A model for serious game design for cultural heritage

Some GaLA partners have written a paper about design of serious games in the cultural heritage field. The paper has been accepted for publication on the prestigious ACM Journal of Computing and Cultural heritage and will be published soon. As a primer, we publish an abstract for http://www.galanoe.eu.

Serious Games represent a promising opportunity for learning but still lack methodologies and tools for efficient and low-cost production, in particular by teacher and domain experts. We have abstracted a conceptual model – the SandBox Serious Game – relying on a generalization of the Task-Based Learning theory. The model invites players to perform cognitive tasks contextually, while exploring information-rich virtual environments. We consider it particularly suited for cultural heritage entertainment applications. The model defines games set in realistic virtual worlds enriched with embedded educational tasks, that we have implemented as minigames. This approach simplifies the authoring work, that can be easily supported by visual authoring tools for ontology-based urban 3D modeling and for implementing tasks, allowing an approach similar to the mind-maps concept. We propose a top-down methodology for content preparation, starting from a city-level analysis and going down to the single Points of Interest and associated tasks, that are instances of simple predefined minigames/quizzes typologies. We provide examples and discuss criteria for selecting task typologies according to the expected cognitive targets of the author. We finally discuss the results of a lab user test aimed at verifying cultural heritage knowledge acquisition in a pleasant and engaging way. Games look suited for supporting image studying, in particular for iconography. Compared to text reading, the game more strongly forces the player to focus on problems, which favors knowledge acquisition and retention. Learning complex concepts requires an investigative attitude, that can be spurred by well designed games. Good design involves usability, graphic appeal, appropriate contents and the presence of connections that a player has to discover among the covered contents. Players should be asked to pay attention to and reason about their whole game activity – including the relationships among the game contents and the brief introduction and conclusion texts. More comprehensive tests are needed to better investigate the educational effectiveness, however the first results are promising especially in terms of user motivation and creation of new opportunities for learning about the CH.

Bellotti F., Berta R., De Gloria A., D’Ursi A. and Fiore V., 2012. A Serious Game Model for Cultural Heritage. ACM Journal of Computing and Cultural heritage

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