that to them. When they say, “What if…?” your level should respond with, “Yes, you can.”

8) Pay attention to level pacing.

Pacing is the introduction of conflict and tension, plus what some like to call the “adrenaline rush.” This follows closely the Thesis-Antithesis-Synthesis model that we know from stories and films. The tension builds as the player (the thesis) interacts with the antithesis, and it crescendos right before the synthesis, where the reader, watcher or player breathes a sigh of relief.

Because games are interactive, forcing a certain pace into the level can be difficult. What if the players don’t do what you want them to do? What if they take too much time? What if it’s too easy and unexciting when it’s played slow or too intense if played too fast? There are some things you can do to remedy this without taking all the interactivity out of it.

Time limits add tension that’s immediately perceptible by the player. A time limit can force a player to move more rapidly, or adopt tactics that you want him to use, such as splitting forces to achieve multiple objectives. You can put in an artificial time limit – like a mission clock, a puzzle-solver clock, or a turn time limit. You can institute a realistic time limit into a level, like the time it takes a certain enemy or ally unit to move to its exit point, or the time before enemy reinforcements arrive to overwhelm the player.

Controlling the movement speed or distance a player may traverse in a turn drastically affects game play pacing. While you cannot just arbitrarily change this in your level unless you are doing a puzzle game like Tetris, there are other ways you can play with speed. Often terrain affects movement speed, such as swampy ground that slows you down, a highway that permits you to speed up, or an obstructed and twisty route that slows your progress. Giving units different movement speeds and/or movement restrictions can slow or speed up the players, if they have to travel with that unit.

9) Reveal assets carefully.

Keeping the player interested in the game requires careful asset revelation. Assets are the game’s eye candy, such as terrain objects, enemy and friendly units, upgrades, puzzles, and so on. All but the simplest games try to reveal these assets gradually to players, so as not to overload them on the first level, and to keep them interested in going on to the next level.\

10) Challenge the player.

Your job as level designer is to challenge the player. A level isn’t truly satisfying unless victory is at times uncertain. So you have to present challenges to players that really test their mettle and make them uncertain of their victory. When doing so, you have to cater to different player abilities (see rule #6) and to increasingly skilled and equipped players. Where your level is positioned in the game timeline or “level progression” should indicate how difficult it needs to be. In the first few levels, players learn how to play the game, so these levels should be a little forgiving. Levels at the end should be the most difficult to coincide with the increased skill and player resources.

12) If the player didn’t see it, it didn’t happen.

Don’t assume all players will read dialogue or mission descriptions, and don’t rely on their observation skills, powers of precognition, or capacity for logical deduction to understand what is going on in the level and what they should do. Players must see what is happening to understand it.

13) See through the player’s eyes.

Players usually watch most closely those objects that appear on a level’s “event horizon.” The event horizon is where new terrain is revealed and where enemies are engaging the player. Changes in the event horizon often trigger a reaction from players or influence their decisions, and changes elsewhere may not get noticed immediately.

For instance, if an enemy unit suddenly appeared in the middle of previously revealed terrain, it may not attract the player’s attention, at least until a blip appeared on the radar or the new unit attacked one of the player’s buildings. However, if the enemy unit appeared where new terrain was being revealed, it’s likely that it would be noticed right away. Likewise, a building isn’t really looked at except when it’s initially revealed.

While some players spend time examining previously revealed terrain, most people do not, and it becomes even less likely when the game takes place within a 3D environment. Players usually only observe what is in the “here and now,” and you should put yourself in their position to ensure that you don’t put imperceptible events in your level.

18) Be the adversary.

To a certain extent you have to be sadistic to the players. You should enjoy being the adversary, and think from the AI’s perspective. This will help you make much more realistic opponents that a player can understand. Players naturally put a human face on the AI, and so they expect the AI to behave like a human. When you script the AI to behave in a human fashion, it helps players successfully strategize and often draws them deeper into the game. It also evokes a little fear in players, as they don’t expect a game AI to recognize their weaknesses. As the adversary, you need to provoke fear in players and prey on their weaknesses. It’s what makes the game more challenging, fun and fulfilling.

Pinchbeck, D. (2008) Story and Recall in First-Person Shooters [Electronic Version] International Journal of Computer Games Technology Volume 2008 pp.1-7

However, what has been underrecognised is the dynamic, epistemological, and psychological impact of story and story elements
upon player behaviour. It is argued here that there is evidence that story may have a direct influence upon cognitive operations.
Specifically, evidence is presented that it appears to demonstrate that games with highly visible, detailed stories may assist players
in recalling and ordering their experiences. If story does, indeed, have a more direct influence, then it is clearly a more powerful
and immediate tool in game design than either simply reward system or golden thread.

A simple study was carried out, whereby twenty-six
participants played either Bethsheda’s Call of Cthulhu: Dark
Corners of the Earth (2006), or id’s Doom3: Resurrection
of Evil (2005) for 40 minutes in more-or-less natural
playing conditions and then undertook a semistructured
interview. In this interview, subjects were asked to discuss
four factors in their experiences: the world they explored,
the characters they met, the avatar they controlled, and
the sequence of events—literally “what happened when
you played the game?”

5.1 Character
All subjects from both groups had no problem when
asked to provide a motive for one of the characters they
had identified. In the CTH group, these were usually fairly
accurate, and in many cases picked up on subtle nonludically
significant information. Player’s asked about the motive for
the marines being on Mars in RES which were far less
sure and in some cases highly creative in their responses.
9/13 players were asked and the results varied from the
semiaccurate “there was an incident,” “they used to go there
and lost the colony” to the false “they have discovered this
archeological site,” “conducting some research,” and fanciful
“human curiosity.” Only one subject noted the cover story
given in the opening sequence

5.2. Environment
Subjects were asked to talk about the environments they
visited and then prompted with two further questions:
any particularly memorable features or details, and what
sounds were present? CTH splits into two levels: the opening
sequence in a dilapidated cult mansion and its underground
tunnels and Innsmouth itself. RES is all set in an archeo-
logical dig site, with alien architecture slowly transforming
into the human base sited above it. These were variously
described as caverns, mines, high-tech industrial, and Aztec.
The presence of technology was noted, often (4/13) in
relation to the number of boxes and crates lying around.
What was most striking about RES subjects descriptions
of the environment was how directly indexed to gameplay
mechanisms many of them were. 6 of the 13 subjects talked
explicitly about generic game devices rather than the
presented environment.

The darkness of the levels was the consistent feature
noted, with all subjects referencing it. Beyond that, features
were evenly distributed between pits, doors, and interactive
objects (a power cell transplant sequence was noted by
4 subjects). It was quickly recognised by 5 subjects that
each hostile agent was preceded by a signature sound; aside
from this, ambient noise was noted. However, no subject
reported the radio transmissions that sporadically interrupt
the action, nor the direct instructions from McNeil.

5.3. Avatar
One thing both study groups shared was a very distinct
conceptual distance between player and avatar. Only two
subjects in the entire study referred to the action in the
first person. Further, the majority used the second when
discussing plot, character, and environment: “you go into the
basement,” “you are this marine.”
However, it is important to note that over identification
with the avatar can be problematic, as it exposes the
limitations of the game system [23].Thefactthatmostof
the subjects in the study felt that they were controlling Jack
or the marine, or in some cases “aiding” them, acting as a
team suggests that the avatars were functioning effectively.
Subjects were first asked about their relationships to the
avatar, and then whether they thought he had a definable
character. If the answer was yes, they were prompted to try
and encapsulate this personality in few words. Finally, they
were asked about their motives and whether they considered
this to be the same as their avatars.
All but one of the CTH subjects easily identified with
Jack, citing the amount of background material as the
major reason they were able to do so (4/13 also stated that
the gameplay device of hearing his heartbeat increase in
times of stress helped draw them in).

RES subjects found empathy easy too but struggled more
with the notion of character. Although 8/13 felt that the
marine had a character, when asked to summarise his per-
sonality, there were noticeable pauses; then 5/13 constructed
a personality based around their play styles—either “cool,
level headed, not freaked out by what is happening” or “a
kick-ass marine.” The remaining four described the avatar as
bland, or a shell, though two of these suggested that as the
story progressed, theymay understandmore about him. One
tied his motive to try to find his squad, which is completely
missing from the actual game; another candidly pointed out
that the initiation of the action comes fromthe avatar picking
up the artifact and that he was playing the “idiot who caused
it all.” Noticeably, the RES players were more likely (5/13)
to differentiate their motive from the avatars: whilst he was
variously “trying to get to the surface,” “escaping,” “staying
alive,” “returning the artifact for study,” they remained only
superficially involved, wanting to explore the game, or just
responding to wave after wave of hostile avatar. Several (3/13)
wanted additional characterisation to flesh out the marine’s

5.4 Plot

The need for closure was highly evident in both subject
groups; most of whom assumed a closed narrative was
unfolding, even if they did not fully grasp it. CTH subjects
generally coped well with a highly complex narrative, includ-
ing an unconventional temporal sequence. One subject failed
to identify Jack in the opening sequence; another suggested
that the suicide was successful and the Innsmouth level was
not real. All of the CTH subjects described the plot fully or
near fully and did so using clear storytelling structures: there
was clear cause and effect and understanding of temporal
sequencing. More to the point, every subject thought a story
was operating behind the action—two even suggested that
it was more important than the action (one describing the
experience as more like watching a film than playing a game)
and were happy to ascribe the gaps in the information
they were given to a plot arc they had yet to uncover
although most assumed they would uncover it. Asked if
they believed that other characters within the game knew
more than they did, all but one answered yes.

Conspiracy, and its counterpart, amnesia, is a
powerful theme in FPS games, occurring in nearly every title,
and it is evident why this should be. Not only does it allow
narrative development to be offered as a reward scheme, but
it also achieves two more direct gameplay functions. Firstly,
it lowers the player/avatar’s status, training themto be reliant
upon the system for information, which is why it is so often
attached to high-status NPCs. Secondly, it allows the system
to gain control over information shortfalls: it is simply not
necessary to offer a complete package of information if the
closure is operating successfully—the player will contribute
at least the assumption that all will become clear and, as such,
shortfalls and contradictions can be masked.
Tellingly, even though RES subjects struggled to create a
full narrative of their experiences, quickly degenerating into
brief summaries “monsters come and you shoot them,” “you
just keep going until to find the boss,” and several 3/13 admit-
ted complete ignore as to what was going on; most (7/13)
believed there to be a story happening. This would seem to
confirm that Kermode’s question remains valid in the sphere
of game research. Only two drew attention to the PDAs
lying around the environment which provided background

A game with a high emphasis on story such as Cthulhu
seems to enable players to recall a substantial quantity of
the information it presents, even when this is presented in
a nonstandard and incomplete fashion. Although players
often fail to remember names, they are adept at either
recalling or inferring motive.

Even though Cthulhu contains
a much higher number of characters than Resurrection of
Evil, subjects were able to remember much more about
them, suggesting that players of the latter were simply not
paying any attention to them. This may sound banal, but it
is evidence that the system is training the player to attach
significance. Further, the fact that players of Resurrection
found it difficult to recall their actions in detail suggests that
a strong plot may not only act as a reward scheme but aid in
orientation and postexperience affect

Peters, J. (2007) World of Borecraft: Never play a videogame that’s trying to teach you something Slate 2169019 Retrieved June 8th, 2008 from

When does a game stop being a game and turn into an assignment? Can a game still be called a game if it isn’t any fun?

Newsgames are an interesting idea, but this one is less informative than a simple article and less fun than doing the Jumble. Food Import Folly didn’t make me think long and hard about FDA policy—I just ended up left-clicking furiously in a half-assed attempt to “win.”

In taking the fun out of video games, companies like Persuasive make them less alluring to people who love games and more alluring to people who don’t. Your boss, for example. Many of Persuasive’s projects were commissioned by corporations as nontraditional job-training tools.

The graphics and game play in modern edutainment software have certainly improved since Mavis Beacon’s heyday. But the fundamental conceptual problem still remains: Animating mindless, boring repetition doesn’t make the repetition any less mindless or boring.

I think game designer and theorist Raph Koster has it right. “[J]ust strapping an incentive structure on rote practice doesn’t work very well, compared to … building a long-term goal structure, and then presenting challenges on the way,”

The basic issue here is that it’s easier to make a fun game educational than it is to inject fun into an educational game. In his 2005 book, Everything Bad Is Good for You, Steven Johnson argues that games like The Sims and Grand Theft Auto make us smarter by training the mind in adaptive behavior and problem-solving. Most overtly educational software, though, ignores the complexities that make games riveting and enriching. The serious-gaming types think they can create educational software from whole cloth. In reality, they have a lot to learn from Grand Theft Auto.

Guttler, C. and Johansson, T. (2003) Spatial principles of level-design in multi-player first-person shooters Proceedings of the 2nd workshop on network and system support for games (pp. 158 – 170) New York, NY: ACM

In this manner, the paper
addresses the following questions: What
characterizes good level design in first-
person shooters? Which criteria are
necessary in the level-design process in
order to obtain quality? The thesis of the
paper is that a consistent examination of a
game’s gameplay, its agents, and spatial
components is necessary for the
development of a design method that
would lead to ultimate level design.

Setting off from a theoretical
discussion of the terms gameplay and
emergence, the paper starts by establishing
the basic characteristics of
multiplayer shooters. The concept of
emergence leads to a distinction of the
unique features of multi-play and
teamplay, and concepts of gameplay helps
us map out the basic spatial properties of
the game environment and its staging of
player strategies and tactical choice. The
key concept in the principles of spatiality
in level design advanced here is the so-
called collision point; the location that
marks the clash of players and hence the
set of relevant tactical choices to be made
by the teams.

Secondly—and that is this text’s
approach – is Multi-player FPS a
fundamental different type of game than
single-player games. Where single-player
shooters are structured as often a
predefined number of serial challenges
(“monsters”) to which the player is
confronted through an organized spatial
route (through corridors, hallways, shafts
etc.) is the multi-player game much more
unpredictable. The task here is not to
accomplish a course of events, but a
mission and attacking enemies that aren’t
preprogrammed challenges but actual
opponents with own goals and tactical
competence equal to one self. In that
sense, the goal is no longer an optimal
completion of the game (according to
time, killed “monsters” etc.) but simply to
win the game, which in this case means
defeating all the opponents in the played
game. Further, the task in for example
Counter-Strike is to fulfill the mission as a
team, partly because the individual player
is to join a team when the game starts and
partly because assistance from team
members is absolutely necessary to win
the game. This team-orientated structure
has naturally contributed to the
establishment of unique player
environments outside the game.

The fact that the player is not dragged
from one event to the other but is offered a
game environment that supports teamplay
and different play styles, states that the
principles for level-design (the creation of
playable virtual game environments) are
quite different from the single-player

The term gameplay is often used to judge
and describe a computer game’s qualities.
The meaning of this term is discussed
since it first appeared, but it seems that a
agreement is reached that the term judges
the game’s ability to offer the player
qualified choices and options, how these
are accessible to the player and in what
degree they are relevant to the player’s in-
game situation.

In single-player games in the FPS
genre, this is noticeable in terms of what
possibilities the player is given, to
confront and defeat the ongoing
challenges. Or whether the player is given
possibilities to think and act in a creative
way and in that sense solve the problems
in better ways, or to what extent the game
is reduced to monotonous conductions, in
which the player just has to improve his
skills. Shortly is gameplay about which
challenges meet the player, confronted to
the player’s ability, given by the game, to
solve these problems. The greater freedom
to act, and thereby opportunity to solve
problems in a creative way according to
the game universe, the greater gameplay
value is offered the player.

Moore, C. (2008) How to turn your learners into compulsive completers Making Change – ideas for lively elearning Retrieved June 8th, 2008 from

Consider offering a series of rewards throughout a course or other linear experience. Each reward builds on the last to create a desirable collection–all of it imaginary.

Or turn the whole thing into a story

Of course, you won’t need separate rewards if you can make the entire course a story and use plot devices to make learners want to know what happens next.

Kuhlman, T (2008) Motivate your learner with these 5 simple tips The Rapid E-Learning blog Retrieved June 8th, 2008 from

Typically, people are motivated when their learning has meaning. For example, if I know that passing a course will equate to an increase in my income, I am motivated to pass the course. The same can be said for being motivated by personal safety.

Reward Your Learners. People are motivated by rewards. Figure out what type of reward you can give the learners and then build that into the course. Sometimes the rewards can be timed challenges or reaching a certain level of achievement. Other rewards could be actual merchandise, like winning an iPod. It all depends on the course.

Rewards don’t have to be tangible items. They can be simple things like affirmation and encouragement. The main point is to connect with the learners and find a way to have them feel good about some sort of achievement in your course.

Help Your Learners Perform Better. This ties into the previous point. Your course needs to have value and it needs to be relevant to what your learners do. People will be motivated to take your course and pay attention as they know it will help them perform better.

Your job is to connect the learner to the course content. If I’m taking a site safety course, I’m probably less motivated by clicking a button on a simple assessment than if I’m thrown into a real life scenario where I am challenged to work through some issues similar to what I’ll face at work. This type of approach connects me to the content, more so than screen after screen of bullet point information.

Set Clear Expectations for the Course. I’m amazed to see my children just click around on the computer screen to get what they want. On the other hand, I’ve watched adults fearful of clicking a next arrow not sure what will happen.

People tend to be leery of things they don’t understand, or if they’re not quite sure where they’re going. However, once they get a sense of what’s going on, they’re more apt to be responsive to the course.

If you want your learners motivated, then a good way to get them there is to let them know what to expect from the course that you want them to take. This all ties into the points above. You’re asking the learners to spend some of their valuable time going through your course. They expect clarity on what they’ll do, why, and what type of outcome to expect.

Tell Them They’re Wrong. Controversy gets our attention and is a good way to motivate. Challenge what a person believes, or even tell him he’s wrong, and you’ll see a person motivated to prove you wrong. Of course, this approach needs to be tempered with common sense.

However, there is a lot of value in challenging people and what they know. It’s just a matter of knowing how to do it in a manner that is appropriate. When a person is challenged it puts them at risk and they tend to pay more attention.

Create an environment where they can safely fail or make mistakes and you’ll challenge them and keep them engaged.

Learning Theories Knowledgebase (2008, June). Behaviorism at Retrieved June 8th, 2008 from

Summary: Behaviorism is a worldview that operates on a principle of “stimulus-response.” All behavior caused by external stimuli (operant conditioning). All behavior can be explained without the need to consider internal mental states or consciousness.

Originators and important contributors: John B. Watson, Ivan Pavlov, B.F. Skinner, E. L. Thorndike (connectionism), Bandura, Tolman (moving toward cognitivism)

Keywords: Classical conditioning (Pavlov), Operant conditioning (Skinner), Stimulus-response (S-R)


Behaviorism is a worldview that assumes a learner is essentially passive, responding to environmental stimuli. The learner starts off as a clean slate (i.e. tabula rasa) and behavior is shaped through positive reinforcement or negative reinforcement. Both positive reinforcement and negative reinforcement increase the probability that the antecedent behavior will happen again. In contrast, punishment (both positive and negative) decreases the likelihood that the antecedent behavior will happen again. Positive indicates the application of a stimulus; Negative indicates the withholding of a stimulus. Learning is therefore defined as a change in behavior in the learner. Lots of (early) behaviorist work was done with animals (e.g. Pavlov’s dogs) and generalized to humans.

Behaviorism precedes the cognitivist worldview. It rejects structuralism and is an extension of Logical Positivism.

Learning Theories Knowledgebase (2008, June). Social Learning Theory (Bandura) at Retrieved June 8th, 2008 from

Social Learning Theory (Bandura)

Summary: Bandura’s Social Learning Theory posits that people learn from one another, via observation, imitation, and modeling. The theory has often been called a bridge between behaviorist and cognitive learning theories because it encompasses attention, memory, and motivation.

Social Learning Theory (Bandura)

People learn through observing others’ behavior, attitudes, and outcomes of those behaviors. “Most human behavior is learned observationally through modeling: from observing others, one forms an idea of how new behaviors are performed, and on later occasions this coded information serves as a guide for action.” (Bandura). Social learning theory explains human behavior in terms of continuous reciprocal interaction between cognitive, behavioral, and environmental influences.

Necessary conditions for effective modeling:

  1. Attention — various factors increase or decrease the amount of attention paid. Includes distinctiveness, affective valence, prevalence, complexity, functional value. One’s characteristics (e.g. sensory capacities, arousal level, perceptual set, past reinforcement) affect attention.
  2. Retention — remembering what you paid attention to. Includes symbolic coding, mental images, cognitive organization, symbolic rehearsal, motor rehearsal
  3. Reproduction — reproducing the image. Including physical capabilities, and self-observation of reproduction.
  4. Motivation — having a good reason to imitate. Includes motives such as past (i.e. traditional behaviorism), promised (imagined incentives) and vicarious (seeing and recalling the reinforced model)

Bandura believed in “reciprocal determinism”, that is, the world and a person’s behavior cause each other, while behaviorism essentially states that one’s environment causes one’s behavior, Bandura, who was studying adolescent aggression, found this too simplistic, and so in addition he suggested that behavior causes environment as well. Later, Bandura soon considered personality as an interaction between three components: the environment, behavior, and one’s psychological processes (one’s ability to entertain images in minds and language).

Social learning theory has sometimes been called a bridge between behaviorist and cognitive learning theories because it encompasses attention, memory, and motivation. The theory is related to Vygotsky’s Social Development Theory and Lave’s Situated Learning, which also emphasize the importance of social learning.

Learning Theories Knowledgebase (2008, June). Situated Learning Theory (Lave) at Retrieved June 8th, 2008 from

Summary: Situated Learning Theory posits that learning is unintentional and situated within authentic activity, context, and culture.

Originator: Jean Lave

Key Terms: Legitimate Peripheral Participation (LPP), Cognitive Apprenticeship

Situated Learning Theory (Lave)

In contrast with most classroom learning activities that involve abstract knowledge which is and out of context, Lave argues that learning is situated; that is, as it normally occurs, learning is embedded within activity, context and culture. It is also usually unintentional rather than deliberate. Lave and Wenger (1991) call this a process of “legitimate peripheral participation.”

Knowledge needs to be presented in authentic contexts — settings and situations that would normally involve that knowledge. Social interaction and collaboration are essential components of situated learning — learners become involved in a “community of practice” which embodies certain beliefs and behaviors to be acquired. As the beginner or novice moves from the periphery of a community to its center, he or she becomes more active and engaged within the culture and eventually assumes the role of an expert.

Other researchers have further developed Situated Learning theory. Brown, Collins & Duguid (1989) emphasize the idea of cognitive apprenticeship: “Cognitive apprenticeship supports learning in a domain by enabling students to acquire, develop and use cognitive tools in authentic domain activity. Learning, both outside and inside school, advances through collaborative social interaction and the social construction of knowledge.”

Situated learning is related to Vygotsky’s notion of learning through social development.
Learning Theories Knowledgebase (2008, June). Social Development Theory (Vygotsky) at Retrieved June 8th, 2008 from

Social Development Theory (Vygotsky)

Summary: Social Development Theory argues that social interaction precedes development; consciousness and cognition are the end product of socialization and social behavior.

Originator: Lev Vygotsky (1896-1934).

Key terms: Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD), More Knowledgeable Other (MKO)

Vygotsky’s Social Development Theory

Vygotsky’s Social Development Theory is the work of Russian psychologist Lev Vygotsky (1896-1934), who lived during Russian Revolution. Vygotsky’s work was largely unkown to the West until it was published in 1962.

Vygotsky’s theory is one of the foundations of constructivism. It asserts three major themes:

Major themes:

  1. Social interaction plays a fundamental role in the process of cognitive development. In contrast to Jean Piaget’s understanding of child development (in which development necessarily precedes learning), Vygotsky felt social learning precedes development. He states: “Every function in the child’s cultural development appears twice: first, on the social level, and later, on the individual level; first, between people (interpsychological) and then inside the child (intrapsychological).” (Vygotsky, 1978).
  2. The More Knowledgeable Other (MKO). The MKO refers to anyone who has a better understanding or a higher ability level than the learner, with respect to a particular task, process, or concept. The MKO is normally thought of as being a teacher, coach, or older adult, but the MKO could also be peers, a younger person, or even computers.
  3. The Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD). The ZPD is the distance between a student’s ability to perform a task under adult guidance and/or with peer collaboration and the student’s ability solving the problem independently. According to Vygotsky, learning occurred in this zone.

Vygotsky focused on the connections between people and the sociocultural context in which they act and interact in shared experiences (Crawford, 1996). According to Vygotsky, humans use tools that develop from a culture, such as speech and writing, to mediate their social environments. Initially children develop these tools to serve solely as social functions, ways to communicate needs. Vygotsky believed that the internalization of these tools led to higher thinking skills.

Applications of the Vygotsky’s Social Development Theory

Many schools have traditionally held a transmissionist or instructionist model in which a teacher or lecturer ‘transmits’ information to students. In contrast, Vygotsky’s theory promotes learning contexts in which students play an active role in learning. Roles of the teacher and student are therefore shifted, as a teacher should collaborate with his or her students in order to help facilitate meaning construction in students. Learning therefore becomes a reciprocal experience for the students and teacher.

Learning Theories Knowledgebase (2008, June). ADDIE Model at Retrieved June 8th, 2008 from


Summary: The ADDIE model is a systematic instructional design model consisting of five phases: (1) Analysis, (2) Design, (3) Development, (4) Implementation, and (5) Evaluation. Various flavors and versions of the ADDIE model exist.

Originator: Unknown.  Refined by Dick and Carey and others.

Key terms: Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation, Evaluation


The generic term for the five-phase instructional design model consisting of Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation, and Evaluation.  Each step has an outcome that feeds into the next step in the sequence.  There are probably over 100+ different variations of the generic ADDIE model.

The five phases of ADDIE are as follows:


  • During analysis, the designer identifies the learning problem, the goals and objectives, the audience’s needs, existing knowledge, and any other relevant characteristics.  Analysis also considers the learning environment, any constraints, the delivery options, and the timeline for the project.


  • A systematic process of specifying learning objectives.  Detailed storyboards and prototypes are often made, and the look and feel, graphic design, user-interface and content is determined here.


  • The actual creation (production) of the content and learning materials based on the Design phase.


  • During implementation, the plan is put into action and a procedure for training the learner and teacher is developed.  Materials are delivered or distributed to the student group. After delivery, the effectiveness of the training materials is evaluated.


  • This phase consists of (1) formative and (2) summative evaluation. Formative evaluation is present in each stage of the ADDIE process. Summative evaluation consists of tests designed for criterion-related referenced items and providing opportunities for feedback from the users.  Revisions are made as necessary.

Rapid prototyping (continual feedback) has sometimes been cited as as a way to improve the generic ADDIE model.

Taylor, C. (2007) Reward Players, Don’t Punish them! Game Daily (70504) Retrieved June 8th, 2008 from

Over the past few years, I have noticed a new and fascinating trend in game design: Games are moving toward reward systems and very much away from punishment systems.

Punishment goes back to the days of coin-operated games, and even amusement parks. You got three baseballs to throw at the milk jugs, and you couldn’t win a prize unless you actually had skill. Otherwise, the game would have no meaning, and the game operator wouldn’t make a living.

(A blocker is a term that game designers use to call a part of the game that stops the player’s forward progression because of a complex puzzle, or arbitrary twist in the game.)

Video games will auto-save your game. Most will auto-load. When you die, you don’t lose all your stuff or all your experience points. We are making huge progress. We’re finding ways to be entertaining without beating the player down for being dumb and slow. And even though casual games have taught us a lot these past few years about making accessible and non-punishment oriented games, many of them can still get difficult quickly. But overall, we’re moving in a good direction.

O’Connell, M. (2008) ADDIE Design Process Canberra, ACT: Flex.Ed/CIT

The ADDIE process is an education design process that enables the design and development of your teaching and learning. This is a continuous process which includes analysis, design, development, implementation and evaluation.

The ADDIE process is most effective when used to facilitate learner-centred approaches.


  • Who are my learners?
  • What are their learning needs and/or constraints?
  • What is the learning/training gap I can address by going online?
  • What are the key concepts, skills, attitudes?


  • What are the learning goals for my students?
  • How will I facilitate these?
  • How should I organise or structure the learning experience?
  • How should the learning experience be contextualised and by whom?
  • What kinds of activities and exercises will best help learners learn?
  • How can I measure my learners achievements?


  • What teaching resources or delivery strategies do I have?
  • What resources or strategies will I need to create? (Are there web sites, virtual classrooms, Toolboxes, learning objects, articles, videos, podcasts or vodcasts or Web 2.0 tools I can use?
  • What assessment activities or strategies do I have and what will I create?
  • Can other teachers deliver this program with these resources and approaches?


  • How will I test my resource/strategy/approach?
  • Do I need technical or specialist support?
  • Do I need to prepare other teachers?
  • Do my learners need any orientation, preparation or support?
  • How will learners support each other?


  • How will I gather learner feedback – before, during, after?
  • How will I answer questions like –
  1. Did learners like the program?
  2. Did learners achieve their learning goals?
  3. In what ways did learners contribute to their own learning?
  • How will I make use of this feedback to add to my analysis and ensure continuous improvement?
  • How will I gather feedback from others involved in design, development and delivery?

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One Response to Thoughts and ideas from gaming papers and articles 2

  1. I came across your blog today. Thanks for posting the information from gaming papers and articles!

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