The centre’s research focuses on a number of themes, each using the learning affordances of computer games to facilitate the transformation of the player. Whilst in all themes the term education and transformation are synonymous, our themes specifically target games that promote learning outcomes tied to the school curriculum.
In this theme we seek to develop and study the design and production of computer games for people with any level of ability. People with physical and cognitive disability can engage in purpose built accessible games on a ‘level playing field’ with other players; the aim being to promote positive interaction and social inclusion. In our research we are looking at ways to create accessible games from the design stage, rather than trying to fit existing games to an accessibility model.
Our single switch gaming projects are one instantiation of the idea. The primary aim is to produce games operated by a single switch enabling a diverse group of players to be proficient. As each individual is different, this involves careful game design, and the use of techniques to adjust the difficulty based on the player’s performance.
The aim of this theme is to actively engage players with content found in various repositories and archives by embedding it within a game environment. The docugame has emerged as a genre of computer games that transforms those engaging with the content from observers to actors. Content from the archival elements can be used to shape the virtual world and provide an authentic experience. Archival elements can be embedded into a game explicitly, through digital rendering of manuscripts, sounds recordings, movies, and other cultural heritage formats.
An example docugame is AE2 Commander, which we have built with the support of a grant from The National Archives of Australia. In the game, the player assumes the role of commander of the Australian submarine AE2 in her mission during the Dardanelles campaign in 1915. The narrative of the game is built around a 3D reconstruction of the scenario along with actual accounts from the crew members through each stage of the mission.
Games that improve the health of their players are the focus of this theme. The centre conducts research that explores the use of games as both a direct intervention and as an educational vehicle to promote better health. In the Centre’s exergaming projects, we look at building compelling game play that requires physical exertion, at adequate intensity and duration to improve the player’s fitness. Over the years we have worked with various exergame input devices, including DDR pads, Cateye GameBikes and the Microsoft Kinect.
Research in this theme is framed by socio cultural theory and situated learning. Models of engagement are used which consider a variety of player learning styles, rates and motivation. The integration of learning outcomes into a digital multimodal game provides both a compelling and educational experience for the player.
Nanocity is an example of our work in this area. Developed through funding from The Department of Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education, the game is targeted at year 8/9 students. Mapped to curriculum, the game promotes interest in nanotechnology by letting the player interactively explore the development of nanotechnology to improve the life of people in a city.
Using role-play in a simulated environment can lead to a better understanding of concepts, skills, attitudes and beliefs shaped by situations. For example, a simulator that lets users take the roles of a person in a certain situation allows for the enactment of realistic scenarios, whether it is architects seeking to determine how staff might interact with a facility, future staff learning operational procedures, or security response personnel playing the role of a terrorist in the simulation in order to understand how a terrorist might act.