In 2014, I completed a 3-course Graduate Certificate in Serious Game Design and Research through Michigan State University’s College of Communication Arts and Sciences. Here I offer a bit of my experience in each course.
The “TC” before the course number stands for “Telecommunications,” the old department name in the College of Communication Arts and Sciences before they changed it to “Media and Information.”
TC 831: Theories of Games and Interaction for Design
In TC 831, I learned a broad overview of theories for learning and theories for research-driven serious game design. Learning theories covered included behaviorism, constructivism, multiple intelligences, experiential learning, socially constructed knowledge, distributed cognition, systems thinking, and gamification. I learned game-based learning design principles such as intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, theories of persuasion, scaffolding, feedback and assessment, zone of proximal development, competition and cooperation, pedagogical agents, embodied learning, situated learning, models of fun, and media effects. For the final project of this course I wrote a proposal for a research-driven serious game, complete with a literature review of background research, description of core game mechanics, and development budget.
TC 841: Understanding Users
In TC 841, I learned about designing serious games with players at the center. The course followed the phases of an emergent design process, in which the early Research phase is broad and scattered, the Concept phase begins to narrow focus somewhat, and finally the Design phase produces something specific to test. I practiced implementing user experience (UX) research tools including literature review, competitive analysis, listening tours, strategy workshops, sampling strategies, observation heuristics, user observation methods, surveys, interviews, focus group research, persona creation, and budgeting. I also learned UX design tools such as design briefs, sketching and wireframes, paper prototypes, and usability testing. For the final project of this course I wrote an ethnographic research report covering my use of these many tools and a proposal for a serious game to aid low-income grocery shoppers make healthier food choices.
TC 830: Foundations of Serious Games
In TC 830, I learned a broad overview of serious-game genres and a deep look at the game design process. Genres of serious games studied included games for health, games for learning, corporate games, persuasive games, newsgames, and military games. I completed short projects working on adaptations of commercial off-the-shelf games, new game concepts, game mechanics, playtesting and iteration, and gamification principles. For the final project of this course I worked with a partner to research, define mechanics, playtest, and pitch a card game to teach college freshmen about making healthy eating choices in their dining hall.