Undergraduate Thesis

2013, December 2nd

Improving Educational Game Design Methods: A Rubric to Assess the Engagement and Educational Value of Educational Games

Screenshot from "Lightbot"

At the University of Colorado at Boulder, Computer Science students have two capstone options. They can either do a Senior Project, where they work in groups on a contracted project for a local company, or they can do a Senior Thesis, an undergraduate research paper similar to a dissertation. I began my thesis Spring 2013 and finished Fall 2013.

Originally, my thesis was going to be on emergent gameplay; the idea that within games, complex phenomena arise from interactions between simple objects. My favorite examples of this are in Dwarf Fortress, Banjo Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts, and Left 4 Dead 2.

After discussion with the committee, my research topic was changed to Educational Game Design. I analyzed a number of educational game design patterns, and found several games that had implemented those methods. Then, I used Amazon's Mechanical Turk to have 300 people rate the games on how well the game used the design method. I also used Mechanical Turk to quiz 120 people on how much they had learned after playing an educational game.

There was no statistically significant evidence that educational games improve a player's understanding of a subject. However, using Mechanical Turk to collect all the information was novel; future research can just increase the number of samples collected to get more definitive results.