"It Just Felt More Like a Pyramid" - Narrative and Concept in Game-based Learning Puzzles

Anthony Pellicone, Ekta Shokeen, Peter Moon, David Weintrop, Diane Ketelhut, Jandelyn Plane and Michel Cukier


Game-based learning (GBL) is an effective way to introduce domains of knowledge to learners. However, the literature is unclear on how designers balance content with interesting and compelling game narratives. In this paper, we explore this tension using data from two versions of a puzzle meant to teach modular arithmetic. In one puzzle, numbers are used to present key puzzle information, while in the other, abstract symbols are used. Using empirical data, we examine how both puzzle configurations supported learning. We find that there are desirable aspects to both versions of the puzzle. We describe the implicaitons of the primary design tension posed by our findings, and present suggestions for balancing fantasy and authentic content in GBL.