Understanding of science concepts through gameplay in a prototype game

Kermin Joel Martinez-Hernandez, Dustin S. Hillman, Gabriela C. Weaver and Carlos Rafael Morales


Even though the educational research community has promoted the use of video games for learning purposes and discussed their educational potential, others have criticized the lack of empirical research to support such claims. Therefore, a need exists for empirical, sound research in this area.

A prototype of a chemistry-based computer game using a mixed genre of a single player first-person game embedded with action-adventure and puzzle components was developed to determine if students' level of understanding of chemistry concepts changes after gameplay. A sample of 23 students from Purdue University participated in the study; they completed open-ended content surveys and a semi-structured interview to assess their understanding of chemistry concepts before and after the gameplay intervention. Elements of game design and gameplay were also evaluated during the semi-structured interview to consider them in future development and revision phases.

Preliminary analysis of our interview data suggests that students were able to understand most of the chemistry challenges presented in the game and the game served as a review for previously learned concepts as well as a way to apply such previous knowledge. To guarantee a better understanding of the chemistry concepts, additions such as debriefing and feedback about the content presented in the game seem to be needed. The use of visuals in the game to represent chemical processes, game genre, and game idea appear to be the game design elements that students like the most about the current prototype. This presentation will provide more detailed results and suggest ways of effectively presenting chemistry concepts in a game scenario.