Aesthetics of Computer Games for Virtual Environments

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Dynamic complexity is related to the number of laws, rules, mechanisms, or influences that contribute to change, which may lead to many possible student paths that are difficult to test and debug. In addition, Murray identifies five possible types of users with different complexity capacity. Teachers have a low complexity capacity, so they cannot be expected to use complex authoring tools.

This is in line with Theodosiou and Karasavvidis , who found that student teachers struggle to incorporate critical game elements and have major difficulties in connecting game elements effectively. Domain experts and content developers have a medium complexity capacity, though they may have little practical or theoretical knowledge of pedagogy.

Virtual Environments for Children and Teens

Instructional designers and learning theorists have a medium complexity capacity too, though they may not have the time to dedicate to a steep tool learning curve. Knowledge engineers and game developers have a medium to high complexity capacity, because they are trained for representing knowledge in a computationally usable fashion. Computer scientists and software developers have a high complexity capacity, because they are used to design and debug structural and procedural models.

Only the last two types of users can be expected to manage sophisticated authoring tasks. Other authors also evaluated the usability of authoring environments for SGs. Most usability aspects were found to be average. Only so-called self-descriptiveness the dialogue should make clear what the user should do next ISO, , which relates to understandability, and error tolerance, which relates to operability, were rated lower than average. Usability was found to be poor. Marchiori et al. Gaeta et al. In addition, the platform offers environments to play the developed games, to monitor students, and to manage users and game runs.

Motor skills are not yet supported. Earlier and more superficial evaluations of the authoring environment show that educators, after receiving some instruction, could use most components independently and with ease Nadolski et al. One component could not be used independently, and two components were not easy to use.

This makes us question why the usability of some components is lower than of others, how we could improve this, how this is related to component complexity, and if it is related to the conversion of the scenario into game content. We expect that the usability evaluation will enable us to derive some guidelines for increasing the usability of the environment. This case study addresses two areas of design research that are still underrepresented in game studies Kultima, : design praxeology i. The study deals with the game design value category Values of Production and Creation Process , as proposed by Kultima and Sandovar , which contains values like Technological advancement, Development as a challenge, Collaboration and value of teamwork , and Open source ideology.

It is one out of eight software quality characteristics and is defined as the degree to which a product or system can be used by specified users to achieve specified goals with effectiveness, efficiency, and satisfaction in a specified context of use. The other characteristics are functionality, reliability, performance efficiency, compatibility, security, maintainability, and portability.

Usability is further subdivided into six aspects: understandability, learnability, operability, user error protection, user interface aesthetics, and accessibility. This method comprises five phases and although based on ADDIE recommends using iterations, like a Unified Process approach with cycles that prevent overspending and minimizes risks or failures. During the analysis phase, the development team formulates answers to a list of standard questions.

Answers are used as input for a global description of the game that includes learning goals and competencies to achieve. During the design phase, the method supports the team in the creative process of writing a scenario in three steps. First, the team formulates which activities have to be accomplished, why, when, where, and in what order, if needed. Second, the team identifies: i with whom activities must be done and with what materials and tooling, ii when activities are completed and how this is assessed, and iii which feedback is given and when, and in what form and by whom.

Third, the team describes each activity exhaustively in terms of its required materials and tooling. In this stage, it becomes evident whether materials are already available or still need to be developed and whether the scenario can be realized with available platform components, or if it needs new components or even a new game skin.

During the development phase, the authoring environment is used to convert the scenario and materials into game content. If needed, new components or skin are developed, film recordings are made, and other materials like documents or images are developed. During the implementation phase, the game is deployed to students and educators for monitoring , and during the evaluation phase, the game is evaluated.

Educational technologists and content matter experts write the global description and scenario of the game and involve other team members to check for feasibility. Interaction designers and ICT developers develop graphical assets and, if needed, new components or skin. If film recordings are needed, the team temporarily is reinforced with cameramen, actors or experts, and video editors. Initially, our objective was for educational technologists and content matter experts to do all authoring, but actual practice shows that game script authoring is mostly too complicated and is then done by an ICT developer, which is in line with Murray , who states that the latter user type has a higher complexity capacity than the former.

He can navigate to different locations, where he finds NPCs Non-Playing Characters , like his supervisor, colleagues, experts, or specialists, or can attend interviews or meetings see Figure 1. In the environment, he has a tablet with apps, e. He also has a memo recorder, to record interesting parts of interviews and meetings, and a notepad to make contextualized notes.

A patient being interviewed. At the bottom left, we see the tablet, and at the bottom right, we see the memo recorder and notepad. The student gets tasks from his supervisor or other NPCs, either in person or by mail.

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He can be assessed on every action he performs, e. In addition, he can be assessed, e. Depending on his actions, the game can adapt the environment at the micro level, e. The student gets feedback on his performance by NPCs in person, by mail, as screen text, or in tests. This feedback can incorporate mail attachments or the release of resources, such as worked-out examples or expert reports.

The student gets navigation support through alerts, e. The components support eight different didactical functions: present and adapt environment E , assign tasks and provide overview T , present knowledge K , assess learner A , provide feedback F , support processing of information P , support collaboration C , and support navigation N.

Note that one component may serve several functions and that one function may involve several components. For instance, the conversations component can be used to assign a task, to present knowledge, or to provide feedback. And the script component should assess the learner to trigger the conversations component to give the right feedback. The components allow much freedom in the way the environment is presented, how tasks are assigned, if they must be executed in a certain order, how they are assessed, and how feedback is provided and thus support a wide range of game scenarios.

Of course, the metaphor of an environment with locations and the available components put constraints on the end form of the game, but this partially can be overcome by adding new components or a new game skin. Low complexity components have a low interface, object, and structural and dynamic complexity.

They either have only a few configuration options or an obvious and simple data model without dynamics. The navigation, conversations, email, assessments , and items components comply with this condition. They all have a medium object complexity, because they include abstract concepts whose definitions and uses are not obvious. In addition, the navigation component has a medium interface complexity, because it includes a larger number of authoring features, and the navigation, conversations , and items components have a medium structural complexity, because they include complex structures of linked objects.

High complexity components have a medium or high interface, object, structural, and dynamic complexity. Only one component, the script component, complies with this condition. Depending on their individual complexity capacity, content matter experts will use low or medium complexity components that involve knowledge presentation. Educational technologists will mostly use medium complexity components that involve task assignment, assessment, and feedback. ICT developers will use high complexity components, although some educational technologists may also consider using them.

Object, structural, and dynamic complexities are related to the SG domain and therefore are difficult to influence. However, interface complexity is related to the way user tasks are translated into usable interfaces and therefore leaves room for improvement, which is the motive for our usability evaluation.

The EMERGO platform supports the design of in-game and post-game debriefing for the reflection on and the sharing of the game experience to turn it into learning Crookall, For the design of in-game reflection on the game experience, game authors can use components that support giving feedback or processing of information. The conversations component can be used for reflection on a task with a supervisor or reflection on the domain with an expert.

The resources component can be used to provide additional reflection materials. He can even do this by impersonating an NPC. The assessments component can be used to reflect on learning, the logbook to reflect on notes made, and the memo player and directing component to reflect on NPC communication, e. For the design of in-game sharing of the game experience, game authors can use the email and chat components that support communication with fellow students or educators. For post-game reflection on and the sharing of the game experience, educators can organize debriefing sessions with students where all student data can be used as input to foster discussion.

One of our main goals was to develop a user-friendly, reliable, and stable authoring environment that would enable efficient development of scenario-based SGs by offering a set of common components. We set up functional and non-functional requirements see Appendix 1 that laid the foundation for the structure and the working of the environment, which comprises four pages see Figure 2.

The game roles page shows an overview of game roles for a chosen game and allows CRUD operations on game roles. The game components page shows an overview of game components for a chosen game and allows CRUD operations on and import, export, and copying of game components. Most components allow instantiation of multiple game components, which enables thematically arranging content, e. The game component content page see Figure 3 shows the game component configuration and content and allows CRUD operations on and drag, drop, and copying of game content. Configuration implies setting initial properties — e.

Content is presented as a tree and authored using a single game component content editor whose working is determined by the component definition that defines possible content elements e. A content element is edited in a pop-up dialogue that validates entered content. The script component is authored the same way. Script conditions are added as root tree items and will be triggered by property changes that are initiated by student actions, timers, or script actions. Script actions are children of a script condition and are executed if the condition is triggered. They change properties that may adapt the player environment or the game script itself.

To enter all content, authors will switch between the game components page and the game component content page. Game and game components can be previewed and tested in the player environment. As subject for our evaluation, we choose the development of a game on Sexology, one of the most recently developed games.

The first author is an educational technologist without any technical background , who also lead the project and wrote the scenario. The second author is an ICT developer, who also developed new game components. The educational technologist authored the conversations, notepad, alerts, tablet, resources, email , and logbook component.

The ICT developer authored the navigation, memo recorder, tasks, memo player, directing, game manual , and script component. As data collection method, we chose semi-structured interviews Bryman, Strengths of this method are that it has a high validity, because interviewees are able to talk about something in detail and depth, and a high flexibility, because it allows complex questions and issues to be discussed.

Weaknesses of this method are that it is not very reliable, because it is difficult to exactly repeat an interview, and that the findings are difficult to generalize. We found other data collection methods, like questionnaires, observation studies, think- or talk-aloud protocols, focus groups, automated collection of heat maps, or a combination of methods, not appropriate. Questionnaires, observation studies, and think- or talk-aloud protocols give too little detail and depth and are less flexible.

Focus groups are more suitable for larger groups and bear the risk that opinions are not expressed equally. A combination of methods is not appropriate, because the aforementioned methods are not appropriate. We prepared the interviews by setting up an interview guide with themes and related questions see Appendix 1. The same interviewer interviewed the two game authors separately. Both interviews were conducted about a year and a half after the game was developed, lasted about two and a half hours, and were recorded with consent. The spoken language was native, so interviewees could better express themselves.

Interviewee and interviewer together walked through the pages of the authoring environment and the 14 EMERGO components to recall working with it in a natural setting. For our data analysis, we first used the interview recordings to make notes per interviewee and per theme. Second, we identified issues and counted related remarks.

As a last step, we collected suggested improvements to be able to set up general usability guidelines. We present the findings related to our original evaluation goal, which was to evaluate the usability of the authoring environment and the integration of authoring in the EMERGO method.

As interviewees also made remarks related to other software quality characteristics and the development process itself, we present these findings as well. We end with general usability guidelines for authoring environments for SGs.

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We give a general impression per interviewee that is composed of their striking literal remarks. The educational technologist. If you get deeper, it conceptually becomes more complicated. If you work with it somewhat longer, almost all components are a piece of cake, except scripting. Then it becomes Spartan, because it is not always intuitive. The ICT developer. It has a new button, but further you see little information, especially for someone who knows nothing about it. You get no location or context-specific help. You might build in that you can get some explanation on every screen, on the purpose, what you can do exactly, and how you might proceed.

If you understand the editor, it works fine. However, entering game script requires concentration to prevent errors. Interviewees made remarks that can be related to three out of six usability aspects, namely understandability, learnability , and operability. No remarks can be related to user error protection, user interface aesthetics, or accessibility. Both interviewees identified most issues. The understandability of the authoring environment is problematic. Although interviewees find the distribution in pages and navigation through them obvious, they quite often find the used terminology unclear and not fitting their expectations 16 remarks and find it unclear as to why, when, and where certain options are present, or why two options offer the same functionality 25 remarks.

Less problematic is that interviewees miss examples of scenarios, games, and game components three remarks. The learnability of the authoring environment is problematic. Interviewees miss on-screen guidance and clear instruction on all pages and pop-up dialogues 17 remarks and miss information on didactics and use of the components, their mutual dependencies, and the order of entering component content 10 remarks. For a large part, missing guidance, instruction, and information can be found in a comprehensive authoring manual, but it is partly outdated, and searching in a manual for the right help is laborious.

The operability of the authoring environment is somewhat problematic. Interviewees mention that available components are not filtered on the chosen game skin one remark , file names cannot contain special characters two remarks , objects cannot be easily positioned on the screen one remark , and the preview option does not always function as expected two remarks. However, interviewees like drag and drop and the uniform input control for URLs and files.

Interviewees made no remarks about the notepad, memo recorder, tablet, logbook , and memo player components, probably because these components only need some configuration and no authoring of game content. We give an impression per interviewee and authored component that is composed of their striking literal remarks. After some time, it is no longer a problem to work with. It cannot be made easier. No problem at all. The preview option is indispensable.

I further had no problems. However, for a large part authoring is straightforward, once you know how it functions and what it stands for. The rest is obvious. You can implement different solutions for the same problem. This all made authoring more difficult, especially if I had not used the component for a while. In itself I found authoring convenient. Interviewees made remarks that can be related to the development team, the EMERGO design and development phase, and the transition between these two phases.

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The educational technologist identified most issues. Both interviewees find the development team very important. During the authoring phase, both authors were in close contact, so they could efficiently work together to make things work and fix bugs. For the design and development phase, the educational technologist states that he wrote the scenario without taking the available components into account very much. However, novice developers should know how to deal with the components beforehand, otherwise they get into trouble. If they are expected to author only one game, they should author only low complexity components.

Both interviewees have their opinions about the moment of transition between the design and development phase. The educational technologist states that authoring normally starts when the scenario is finished, but that you could start earlier if the storyline is clear and you know which components you need, at the risk of time-consuming adjustments in case of scenario changes. In this enchanting adventure game, you accompany a mouse named Moss, who, after accidentally awakening an ancient magic in the forest, must embark on a journey to save her uncle.

Along the way, you solve puzzles, fight enemies, and explore whimsical environments. The inviting animated art direction and impressive lighting effects are sure to delight players of all ages. The basic goal of the game is to reach the center of the universe, but that sells the experience short by a long shot. In the game, you battle enemies with futuristic weapons inside orbital arenas, which affords you full and ever-disorienting freedom of movement.

You can fight enemies 1-on-1 or team up with a friend to take on pairs of combatants. After all, more players means more multiplayer mayhem. Tetris has existed in many forms over the better part of the last three decades. Tetris Effect is the latest iteration, and perhaps, one of the best ever. As you progress, you unlock new effects and stages. This wacky game from Justin Roiland, the co-creator of Rick and Morty, pairs with you with the reluctant Trover as you try to rescue your dogs and save the universe in the process.

Note that Trover Saves The Universe does not stick to one genre, with action, platforming, and puzzle-solving elements all present. The animated, blob-like graphics complement the gameplay and help make the premise engaging. Every Star Wars fan dreams about one day wielding a lightsaber in real life.

Until that glorious day, virtual reality offers the next best solution. In this first part of a three-episode series, you a smuggler get the chance to explore Darth Vader's fortress and all the perils within. You'll need to master the lightsaber to survive. He has previously written for Laptop Mag, Neowin. He spends his free time taking photos and reading b See Full Bio.

This newsletter may contain advertising, deals, or affiliate links. Subscribing to a newsletter indicates your consent to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. You may unsubscribe from the newsletters at any time. What's Not Here? View As: One Page Slides. The setup is similar to other music games, such as Audiosurf, Guitar Hero, and Rock Band, but instead of controlling a virtual ship or using fake instruments, you slash your way through a song with virtual laser swords. As the music plays, Beat Saber generates different patterns of color-coded blocks on the screen that you must hit with the correct controller right or left as they slide towards you.

Obstacles also appear at times that require you to duck or slide away. If you love music and motion, Beat Saber is definitely worth exploring. Fight your way through hordes of enemies and avoid collisions and damage at the helm of one of 13 ship types. Progression is flexible, so players can control how they customize their ships as they go along. In Farpoint, you must survive deadly enemy encounters while traversing a dangerous alien environment in an effort to discover what happened to the rest of your research team. Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes is the perfect multiplayer game to put your friendships to the test, forcing you to communicate and collaborate with each other to defuse a complex bomb.

In this game, players are split into two groups: one Defuser and several Experts. Defusers can see and examine the bomb, but cannot access the manual. Experts can read the manual, but cannot see the bomb. To browse Academia. Skip to main content. You're using an out-of-date version of Internet Explorer. By using our site, you agree to our collection of information through the use of cookies. To learn more, view our Privacy Policy. Log In Sign Up. In this paper, the author defines what virtual worlds are and explores the art and design education research that has been conducted in virtual worlds or is related to them.

These include: virtual art and design; galleries and museums in virtual worlds; games in art education; visual literacy in the virtual world; identity, gender, and the formation of avatars; Virtual world art education in school system; assessment and other education applications through virtual environments; and virtual communities.

This paper concludes by discussing how virtual experiences can be transformed into real world learning experiences. Keywords: Virtual world, digital visual culture, art and design education, 3D computer games, visual literacy 64 InJAE Other digital media but not discussed here include: websites, videos, social media, content management systems, course management systems, and 2D animated platforms and games. Virtual, virtual environment, and virtual worlds I will first discuss the terms virtual, virtual environment, and virtual world.

Baudrillard proposed the theory of simulation and simulacra and noted that images have become more real than reality today. A simulacrum is a representation that does not use reality as a reference; simulacra do not require any reference from reality Baudrillard. Simulation replaces representation. Virtual environments are not just simulated reality, but places where users can create a new reality together Burbules, A virtual environment can exist on a single computer, but virtual worlds are networked environments that connect multiple computers, multiple users, and multiple sets of data Aukstakalnis, Virtual world users are not just interacting with machines; they are interacting with people through machines.

Instead of InJAE This was the first book to include multiple chapters discussing issues related to virtual worlds.

What's Not Here?

In , Stokrocki edited the first book dedicated to virtual world and art education: Exploration in virtual worlds: New digital multi-media literacy investigations for art education. In addition to these two important books, there are several articles that discuss virtual environments for art education in general.

Han contends that visual culture in K and higher educational settings and as part of distance education can be taught via the virtual world. Taylor et al. All of these Review on Contemporary researchers agree that virtual worlds have an important place in art Virtual Art and Design education because of the limitless possibilities.


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Education Additionally, many art and design education publications have mentioned virtual worlds or virtual environments Sweeny, ; however, that research is not included in this article. Virtual art and design Virtual environments not only have limitless possibilities for art education, but they also hold infinite potential for art and design. In , Tillander holds a comprehensive discussion on digital art that also includes art in virtual worlds. Krug examines issues of electronic media. Tasa et al. Design Education Galleries and museums in virtual worlds There are galleries and museums in virtual worlds that are used for the purpose of art education.

Virtual museums provide real aesthetic experience for participants and provide opportunities for interactions. Jun and Bin discuss the efficiency of utilizing a virtual museum for public arts education. Many scholars are researching 3D gaming in art education. There are three aspects of this research: first, research on specific game applications in art education; second, art education in the game-creation process, and third, game based learning. Janet and Miles state that for the new generation, art and design education should re-examine teaching pedagogy and learning needs.

Alexander and Ho examine student-created video games as a case study p. Gill explores one public high-school using 3-D Design Education modeling and animation software to produce original short animations. Visual literacy in virtual worlds Virtual environments are entirely created by humans, and nothing can be taken for granted Han, Therefore, visual literacy becomes crucial in art education.

For Chen Virtual Art and Design and Stokrocki , through their research, students learned to Education communicate through different methods in the virtual world to become multi-literate. Shin sees Second Life as a new educational space and machinima as new media art.

A convergent way of using different media, 2. Hybridization of media creation and communication, 3. Experimental, empowered, and participatory learning, and4. Identity, gender, and formation of avatars A customized avatar is a very important element of virtual worlds. Many scholars have researched how avatar creation and customization might be used for education Liao, Moreover, because of the openness of avatar customization, avatarsnot only reflect identity or self-representation, but are also seen as new media art in virtual worlds Liao, b; ; Sweeny, Virtual world art education in school system Scholars are researching in the application of virtual worlds to education from elementary grades up tillhigher education.

In , Bailey and Moar explored the potentials of virtual worlds for teaching at the primary school level. They find the creation of avatars and virtual worlds provide the most educational potentials. Sakatani uses the project Harmony Quest as an example of how middle school students designed and developed virtual worlds. Sclater and 72 InJAE Virtual Art and Design More scholars have researched virtual world applications in higher Education education than K education.

She finds that virtual worlds engage and motivate participants to open up and freely discuss art Guenter exhibits how cross-curricular lessons might be achieved from an art education viewpoint in the virtual worlds.

click Grenfell a discusses the methods and possibilities of using virtual worlds for art education. Carpenter and Lin reflect on their work teaching graduate and undergraduate courses on visual culture in the virtual world of Second Life. Besides using virtual environments for different groups of users, there are articles on using virtual environments for assessment as well as teaching aesthetics.

Han takes InAEA in Second Life as a case to explore the potentials from using virtual worlds in an academic virtual community. She illustrates the formation of the virtual group and describes how this virtual group has been composed, operated and maintained. She concludes that to compose a virtual group takes time and effort.

However, only through its members can it exist and provide services. Virtual Art and Design Education Conclusion: From virtual experiences to real world experiences The relationship between virtual and real has been blurred by advanced technology Gaimster, When people learn in virtual worlds, the learning process occurs through our senses and is based on our experiences.

For all that the experience takes place in a venue other than the physical world, that does not mean learning experiences do not occur. Virtual environment learning experiences can be accommodative and vivid for students; the experience is just as real as a physical world learning experience. Additionally, the benefit of using virtual worlds for art education has been revealed in this article.

It is suggested that virtual worlds are another valuable media for art educators to further explore their wider utilization in the future. Gaming worlds: Secondary students creating an interactive video game. Art Education, 68 1 ,

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