Towards a design framework for educational exergames

One aim of this project is to form guidelines for developing effective educational exergames. We have developed a first version of the framework for understanding the elements of educational exergames. The aim of the framework is to provide foundation to develop engaging and effective educational exergames as well as to provide a blueprint to define reasonable research settings about this theme. By using the framework designers can scrutinize their game designs, either in research or commercial settings, and reveal new ways to optimize learning effects, health effects, and user experience in educational exergames.

The structure of the framework is shortly presented below. The detailed description of the framework and related case studies will be published in the forthcoming book, "New Pedagogical Approaches in Game Enhanced Learning: Curriculum Integration" by Kristian Kiili & Arttu Perttula.

The structure of the framework

In educational exergames the body and the mind plays the central role and in the framework we use those as lenses to consider other aspects of educational exergames. The overall structure of the design framework for educational exergames is modified from Mueller et al. (2011), who proposed four lenses that can be used to facilitate the designing of interactive exertion technology: 1) The responding body, 2) the moving body, 3) the sensing body, and 4) the relating body. We extend this approach by adding lenses for learning interactions: 1) The sensing mind, 2) the processing mind, 3) the integrating mind, and 4) the relating mind. Body and mind lenses provide means to consider game elements systematically and allow reflection of design solutions. In the framework a game is divided into rules, play and context dimensions that help designers to understand the formal structures of a game, the experiences of the people involved, and the larger context in which the game takes place.

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Focus of Lenses

When the rules and content dimension, play dimension and context dimension are considered through exertion and learning interaction lenses several focus points that are crucial for designing educational exergames can be identified. Focus points are not mutually exclusive, but interrelated, offering different perspectives for designing educational exergames. Focus points highlight different aspects of game elements and provide conceptual guidance for design and analysis.

Discussion

In general, educational exergames are a new and unstudied branch of research in the era of serious games. It has become evident that educational exergame design is hard to master because one has to understand a complex web comprised of education, sports, psychology, technology, art, business, and creativity. Thus, a framework for designing educational exergames is proposed. The aim of the framework is to clarify this complex web and its relations.

However, the framework does not provide any magic bullet for design, but rather it provides a common ground and a structured tool for developers to build and fine-tune their designs on. By using the framework designers can scrutinize their game designs, either in research or commercial settings, and reveal new ways to optimize learning, health effects and user experience. The framework provides means to identify existing problems in educational exergames that fail to achieve the intended outcomes. The identified problems can be solved with the help of the framework by considering the game elements systematically through body and mind lenses and the crucial focus points that the lenses create. Another benefit of using the educational exergame framework is creating a shared frame of reference for the design team. When the whole team has a common ground about educational exergames, the game design project can be conducted more efficiently.