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meaningful play 2012 travel

Session Information

TitleExploring Meaningful Games (cont.)
Presenter(s)Sara Verrilli, MIT Game Lab
Rik Eberhardt, MIT Game Lab
Konstantin Mitgutsch, MIT Game Lab
TimeSaturday, October 20, 11:30a-12:30p
DescriptionThis workshop is designed for games researchers interested in studying serious games and for game developers and designers interested in creating serious games. In this workshop, we will focus primarily on how a serious game's message, mechanics, and content are interrelated.

More and more people are creating games for purposes other than entertainment: games for education, games for health, games for personal improvement, games for social justice. These games seek to educate, inform, and excite players about various serious topics. Some of them aim merely to inform; others hope to spur users to action. Since the message is the most important part, great care is taken to convey accurate information in the game's educational or motivational content, and to keep that content clear and consistent. Unfortunately, that same care frequently disappears when it comes to the actual gameplay - all too often, social messages or educational content are paired up with game mechanics that don't reinforce the game's intended message.

In games, the player's experience is shaped not just by the content and narrative they experience, but also by the actions they take and the systems they interact with, manipulate, and learn about. Poorly thought out and implemented mechanics changes can even negate a game's intended content and message. Konstantin Mitgutsch, a postdoctoral researcher at the MIT Game Lab, has developed a framework for analyzing the overall effectiveness of a game's message. The "Serious Game Design Assessment Framework" (Mitgutsch & Alvarado 2012) explores how the many aspects of a game's design effects and focuses - or ruins - a game's potential message. At the MIT Game Lab, we have used this framework to evaluate the overall effectiveness of serious games and as a design guide for the creation of new ones.

This workshop will be a deep focus on one part of the Serious Game Design Assessment Framework: the interrelations between message, mechanics, and content. We will analyze games whose mechanics reinforce their intended message, as well as games whose mechanics fail to support their content. Then, we will lead the participants in analyzing an existent serious game and invite them to propose and consider ways to improve its overall design to support the game's intended message. Participants will work in teams to create a short pitch about what mechanics they would change in the existent game and present this to the rest of the workshop participants.

Participants will leave the workshop with an understanding of how to examine serious games using our framework and how to choose game mechanics for a serious game that support the game's content and message.

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