The Game Science team going to ECGBL 2016

game_science_placeholder-300x300The Game Science team has been carrying out various research and development in the area of game-based learning, serious gaming and gamification within the context of the experimental Disruptive Media Learning Lab. On top of providing adaptable and adoptable approaches for use at Coventry University Teaching and Learning, we are also publishing findings in peer-reviewed journals (mentioned in previous posts) and also in conferences.

In particular, this year we are targeting for our work to be presented and disseminated at the 10th European Conference in Game Based Learning (ECGBL 2016), 6-7 Oct in Paisley, Scotland, a fantastic conference to engage with key researchers in the domain.

The five papers in the conference collectively highlight findings on the impact of play and gameplay in supporting teaching and learning within formal or informal contexts:

Paper 1: ImparApp: Designing And Piloting A Game-Based Approach For Language Learning

  • Authors: Luca Morini, Koula Charitonos, Sylvester Arnab, Tiziana Cervi Wilson, Billy Brick, Tyrone Bellamy-Wood, Gaetan Van Leeuwen
  • Abstract: The paper gives an overview of the development, deployment and evaluation of ImparApp, a location-based game to support teaching and learning of Italian Language. It draws on a project currently developed at Coventry University, which examines pervasive approaches to learning and exploits game-based techniques in contextualising language learning in a more active, innovative and engaging way.

Paper 2: Competition And Collaboration Using A Social And Gamified Online Learning Platform

  • Authors: Sylvester Arnab, Roy Bhakta, Sarah Kate Merry, Mike Smith, Kam Star, Michael Duncan
  • Abstract: Gamification is defined as the use of game techniques in a non-game context and has demonstrated potential impact in a wide range of subjects. Informed by the design and processes of digital gaming, gamification often exploits competition to motivate, personified by points, badges and leader boards. Success, however, seems to go beyond these basic features and rely on a concrete acknowledgement of the motivational model of the user, taking into account concepts such as situational relevance and situated motivational affordance, which can be framed under competition and/or collaboration. This paper investigates the impact of competitive and collaborative environments on summative assessment. This study bases its investigation on the StarQuest platform (, a social and gamified collaboration application hosting a private online environment for small groups of individuals to co-curate and share digital contents. Participants were second year undergraduate students (Sport Psychology, n=94), who enrolled on a module entitled “A Fundamental Approach to Motor Learning and Control”. The module ran for 11 weeks and the curriculum was delivered using a Problem-Based Learning (PBL) approach. The results highlighted a number of strengths and weaknesses of implementing a gamified online platform for team working, which will inform future design, development and deployment of gamified and learning platforms.

Paper 3: EscapED: A Framework for Creating Live-Action, Interactive Games for Higher/Further Education Learning and Soft Skills Development.

  • Authors: Samantha Clarke, Sylvester Arnab, Luca Morini , Oliver Woo, Kate Green, Alex Masters
  • Abstract: There is a rapid growing interest and demand globally, for developing and participating in live, team-based, interactive gaming experiences otherwise known as Escape Rooms. Traditionally designed to provide entertainment, Escape Rooms require its players to solve puzzles, complete tasks and work together efficiently in order to complete an overall goal such as solving a mystery or escaping the room itself. The structure of Escape Rooms and their overall growing popularity, equally amongst players of all ages and genders, indicates that the premise of interactive, live-action gaming can be adapted to develop engaging scenarios for game-based learning. The authors therefore present; EscapED, as a work in progress, case study and paradigm for creating educational Escape Rooms and Interactive Gaming Experiences aimed at staff and students in further/higher education institutions. A focus is drawn to designing and developing on-site experiences, to provide engaging alternatives for learning and soft skills development amongst higher education staff and students. A review of a prototype scenario, developed to support Coventry University staff at a teaching and learning training event is given, alongside participant’s general feedback and reactions to the overall experience and perceived educational value of EscapED. The EscapED framework is then discussed and offered as a tool to help foster a best practice approach to developing future Interactive Game-Based Learning Experiences (IGBLE). To conclude, the authors examine future needs and requirements for refining scenario design, development and iterative live-player testing, to ensure the EscapED Programme meets all educational and player engagement standards.

Paper 4: The andragogical perspectives of Older People’s interaction with digital game technologies: Game-play on gesture and touch-based platforms

  • Authors: Suriati Khartini Jali, Sylvester Arnab
  • Abstract: Due to the engaging factor of gameplay afforded by digital game technologies, the application of games is becoming a popular medium in promoting and fostering serious outcomes in domains, such as education and health. For instance, social inclusion and healthy lifestyle can be motivated and stimulated through social interaction, cognitive exercises and physical activity afforded by digital game technology. Acknowledging the potential benefits of game-play, this paper explores digital gaming from the perspectives of a specific target group – older people above the age of 55. It is essential that users or players are captivated and engaged by a game before any serious purposes/activities can be imposed. The design of most games used for both entertainment and serious purposes however focuses on the general player population, and mostly targeting a much younger population currently engaging with digital gaming. The paper thus aims to specifically investigate the correlation between the challenges associated with older people, their existing engagement with digital gaming and other interactive technologies, the andragogical perspectives and existing game design attributes. A pilot study was carried out with 14 participants. Data was collected from their interactions with and experiences of digital gaming. Questionnaires and group discussions were utilised in order to collect their feedback and perspectives on the experience. The results of our study show that there are three key findings which are; 1) the interaction types and the experience provided by the game itself, 2) the game interaction styles which is supported by the platforms and 3) gameplay interaction and challenges associated to age-related changes. These findings should be considered when considering the interaction and experience of older people for digital game design.

Paper 5: SimAULA: Creating Higher-Level Gamification, through adoption of a Learning-Objective to Game-Objective Mapping Approach.

  • Authors: Samantha Clarke, Petros Lameras, Sylvester Arnab
  • Abstract: In order to support the development and implementation of higher-level gamification in e-learning towards encouraging and sustaining player motivation and engagement, the authors present an analysis of the design and development approach to creating SimAULA; a gamified simulation for training teachers in using Inquiry-based learning (IBL) theory and practice. This study seeks to transfer an understanding of the design and creation methods of utilising a learning-objective to game-objective mapping process in which pedagogic theories are transformed into game objectives and challenges to create interesting learning experiences for players. A prototype version of SimAULA is presented alongside the method taken that informed the development considerations and choices whilst mapping pedagogic theory and learning outcomes of IBL practice to SimAULA’s design style, delivery, game mechanics and game-play features. The paper further highlights key game mechanics that have been chosen to align with the learning-objective to game-objective mapping (LO-GO) approach, in which player choice, player ownership and learning feedback play vital roles in developing higher-level gamification methods. The authors present a case for adopting a higher-level gamification approach for advancing serious games, simulations and applications through development of player choice & ownership, narrative, feedback and game metrics to create enhanced e-learning solutions. Furthermore, the design and development methodology adopted for SimAULA is transcribed to inform the LO-GO mapping approach which is presented as a recommendation to inform future research and developments of higher-level gamification approaches for e-learning.


Catch us at the ECGBL and say hello!

Early view – marrying learning and games for #seriousgames #gamification design in #highereducation

A paper co-written with Petros Lameras and Samantha Clarke is now available online (in press) to be published by British Journal of Educational Technology (BJET):

Lameras, P., Arnab, S., Dunwell, I., Stewart, C., Clarke, S. and Petridis, P. (2016), Essential features of serious games design in higher education: Linking learning attributes to game mechanics. British Journal of Educational Technology. doi: 10.1111/bjet.12467


This paper consolidates evidence and material from a range of specialist and disciplinary fields to provide an evidence-based review and synthesis on the design and use of serious games in higher education. Search terms identified 165 papers reporting conceptual and empirical evidence on how learning attributes and game mechanics may be planned, designed and implemented by university teachers interested in using games, which are integrated into lesson plans and orchestrated as part of a learning sequence at any scale. The findings outline the potential of classifying the links between learning attributes and game mechanics as a means to scaffold teachers’ understanding of how to perpetuate learning in optimal ways while enhancing the in-game learning experience. The findings of this paper provide a foundation for describing methods, frames and discourse around experiences of design and use of serious games, linked to methodological limitations and recommendations for further research in this area.

This paper forms part of the portfolio of work, where we are looking at serious games, GBL and gamification design and development methodology and considerations. Other papers include the transdiciplinary perspectives, SDT extensions to the LM-GM considerations, the holistic gamified design approach, etc.

Article accepted for publication – Simulation and Gaming

The mapping of Learning Mechanics- Game Mechanics (LM-GM) has been explored to better understand the relationships between pedagogical constructs and game-play mechanics. The mapping has also been used to inform the design of a game and the trans-disciplinary approach employed is reflected in a paper published in the British Journal of Educational Technology (BJET) journal.

This post is about another perspective of the mapping inspired by the importance of self-directed learning being one of the key aims for the use of game-based techniques and technologies in learning. The use of game techniques can potentially enhance engagement, promoting agency and sustaining participation in a learning process.In the paper that has just been accepted for publication in the Simulation and Gaming journal, we are looking at the mapping of these two key elements under the lens of the self-determination theory.

Title: Learning mechanics and game mechanics under the perspective of self-determination theory to foster motivation in digital game based learning.

Authors: Jean-Nicolas Proulx1, Margarida Romero1, Sylvester Arnab2

1 Université Laval, Québec, Canada,

2 Disruptive Media Learning Lab, Coventry University, UK

Abstract: Using digital games for educational purposes has been associated with higher levels of motivation among learners of different educational levels. However, the underlying psychological factors involved in digital game based learning (DGBL) have been rarely analyzed considering the self-determination theory (SDT, Ryan & Deci, 2000b); the relation of SDT with the flow experience (Csikszentmihalyi, 1990) has neither been evaluated in the context of DGBL. Evaluating DGBL under the perspective of SDT can improve the study of motivational factors in DGBL. In this paper, we aim to introduce the LMGM-SDT theoretical framework, where the use of DGBL is analyzed through the Learning Mechanics and Game Mechanics mapping model (LM-GM, Arnab et al., 2015) and its relation with the components of the SDT. The implications for the use of DGBL in order to promote learners’ motivation are also discussed.

Keywords: Digital game based learning, motivation, self-determination theory, learning mechanic, game mechanics, LM-GM, SDT, flow.

There is also another paper that is currently under proof with BJET, which has expanded on the LM-GM mapping in order to understand the key relationships between the granularity of a learning process with game-play based on the development of a game aiming to foster inquiry-based teaching and learning. Will blog about this later.

#TEDxCoventryUniversity- #Gamification and #ExperienceDesign

IMG_6325The first TEDx at Coventry went pretty well I must say. Topics covered include recruitment, sustainable building, cyber security, the future of cyborg technology, films and the power of serious games and gamification. It was great to be part of the event as a speaker and share my ideas, which I hope have inspired some on the day. My talk was very much about the potential of gamification in designing the experience of a super learner. See previous blog posts: Gamification and Experience Design and Super learner in a hybrid space.

Sustaining engagement with learning within a formal context is a great challenge and on top of this, learning within an informal context is highly disconnected from the formal narrative of education. It is essential to connect different types of learning in order to contextualise the process. The use of gameful design will allow fun to be injected into the learning process and experience, which can potentially sustain long term engagement and promote retention. IMG_6334

Education as a non-linear adventure “game”, a Hero’s Journey, will allow exploratory and experiential learning to be encouraged, which will allow learners to expand their learning experience above and beyond their formal and linear education. As a designer of our own experience, we will begin to understand the context of our education and the impact it will have in the real world. In order to play the game well, we need to know how it works.

A holistic approach to designing gamified and pervasive learning

I’m starting to think about the different projects that I’m going to be working on this year. My perspective on gamification and experience design has definitely set the tone for my research, development and practice in 2016. I will also be developing the holistic and modular approach in gameful learning design further, and adopt and adapt it in the various projects, programmes and initiatives.

For instance, the BEACONING project, which will be kicked off this month will adopt the modular approach to ensure that the expected ubiquitous and gameful solution is built on strong scientific, pedagogical and technological foundation towards ensuring feasibility, uptake and sustainability. Existing platforms, tools and technologies developed by the partners will be key building blocks for the integrated BEACONING platform. The key layers as illustrated below, which help structure the design and development considerations as well as the components of the BEACONING platform. This model has been adapted and modified slightly to include Experience Design (EX) and the key attributes to be considered under the learning context.

holistic model

S Arnab CC BY NC 4.0

Layer 1 Learning Context: The first layer is vital in ensuring the learning objectives and pedagogic perspectives inform the mechanics and dynamics of the intended learning process and activities that will be developed. The lesson plan, curriculum, co-curriculum, non- and in-formal learning, and learners’ needs (including accessibility) will help determine the anchor points, which are the important milestones set for the learning activities and the relevant assessment measures.

Layer 2 Learning Dynamics: Building on top of layer 1, this layer will help map out lesson plans with associated learning objectives/anchors (what skills to apply, what knowledge to assess), which will inform the content and the context of learning including associations of objectives and topics covered in the general education curriculum and structured around the identified anchor points. This layer will consider learners’ motivational model, learners-teachers-parents dynamics and pervasive contexts of play (e.g. digital and physical spaces, formal, non-formal and informal). The monitoring and validation dynamics (formal – informal) will be defined in this phase to ensure that learning and progress are continuously recorded and assessed. Learners need to be able to “identify, document, assess and certify/validate all forms of learning in order to use this learning for advancing their career and for further education and training”[1].

Layer 3 Gameful design: The gameful design layer aims to map the learning mechanics and dynamics with game mechanics and dynamics[2] to inform the design of intended experience (EX), user experience (UX) and pervasive engagement. Lesson plans will be gamified. The overarching ‘gamification’ will drive a lesson plan (linking formal, non and informal activities) represented by ‘missions’ and ‘quests’ associated to the discretised lesson plan.  Strong and engaging narratives wrapping around the lesson plan will be designed based on the motivational model, needs and local contexts of the beneficiaries, and the location of play. A variety of narratives, mechanics and aesthetics will be defined and act as the interface between the learning objects and the learners.

Layer 4 Enabling technologies: The gamified lesson plan in previous layers will inform the standard-driven specification, integration and implementation of enabling technologies for interfaces, media, analytics, communications and storage, including data security and access. Existing platforms, tools and applications will inform the building blocks of the BEACONING solution.

The project will also be informed by an existing work in trans-disciplinary game-based intervention approach, which will structure the production process.


[2] Arnab S., Lim T., Carvalho M. B., Bellotti F., de Freitas S., Louchart S., Suttie N., Berta R., De Gloria A. (2014) Mapping Learning and Game Mechanics for Serious Games Analysis, British Journal of Educational Technology.

Copyright S Arnab 2016

CC BY NC 4.0

#Gamification, #ExperienceDesign and #Disruptions

My first post in 2016! Developed further interest in the science of games and gameplay in 2015, which has also led to a deeper interest in Experience Design (XD). And being part of the Disruptive Media Learning Lab has also given me space to think about what do I think ‘disruptions’ are, when it comes to gamification and education.

“Disrupting the new norm – moving from random engagement with seemingly innovative practices and technologies to a more devised, designed and manipulated experience (designed and planned serendipity)” Sylvester Arnab 2016

New technologies and approaches are “disrupting” the status quo of teaching and learning practices. There is however a danger that learners’ focus is further fragmented in a world that is already saturated with information and myriads of technologies. How can we disrupt this new norm and allow a more contextualised, seamless and sustainable learning experience to be designed?

To me ‘disruptions’ should be a catalyst and tool to scaffold an upward journey towards mastery. In a gamified sense, ‘disruptions’ can foster a dynamic, ever-evolving and agile environment within which progressions can be encouraged from the on-boarding stage towards mastery. Progressions and mastery in this sense is evolving within a non-linear narrative, leading to the notion of personalised learning, mimicking Jon Cambell’s Hero’s Journey. Some sort of disruption (change and agility) is required at each stage to trigger certain actions and reactions and nurture desired attitudes and behaviours as a learner levels up in his/her learning journey. A non-linear progression approach will give learners choices in how they proceed through the learning process.

Therefore, we are moving from a focus that is purely on learning outcomes to emphasis on learning experience. Learning experience is what puts new innovations, disruptions and changes (technological and/or non) in context. They should not be random and disconnected as per learning outcome. There should be narratives, mechanics and dynamics that collectively make sense of engagement with a learning process and the associated learning objects. Pedagogically, we can be inspired by situated, experiential and contextualised learning. It’s about disrupting with context and not to be solely driven by technologies. Sustainable disruptions can be cross-context iterations and increments of existing tools and practices. For e.g. the practice of digital gaming has led to the science of gamification (motivation by design) in non-games contexts, the introduction of a social context to an otherwise isolated online experience, etc.

Hence, experience design is key to contextualising engagement and interactions with existing and future technologies and practices in a seamless and connected way. Disruption in this case is to challenge the new norm, where there is a growing obsession on digitisation and virtualisation of experience. Experience is turning more digital and virtual, which has seen disparities between virtual and real capabilities (Warburton 2009[1], Arnab et al. 2011[2]), confidence and self-awareness.

Therefore, there is a need to harness the potential of a hybrid space in teaching and learning. Digital and physical experiences are merging, and it is essential that the experience empowers minds and practices. Disruption in this case is applied and inspired innovation; meaning exploiting existing trends and integrating them towards a more optimised experience. Within this space, we are going to explore pervasive, context-aware and gamified techniques under the H2020 Beaconing project[3], and focus on experience design for learners towards a more cross-subjects approach. With the advancement of Internet of Things (IoT), wearable technologies, mobile and mixed reality, a more hybrid experience can be designed and developed. Designing experience should also include architecting learning “space”.

Experience, when designed should also include a sense of surprises; positive coincidences. ‘Designed experience’ and ‘serendipity’ might seem an oxymoron depending on what your role is in the learning ecosystem. As a designer, the ‘Easter eggs[4]’ of learning will allow serendipity to be embedded in the process. As a learner, he/she will discover additional knowledge, experience and insights as part of learning. What would also be empowering and disruptive is for learners to also be co-designers of their experience and the experience of others; referring back to the context of a non-linear ‘Hero’s journey’. We are beginning to explore this possibility with the Game Changers programme[5] [6], emphasising on game design thinking as key to creative problem solving opening up opportunities for learners to design their own learning experience. Design thinking has crossed over to learning, where it is a “way of finding human needs and creating new solutions using the tools and mindsets of design practitioners” (Kelley & Kelley, 2013, pp. 24-25[7]). Experience design has also been key to the Playing 4 Real project.

There is a potential for gamified learning to be so pervasive that we will not even realise that we are already in the system (a designed experience); a system that connects mind space, digital presence and physical existence. Should we only be a player benefiting from the designed experience or also as the co-designer of the experience? It is time to exploit ‘Games Science’, turning learning into a game; a journey without borders – a journey where anything is “achievable”; a journey that is non-linear with various possible outcomes. Be a super learner without borders (digital, physical, mindset), a designer of our own learning experience, a journey towards mastery; mastery that evolves with personal needs and aspirations.

Experience design is a powerful disruptive tool – design an experience towards achieving the desired learning outcomes and nurturing attitudes and behaviours. Use it wisely will create a positive environment, a non-linear progression towards mastery. Falling into the wrong hands will lead to negative manipulation and gamified “dictatorship” (see Sesame Credit video[8]). Therefore, it is essential for such a tool to be used carefully and in the context of teaching and learning, learners should be included in the design of the intended experience.

Some of my thoughts will also be reflected in my 15-18 minute TEDx presentation on 23rd January in Coventry.

[1] Warburton, S.: Second life in higher education: Assessing the potential for and the barriers to deploying virtual words in learning and teaching. Br. J. Educ. Technol. 40(3), 414–426 (2009)

[2] Arnab,S., Petridis,P., Dunwell,I., de Freitas,S.: Enhancing learning in distributed virtual worlds through touch: a browser-based architecture for haptic interaction in Ma,M., Oikonomou,A., Jain,L.,C. (ed.) Serious Games and Edutainment Applications. Springer Verlag. (2011) ISBN: 978-1-4471-2160-2


[4] Easter eggs in gaming is the inclusion of surprises, hidden messages or objects, not directly connected to the intended gameplay



[7] Tom Kelley and David Kelley, Creative Confidence (New York: Random House, 2013), pp. 21-25



Copyrighted Material

Work-Life-Play blend – visiting fellowship in America

I was awarded a Research Collaboration Fellowship that has allowed me to engage with researchers and practitioners within the area of games science. Games Science can be defined as a field under which, applied games approaches, such as serious games and gamification can be framed- techniques that are underpinned by pedagogical, motivational and psychological theories and practices.

11893746_10155948261885581_2507363162176057191_oThe visit was divided into two 3-week periods. The first three weeks in May were filled with great discussions, drafting of research ideas, article writing, book proposal outlining and bid writing. The visit has further strengthened the development of a key research focus related to pervasive gaming and learning, which has also seen pervasive games being developed and piloted at Coventry University (al11838613_10155948262205581_6484854061139757191_oso follow our intern/developer Tyrone’s weekly blogs on his experience building the prototypes), and a holistic model being established to help inform gamified learning design. This model is currently being refined to further address both technology and non-technology perspectives, which will also include views on both digital and analogue technologies.

The second three weeks started with exciting news about the recently submitted EU Horizon 2020 grant bids. Two bids are successful so far (bids submitted to the ICT-20-2015 and ICT-10-2015 calls). The success of these bids further substantiate the importance and relevance of my key research focus on pervasive games, gamification design and context-aware technologies, and their potential to impact learning, cross-subject teaching and community building. Furthermore, I will also chair a special track on Pervasive Gaming for Learning at the up and coming ECGBL 2015 conference in Norway.

boston 1

Casper, Sebastian and yours truly on a lunch discussion session

I had the opportunity to engage with peers at Northeastern University and the MIT Boston, such as Assoc. Prof. Dr. Magy Seif El-Nasr, Dr. Seth CooperDr. Casper Harteveld and Dr. Sebastian Deterding of the Game Design group at Northeastern, and Scot Osterweil, Dr. Phillip Tan and Dr Judith Perry of the STEP/Education Arcade group at the MIT.

An article on ‘An Inquiry into Gamification Services: Practices, Experiences and Insights’ co-authored with Casper has recently been accepted for the IGBC 2015 conference and an article on a trans-disciplinary game design and development model is currently under peer-review (the British Journal of Educational Technology). I’m also working on a grant concept note with Magy on games and emotions, which will target the Leverhulme Trust. Seth gave an interesting talk on the use of games and gamification techniques in solving scientific problems at the DMLL’s #DisruptiveBytes afternoon session via Google Hangout.


Seth at his NE office ready to broadcast

Screen Shot 2015-08-12 at 10.05.47

Live from DMLL

Engagement with the STEP group at the MIT has led to an authoring tool for pervasive games (TaleBlazer) being trialled at the DMLL for developing pervasive game prototypes for supporting language learning. These prototypes will be piloted at Coventry University to evaluate the potential and impact of pervasive games and gamification in higher education. I also gave a talk at the MIT’s GameLab/EducationArcade lunchtime seminar on the research and development work we are doing at the DMLL related to pervasive and gamified learning.

Ross and Ilena of IoP

Ross and Ilena of IoP

Took a scenic train route to New York from Boston and had the opportunity to visit the Institute of Play there. Ross Flatt and Ilena Parker (bios) kindly hosted me one morning, where we talked and discussed about our shared interest in the use of game design thinking in teaching and learning, especially within the context of co-designing and co-creation of lesson plans and contents. Future collaborations and partnerships will be further explored towards the end of the year and our immediate focus is to see if they can be included as associate partners in one of our grant bids.

fab 1The visit also coincided with the FabLab festival in Boston, which was very fortunate. Spent one afternoon being a “student” again- gamified approach to teaching and learning programming and electronics.

All in all, it has been a great experience, and the activities during the visit also align with Coventry University’s Applied Research and Internationalisation Strategy. I’m looking forward to further exploring partnership developments with colleagues and peers in the USA, aiming for excellence in research with impact. Thanks to Coventry University for the Research Collaboration Fellowship that has enabled me to explore opportunities across the pond and to focus on my personal research, publications and grant bids whilst abroad!