I. Approach to Serious Game Design

The Art of Serious Game Design Conceptual Framework

The Art of Serious Game Design conceptual framework, anchored in the Design, Play, Experience Framework developed by Brian Winn, is depicted as a circle and divided into four equal quadrants (see Figure 2 below), each representing a different but equally important game element: Learning, Storytelling, Gameplay and User Experience[1]. The components within each of these game elements are connected with double-ended arrows, representing iteration and the interconnectedness between the framework’s layers. Below is a description of each of the four game elements:

  1. Learning refers to the content to be learned by players through the game with specific and measurable learning outcomes.
  2. Storytelling refers to the background story of the game and includes a description of the character(s), the setting, and the ultimate goal of the game.
  3. Gameplay refers to the way in which the player interacts with the game, or with other players (if a multiplayer game). It encapsulates the type of activity (e.g., puzzle, trivia, etc.) found in the game.
  4. User Experience refers to the player’s emotions and attitudes while playing the game, as well as how the player interacts with the game.

Similar to the DPE framework, The Art of Serious Game Design conceptual framework “depicts the relationship between the designer and the player” (Winn 2009, p.1014), where:

  1. The innermost Design layer symbolizes the designer’s “story,” or all the elements that the designer introduces to the game that will allow the player to play the game. According to Winn (2009), the designer has direct control only over the design.
  2. The middle layer, Play, which symbolizes the “mediated experience” between the player and design input through play, is influenced by the design and the player’s background brought into the play experience.
  3. The outermost Experience layer symbolizes the varying play experiences that players can have depending on their backgrounds, as well as the choices and actions made during game play.

Methodology circle

Figure 2. The Art of Serious Game Design methodology circle.

  1. Technology is an additional game element that is not included in the methodology above but is an important consideration. It has been intentionally left out to avoid restricting the design team’s creativity during brainstorming.


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The Art of Serious Game Design Copyright © by Digital Education Strategies, The Chang School of Continuing Education, Ryerson University is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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