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Activating Narcissus: Cognitive and Affective Systems Transformed Through "Serious" Game Play.

Activating Narcissus: Cognitive and Affective Systems Transformed Through "Serious" Game Play.

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Published by ARSGAMES
The Philosophy of Computer Games Conference, Madrid 2012

by Heidi Boisvert (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Electronic Arts)
The Philosophy of Computer Games Conference, Madrid 2012

by Heidi Boisvert (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Electronic Arts)

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Published by: ARSGAMES on Mar 24, 2012
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01/08/2015

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Ac#va#ngNarcissus:Cogni#veandAffec#veSystemsTransformedThrough"Serious"GamePlay
HeidiBoisvert MeiSiElectronicArtDepartment Cogni#veScienceDepartmentRensselaerPolytechnicIns#tute RensselaerPolytechnicIns#tuteboisvh@rpi.edu sim@rpi.edu
“Gamesaspopularartformsoffertoallanimmediatemeansofpar3cipa3oninthefulllifeofasociety,suchasnosingleroleorjobcanoffertoanyman.”MarshallMcLuhan
1
Withtherapiddevelopmentofcomputerandgameconsolehardware,graphics,ar7ficialintelligenceandnetworktechnologiesinrecentyears,videogamesarebecomingmoreandmorecapableofprovidingavivid,fic7onalrealitywithinwhichplayerscanimmerse,andhavea<ractedmorediversedemographics.Increasingly,studieshaveshownthatplayers’experiencesingamescanhavecogni7veanaffec7veimpactontheirlivesoutsidethegameworld;skillslearnedandknowledgegainedingamescanoCenbetransferredtoreallifeeconomies.Forexample,ithasbeenshownthatplayinggamescanhelpindividualsprac7cetheireye-handcoordina7on,andalsoexercisetheirsocialskillsandemo7onalcopingstrategies.Seriousgamesaredesignedtosystema7callyleveragethiseffectandposi7velyinfluencetheplayers’livesoutsideofgames.Thispaperdiscusseshowseriousgamescanbenefitbyincorpora7ngframeworksofembodiedcogni7onandhownewgameperipherals,suchastheMicrosoCKinect,canhelprealizethepoten7alofembodiedcogni7oningames.
1.SeriousGames
SeriousGames,anditsothermonikers,Gamesforhange,GamesforHealthandGames,LearningandSociety,isanexponen7allyexpandingglobalmovement,involvingdiversesectors ofsocietyfrompolicymakersandeducatorstofunders,gamedesignersandthemedia.Lastsummer’sannualGamesforhange(G4)conferencealonehostedover800par7cipantsfromaroundtheworldandwaskeynotedbyformerVicePresidentAlGore.Seriousgamedesignprac77onersandtheoristsarealsobeingcourtedattheWhiteHousetohelpmobilizePresidentObama’sDigitalPromiseini7a7ve,andinvitedtoothergovernmentconferences,suchasTech@State,toshapediscoursesonthefutureofeduca7onandtechnology.Andthisyear,the
1
McLuhan, Marshall.
Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man ( 
Cambridge: MIT Press, 1994).
 
GamesDevelopmentonference(GD),theworld’slargest“professional-only”gameindustryevent,hasaddedanewG4track,indica7ngthatthegapbetweenseriousgamesandthemainstreamindustryisclosing.GamescholarStewartWoodshasevenventuredthatseriousgamesarethegoalofthosewithinthegameindustryforthefutureofgames,no7ngthat“manydeveloperswishtocreateseriouscontentorexperiencesthataretypicallyrepresentedwithintradi7onalnarra7veformssuchasbooksorfilm.”
2
AlmostallbooksongamedesigncitetheDutchanthropologist,JohanHuizinga,asthefirsttointerrogate,thoughneverquiteresolve,thedis7nc7onbetweenseriousnessandplay.Butalesserknownar7factislark.Abt’s190‘sbooken7tled“SeriousGames,”whichaddressestheuseofanalogboardgamesineduca7on,science,governmentandindustry.Inhisfirstchapter,7tled“TheReunionofAc7onandThought,”Abtforwardsansurprisinglyan7cipatorydefini7onofseriousgames:“Weareconcernedwithseriousgamesinthesensethatthesegameshavean
explicit 
and
carefullythoughtouteduca3onalpurpose
andarenotintendedtobeplayedprimarilyforamusement...thisdoesnotmeanthatseriousgamesarenot,orshouldnotbeentertaining.”
3
Asearlyasthe1980s,scholars,too,begantoseethepoten7alofvideogamesforeduca7onandenhancinglearningoutcomes.Gameassessmentresearch,therefore,primarilytargetsfivemainareas:“learningtolearn”throughnovelenvironmentalengagement,skilldevelopment,suchasinduc7vediscoveryandproblem-solving,andhand-eyecoordina7on,mo7va7on,memoryreten7on,andu7lityforspecialgroupssuchasa<en7on-deficitchildren,theelderlyordifferentlyabled.Formostoftheseresearchers,seriousgamesaredesignedwiththeexplicitgoalofhelpingstudentslearnaboutimportantsubjectma<erinanenjoyable,engagingway,andresearchmeasurementsnarrowlyevaluateincreasesinproblem-solvingstrategies,andcogni7veorsocialskills.Yetatpresent,theres7llisnotalargebodyofliterature“scien7fically”suppor7ngspecula7veclaimsthatgamesfacilitatelearning.AsArthurGraesser,Patrickhipman,FrankLeeming,andSuzanneBiedenbachstateintheirar7cle“
DeepLearningandEmo3oninSeriousGames,”
“[u]nfortunately,atthispointinthelearningsciencesveryfewseriousgameshavebeendevelopedthatwouldimpressexpertsineduca7on.”
Theauthorsimplythatitisnotclearifgamedesignissystema7callyalignedwithorincompa7blewithpedagogyandcurricularobjec7ves.Tocombatthisuncertainty,theyrecommendthat:
[t]hefieldneedsatheore7calframeworkthatmapsthegamegenresandgamefeaturesontotheore7calcomponentsofcogni7on,emo7on,mo7va7on,andsocialinterac7on.Deeperlevels
2
Woods, Stewart. “Loading the Dice: The Challenge of Serious Videogames.” Game Studies 4, no.1(2004).http://gamestudies.org/0401/woods/.
3
Abt,
Serious Games.
need full citation.
 
oflearningwouldinvolvemanydifferentelements,includingananalysisofcausalmechanisms,logicalexplana7ons,crea7onanddefenseofarguments,managementoflimitedresources,tradeoffsofprocessesinacomplexsystem,andawaytoresolveconflicts...Moreshallowlevelincludeperceptuallearning,motorskills,defini7onofwords,proper7esofobjects,andmemoriza7onoffacts.
4
Theyconcludethatasidefromthedepthoftheskillsaffordedbyaseriousgame,thereisthepersistentques7onoftheiru7lityandrelevancetotherealworld.AsGraesseretalbemoan:
[t]hescien7ficstatusofgamefeaturesproposedbygamedesignersisgreatlyinneedofcomputa7onalandempiricalinquiry.Asidefromthecomputa7onalessenceofgames,thereistheques7onofwhatmakesthemsuccessfulpsychologically.Atthispointinthescience,therearefewfirmanswerstosuchques7onsabouttheessenceofgamesandtheirpsychologicalimpact.
5
Evenwhentheempiricaldataexists,thequalityofresearchdesignpossessessevereshortcomings.In“Evalua7ngthePoten7alofSeriousGames:WhatanWeLearnfromPreviousResearchonMediaEffectsandEduca7onalInterven7on,”MarcoEnnemosermakesastrongandwell-reasonedcri7queofcurrent“naive”researchmethodologiesemployedinstudyingseriousgames,andinpar7cular,theover-relianceon“mediaeffects.”InvokingMcLuhan,hecounsels“[t]hemediumisnotthemessage.Don’tstudymediaeffects.”
6
Hecallsforbe<erassessmentofgame-playingoutcomes,moreconsidera7onofthespecificmedia7ngprocessesbywhichseriousgamesproduceeffects,andforintroduc7onofvariablesthatmoderatetheimpactsofgameplayingonindividualsintoseriousgameseffectstheories.hristophKlimmtexpressessimilardisappointmentwiththelimita7onsofmediaeffectstheorywhenevalua7ngtheaccuracyofseriousgamesimpactatthelevelofsocietaltransforma7on.Inhisar7cle“SeriousGamesandSocialhange:WhyThey(Should)Work,”heproffers:
[s]ociety-levelandgroup-leveleffectsofcommunica7oncampaignsdependontheabilitytoreachandinfluenceasufficientlylargenumberofindividuals,includingopinionleaders,innovators,orinfluencers.Becausesocialchangeinvolvescomplexprocessesofknowledgeacquisi7on,atudechange,followup-interpersonalcommunica7on,andcollec7veac7on,apoten7allylargenumberofcogni7ve/atudinal,mo7va7onal/affec7ve,andbehavioralmediaeffectsneedstobeassumedaspartofthecommunica7onprocessofsocialchange,whichcancomplicateseriousgamesresearch.

4
Graesser, Patrick Chipman, Frank Leeming and Susan Beidenbach, “Deep Learning and Emotion inSerious Games,” in Serious Games: Mechanisms and Effects, ed. Ritterfeld, Ute, Michael Cody and Peter Vorderer (New York and London: Routledge, 2009), 81.
5
Ibid., 82
6
Ennemoser, Marco, “Evaluating the Potential of Serious Games: What Can We Learn from PreviousResearch on Media Effects and Educational Intervention,” in Serious Games: Mechanisms and Effects,ed. Ritterfeld, Ute, Michael Cody and Peter Vorderer (New York and London: Routledge, 2009), 343.
7
Klimmt, Christoph, “Serious Games and Social Change: Why They (Should) Work,” in Serious Games:Mechanisms and Effects, ed. Ritterfeld, Ute, Michael Cody and Peter Vorderer (New York and London:Routledge, 2009), 247.

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