Participatory methods have been demonstrated as an effective means to develop serious games, combining the affordance of a high degree of adaptivity in response to end-user input with the ability to stimulate and assess interest and engagement from potential users throughout the development lifecycle. In terms of game-based learning, it may be essential to establish engagement before considering educational aspects of a game-based intervention. If a design may not pedagogically guarantee success, as is typically the case given the unpredictable nature of learners, then this could be compensated by evaluating and refining the learning process in response to the learner feedback. However, if a game cannot engage learners, then recruiting an adequate sample of experienced players or practitioners with whom to assess learning outcomes becomes a mighty challenge.

Drawing from a participatory method, such as the Intervention Mapping approach (IM, Bartholomew et al., 2011, Brown et al., 2012), a needs assessment can be carried out to address evidence of successful intervention techniques in order to support the development process. Building from the needs analysis, a design focus was drawn to address both the user and educationalist requirements. This approach has been employed for the development of a game called PR:EPARe (Positive Relationships: Eliminating Coercion and Pressure in Adolescent Relationships), which is aimed at supporting delivery of the Relationship and Sex Education (RSE) programme in the locals schools within the Coventry and Warwickshire region in the UK. Using this approach, the initial concept design was split to deliver the core mechanics to be adopted for each user group. Advancing on this, developers defined the main design objectives to fall between the categories, accessibility, usability and pedagogic outcomes. By addressing these areas as a focused framework, a participatory process followed through the development phase, using psychologists, educationalists, developers and young people’s combined input and suggestions, to produce an iterative approach to the overall design and development of PR:EPARe.

This game is geared for delivery within a formal education setting. In order to target more complex learning goals related to expected attitudinal and behavioural change, explicit content and scenarios were integrated into the structure of the game. With this perspective, PRE:PARe is an intrinsic (endogenous) (Kenny and Gunter, 2007) educational game facilitated by a teacher within a classroom setting. Therefore, the learning of content is highly related to (i.e. highly immersed in) the game’s narrative elements and the consequential exploratory learning activities, such as communal discourse and debriefing. It is hence teacher led and aims to engage students in game play and support exploratory learning via communal discourse and debriefing. The beta version is the subject of an ongoing cluster Randomised Controlled Trial (RCT) in local schools. Early data analysis shows improvements in psychological preparedness for dealing with sexual coercion against some change objectives.


Bartholomew, L.K., Parcel, G.S., Kok, G. et al (2011). Planning Health Promotion Programs: An Intervention Mapping approach. 3rd edition. Jossey-Bass: San Francisco.

Brown, K.E., Bayley, J., & Newby, K. (2012). Serious Game for Relationships and Sex Education: Application of an Intervention Mapping approach to development. In S. Arnab, I. Dunwell & K. Debattista (eds.) Serious Games for Healthcare: Applications and Implications. IGI Global; Hershey, PA.

Kenny, R. F. & Gunter, G. A. (2007). Endogenous Fantasy – Based Serious Games: Intrinsic Motivation and Learning. International Journal of Human and Social Sciences 2:1 2007

More detail on PR:EPARE:

Brown, K., Arnab, A., et al. (in press). Tackling sensitive issues using a game-based environment: Serious game for relationships and sex education (RSE). The 17th Annual CyberPsychology and CyberTherapy Conference (CYBER17), September 25th-28th, Brussels, Belgium.

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