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A (Visual) Novel Route to Learning: A Taxonomy of Teaching Strategies in Visual Novels

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Interactive narratives are widely used to frame and contextualize education in games. However, the specifics of how their designs aid the learning process and outcomes remains relatively unexplored. To better understand this space, a study was conducted that focused on one sub-genre of interactive narrative, Visual Novels. Specifically, in this paper we conducted a survey of thirty-one existing educational Visual Novels, analyzing design elements that fostered learning and delivered educational content. The resulting taxonomy consists of five key dimensions for educational design and teaching strategies within Visual Novels: 1) Teaching Through Choice, 2) Teaching Through Scripted Sequences, 3) Teaching Through Mini-games, 4) Teaching Through Exploration and 5) Non-interactive Teaching. These dimensions demonstrate that there are a number of design considerations for supporting learning through Visual Novels. This work has implications for designers of educational games by classifying the different designs a Visual Novel can employ to teach-ultimately informing how to better present educational subject matter in interactive narrative games.
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A (Visual) Novel Route to Learning: A Taxonomy of Teaching
Strategies in Visual Novels
Janelynn Camingue
University of California, Santa Cruz
Santa Cruz, CA
jcamingu@ucsc.edu
Edward F. Melcer
University of California, Santa Cruz
Santa Cruz, CA
eddie.melcer@ucsc.edu
Elin Carstensdottir
University of California, Santa Cruz
Santa Cruz, CA
ecarsten@ucsc.edu
ABSTRACT
Interactive narratives are widely used to frame and contextualize
education in games. However, the specics of how their designs
aid the learning process and outcomes remains relatively unex-
plored. To better understand this space, a study was conducted that
focused on one sub-genre of interactive narrative, Visual Novels.
Specically, in this paper we conducted a survey of thirty-one ex-
isting educational Visual Novels, analyzing design elements that
fostered learning and delivered educational content. The resulting
taxonomy consists of ve key dimensions for educational design
and teaching strategies within Visual Novels: 1) Teaching Through
Choice, 2) Teaching Through Scripted Sequences, 3) Teaching Through
Mini-games, 4) Teaching Through Exploration and 5) Non-interactive
Teaching. These dimensions demonstrate that there are a number
of design considerations for supporting learning through Visual
Novels. This work has implications for designers of educational
games by classifying the dierent designs a Visual Novel can employ
to teach—ultimately informing how to better present educational
subject matter in interactive narrative games.
CCS CONCEPTS
Applied computing Interactive learning environments
;
Human-centered computing
Human computer interaction
(HCI);HCI theory, concepts and models.
KEYWORDS
Visual Novels, Interactive Narratives, Educational Design, Educa-
tional Games, Taxonomy
ACM Reference Format:
Janelynn Camingue, Edward F. Melcer, and Elin Carstensdottir. 2020. A
(Visual) Novel Route to Learning: A Taxonomy of Teaching Strategies in
Visual Novels. In International Conference on the Foundations of Digital
Games (FDG ’20), September 15–18, 2020, Bugibba, Malta. ACM, New York,
NY, USA, 13 pages. https://doi.org/10.1145/3402942.3403004
1 INTRODUCTION
Visual Novels (VNs) are a sub-genre of interactive narratives, which
are a form of interactive experiences where users can create or im-
pact a storyline through certain actions [
104
]. VNs are widely used
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ACM ISBN 978-1-4503-8807-8/20/09.
https://doi.org/10.1145/3402942.3403004
for educational purposes both within academia [
1
,
4
,
7
,
8
,
10
,
57
,
98
,
128
] and industry [
28
]. These games cover a broad range of topics
from ctional languages [
10
] to self-ecacy in programming [
2
].
Part of the widespread popularity of VNs for education is due to
the accessibility the genre provides, with a low demand on player
actions, focus on storytelling, and role-playing elements all help-
ing to engage a larger audience [
128
]. There are also a substantial
number of VN development tools—such as Novelty [
57
], Unity [
98
],
and Ren’Py[
4
]—which support ease of development for educational
game designers at a wide variety of technical skill levels. Notably,
educational VNs have often been developed in academic settings
as alternatives to traditional non-interactive text and reading ma-
terials, e.g., [
48
,
51
,
94
], with many arguing for their potential as
powerful learning tools [87,104,123].
Despite this apparent advantage, educational VNs are understud-
ied in terms of their educational eectiveness (see Related Work),
and many educational VN designs have not been demonstrably
successful at integrating educational content delivery and an in-
teractive narrative experience. This stems from a lack of research
focus both on interactive narrative design as a whole [26], as well
as on the underlying interaction design and mechanics supporting
delivery of educational content. This could cause a variety of po-
tential problems, such as preventing or distracting the player from
learning by introducing design elements or story content that is
incompatible with the learning process/content—resulting in extra-
neous cognitive load [
118
]. One example of how design choices can
conict with educational outcomes is seen in many current VNs,
where educational content delivery is not incorporated directly into
the mechanics underlying VN elements (which is critical for good
educational game design [
103
]) and introduces unnecessary con-
founds for the player as a result. For instance, in the educational VN
Articial Tomodachi [
6
], narrative and choices given to the player
are unrelated to the educational content of the game—ultimately
separating the act of learning from the act of playing [84,126].
One way to address the lack of research and ambiguity around
interaction design and mechanics supporting the delivery of ed-
ucational content is through the creation of a taxonomy [
90
]. A
taxonomy is a popular tool that provides a common language for
designers and researchers to discuss design knowledge, classify
new and existing designs, generate prototypes, formulate research
questions, and conceptualize empirical studies [
17
,
20
]. With re-
spect to games, taxonomies have commonly been utilized to provide
classications of game genres [
14
,
101
], design choices [
33
,
88
,
90
],
and even games themselves [
12
,
43
]. As a result, a taxonomy at
the intersection of VNs and education would provide structure to
classify and formalize the design decisions and teaching strategies
underlying educational VNs.
FDG ’20, September 15–18, 2020, Bugibba, Malta Camingue et al.
In this paper, we present a taxonomy of teaching strategies iden-
tied in existing educational VNs, which was built using thematic
analysis of 31 educational VNs. In particular, our analysis focused on
the dierent strategies for educational content delivery as it relates
to narrative progression, a central concern for interactive narrative
[
26
], as well as narrative structure and diegetic/non-diegetic feed-
back. We also discuss each category in detail and the specics of
how each strategy was implemented in existing games. Finally, we
discuss the design implications the strategies pose for VNs, examine
their potential teaching ecacy from the perspective of existing
literature on learning, and discuss how notable design elements of
the VN genre are utilized for educational VNs. As such, this work
has broader implications for understanding and improving current
interactive narrative work and use of narrative for educational
content delivery outside the genre.
2 RELATED WORK
Educational games have employed narrative in a variety of ways to
support and enhance learning, such as being a framing device and
tool to contextualize and motivate learning [
107
]. In this section,
we discuss the manner in which educational games have utilized
narrative as a part of their design, and how such designs can be
described and captured—focusing on structure, progression, and
diegesis. Existing explorations of educational interactive narratives,
especially educational VNs, and their potential impact on learners
are also reviewed.
2.1 Narrative in Educational Games
2.1.1 Educational Interactive Narratives. Interactive narrative, in
the form of narrative games, is dened as games where the story ex-
ists to enhance game play [
111
]. There has been a number of works
suggesting the potential for interactive narrative/storytelling in im-
proving education [34,59,87,104,123], and prior work has found
a substantial positive impact from adding narrative/storytelling
to educational games in order to maintain or increase students’
motivation [
30
,
39
,
102
,
110
]. However, there is still a surprisingly
limited amount of work evaluating the ecacy of such games on
learning outcomes, especially when compared to other genres of
educational games [
24
,
65
,
91
], with the few notable exceptions
being [
80
,
89
,
92
,
110
,
122
,
124
,
131
]. The majority of work on ed-
ucational interactive narrative has instead focused primarily on
adaptivity [
52
,
66
,
77
,
97
,
109
], interactivity [
116
,
131
], player and
knowledge modeling [
55
,
83
,
108
], narrative planning and genera-
tion [
54
,
105
,
121
,
133
], emergent narrative [
18
], player experience
[
69
], and the game creation process [
30
,
117
]. The taxonomy of
teaching strategies in VNs presented in this paper serves to broaden
the current understanding and impact of educational interactive
narratives. Specically, it explicates design choices for the various
teaching strategies that can be employed to deliver educational
content—a previously unexplored aspect of educational interactive
narrative.
2.1.2 Educational Visual Novels. Although there is no singular ac-
cepted denition for VN, the majority of denitions agree that VNs
have some form of interactivity and are narrative-focused games
with anime/manga inuences [
48
]. VNs have also been employed
to teach educational content far more often than traditional inter-
active narratives, covering a number of topics including second-
language acquisition [
8
,
46
,
76
], nutrition [
48
], life management
[
68
], STEM [
94
,
98
], cyber security [
50
,
57
], and cooking [
3
]. Yet,
the majority of these games tend to just be presented as a tool
for learning, and are not evaluated for learning outcomes or at
best employ extremely limited qualitative or quantitative analysis—
e.g., [
50
,
53
,
76
,
78
,
99
,
119
,
127
]. However, some recent work has
examined and shown the positive eects of educational VNs on
self-ecacy and ow [
128
], as well as improvements to knowledge,
learning, and interest when compared to reading non-interactive
material [40,46,51,94,112].
2.2 Interactive Narrative Design
Building a taxonomy of teaching strategies for VNs requires un-
derstanding of interactive narrative design, and how it relates to
the user experience. Specically, how educational content is deliv-
ered and coupled with the story. However, capturing interactive
narrative design is still an open problem. Current work focused on
capturing and describing game design has produced both compu-
tational frameworks and languages (e.g. [
85
,
113
]), but this work
rarely focuses on the interaction design and presentation of inter-
active narrative from the player’s perspective.
Interactive narrative is often described in terms of how it is struc-
tured using concepts from graph theory [
26
]. Such descriptions
are often used to reference the amount of inuence the player is
able to have on the progression of the story. E.g., linearly struc-
tured narrative indicates no variation in the structure and therefore
no inuence, whereas branching structures indicate a lot of vari-
ation and inuence. Several theories and taxonomies have been
proposed for interactive narrative structure, with many of them
using graph-based representations. Notable examples include Bern-
stein’s hypertext design patterns [
22
], Lindley’s taxonomy [
82
]
building on the work by Eladhari [
41
], and the Canyon, Deltas and
Plains framework of Millard et al. [
93
]. However, this work has
predominantly focused on structural representation, not how the
structure was interacted with or traversed mechanically.
In contrast, Carstensdottir et al. [
26
] used the interaction model
of interactive narrative [
27
] as well as a data of player experience
of narrative structure and story progression, to propose a taxon-
omy of structure and progression mechanics patterns that explicitly
frame interaction design patterns in concrete terms. The taxonomy
features four dierent forms of progression: Progression through
Discovery, Progression through Choice, Progression through In-
Game Systems and Progression through Scripted Scenarios [
26
].
Progression through Discovery refers to mechanics the player must
use to locate story content in order to progress the story. For ex-
ample, in the game Grey Plague [
5
], the player must nd items
through the character’s room in one scene. Every item provides
details about the character’s life and even reveals certain choices.
Progression through Choice refers to mechanics that allow players
to progress in the story by making a direct choice in the story. This
usually takes the form of dialogue choices. Progression through In-
Game Systems refers to mechanics where the player must interact
with game systems, such as combat or resource management, in
order to progress the story. In Grey Plague, players start the game
A (Visual) Novel Route to Learning: A Taxonomy of Teaching Strategies in Visual Novels FDG ’20, September 15–18, 2020, Bugibba, Malta
with a series of mini-games where they play as a virus. The story
only progresses after the mini-game (task) is nished. This type
of progression is through task completion, a subset of Progression
through In-Game Systems. Progression through Scripted Scenarios
refers to mechanics within scripted events where the player must
perform a designated action in order to progress through the story.
For example, in Code Romantic [
2
], players must get all the quiz
questions right in order to progress.
In this paper, we build on these patterns and focus our study
of the VNs on narrative progression. We choose to focus on pro-
gression for two reasons. First, narrative progression is a central
component of an interactive narrative experience. Progression oc-
curs when a player uses progression mechanics to traverse the story
structure (here understood to be a graph representation of the story
events), revealing new content or aspects of the story content as
they do so [
26
]. Second, progression is central to learning, and how
the player, as a learner, understands how their actions and choices
relate to what they believe they are learning.
2.3 Diegesis in Interactive Narratives
Correct and eective communication of information is a central
concern for interactive narratives, especially those being used for
framing in serious applications such as learning and training games.
Often, learning content is communicated across diegetic boundaries,
i.e. between the story-world and directly to the player. For example,
when characters in a story directly address the player, who is located
outside of the story-world.
Diegesis as a concept originated in ancient Greek theatre [
21
,
96
]
and can manifests in a variety of dierent ways depending on the
aordances of dierent media types. While there is considerable
work on diegesis in the realms of theatre [
21
], lm [
36
,
42
,
96
], and
games [
47
,
61
,
62
,
70
], there is currently "no fully developed and
generalizable model of diegesis in digital games." [
67
]. Kleinman
et al. proposed a framework for a player-centered approach to
analyzing diegesis focusing on information presentation and player
interaction [
67
]. Within this framework, diegesis is understood as
the frame of the story-world. A frame that contains the entirety of
the story, and as such connes the story-world within the software
window that the interactive narrative and/or the game is presented
within. Crossing this diegetic frame crosses the boundary of the
story-world (the software window) into the player’s world through
their apparatus (machine used to run the game) and beyond.
For narrative in educational games, diegesis can impact the pre-
sentation of content in relation to how the player and the educa-
tional content are diegetically located within and around the game.
For example, the manner in which feedback is presented and framed
will be aected by whether a player is acknowledged as an outside
entity or as a player character [
100
]. For this study, we focus on
diegetic location and diegetic feedback [67].
Diegetic location describes where an action, character, or object
are placed in relation to the story-world, or "whether the entity
is located inside or outside the ction of the game" [
67
]. An ob-
ject, character, or action is diegetically located if an only if it is
located/takes place within the diegetic space of the story world,
whereas it is non-diegetically located if it is located/takes place out-
side the diegetic space of the story world. In educational context,
diegetic location can describe where a learning activity occurs. For
example, in Gochi-Show! How To Learn Japanese Cooking [
3
], the
characters ask the player to follow along with their recipe in the
real world. The cooking activity occurs outside of the game and
is therefore non-diegetically located. Alternatively, in After-Party
Chemistry [
4
], the players chooses the player character’s answers
to questions in class. This activity is diegetically located because
the player character answers the questions within the story-world.
Diegetic feedback is dened as "changes that occur within the
diegetic space of the story-world and is observable by the characters
within it" [
67
]. One example of diegetic feedback can be seen in
KittyClinic [
7
], where if the player diagnoses a patient incorrectly,
the patient will speak to player character in a sad or angry tone. It
does not refer to the player as an entity directly. In the same game,
the score that the player receives at the end of each in-game day
is non-diegetic, as it is feedback directed at the player about their
performance, not the player characters.
It is important to note that for educational games, the player can
get both non-diegetic feedback relating to their performance, as well
as complementary diegetic feedback relating to their player charac-
ter’s performance within the story-world. Receiving feedback both
diegetically and non-diegetically allows the player multiple points
of reference for their performance and progression through the
story. Considering diegetic framing of the delivery and presenta-
tion of educational content is therefore highly relevant. The impact
of diegetic framing on educational outcomes is, to the authors’
knowledge, unknown.
3 METHODOLOGY
The methodology employed to create the taxonomy was based on
the process of thematic analysis described in [
25
]. This analytical
method was chosen since it is a widely employed method of anal-
ysis in qualitative research that focuses on examining themes or
patterns of meaning within data (most commonly text) [
32
], and has
previously been employed successfully to analyze interactive nar-
rative games in great detail [
25
] as well as create game taxonomies,
e.g., [13,130].
The thematic analysis process is divided into six phases: 1) fa-
miliarization with data, 2) coding, 3) generating initial themes, 4)
reviewing themes, 5) dening themes, and 6) reporting. This process
was modied to better suit the format of educational VNs, following
the changes done with preexisting analyses of interactive narratives
in existing literature (e.g., player interaction in narrative games
[
26
]). These modications include using close reading techniques
[
23
] to identify patterns that inform our taxonomy and nd com-
monalities. We also used the Mechanics, Dynamics, and Aesthetics
framework [
56
] as a way to fully describe the gameplay of edu-
cational VNs in a high level manner. Specically, the researcher
performing analysis identied mechanics, dynamics, and aesthetics
while playing the educational VNs. This was done to help facili-
tate the connection of specic gameplay elements identied from
playing the educational VNs to teaching techniques. The overall
process from coding to concepts to categories is illustrated in Figure
1. The nal data set used for analysis consisted of 31 educational
VNs drawn from both academia and industry.
FDG ’20, September 15–18, 2020, Bugibba, Malta Camingue et al.
Figure 1: The thematic analysis process for the taxonomy of teaching strategies in Visual Novels with 1) familiarization with
the data and coding of narrative progression mechanics; 2) generating initial themes to identify concepts using the structure of
the story, player interaction, and how diegetic feedback is presented; and 3) reviewing themes to determine taxonomy categories
and report how educational content is delivered through teaching strategies in VNs.
3.1 Search Strategy and Observations
The VNs described in this survey were found through popular com-
mercial video game digital distribution services (itch.io, Steam, and
Google Play), as well as through an extensive search of academic
articles in Google Scholar and from proceedings of FDG, DiGRA,
ICIDS, and CHI Play —resulting in twenty-three papers on educa-
tional VN games. Notably, the search term employed on the digital
distribution services and Google Scholar was "educational visual
novel". This term was chosen because it ltered out games that
did not meet both conditions of being educational and a visual
novel. I.e., many educational games are not visual novels, and many
visual novels are not educational. This also allowed games to be
identied as educational VNs through tags provided by the game
distribution platforms or by self-identication in academic articles.
Self-identication was employed as the primary approach for select-
ing games since, as noted earlier, there is not a standard denition
for Visual Novel. This avoided bringing in researcher biases when
dening a game as Visual Novel, and ultimately made identifying
games of this genre clearer and easier.
Overall, thirty-one games were identied and collected for analy-
sis, with eighteen coming from independent studios/developers that
were readily available for play by the general public. The remaining
thirteen games came from the twenty-three academic papers and
were largely not obtainable for play, but did discuss the VNs and
their designs in detail. For analysis, all publicly available games
were played on a computer with Microsoft Windows, while the
remaining unavailable academic games were analyzed from their
descriptions in research papers.
Games were rst played by a single researcher acting as a "naive
reader" for up to an hour without analysis—this can create authentic
experience which produces valuable insights [
11
,
23
]. We employed
the single researcher approach to avoid multiple interpretations of
the game and for consistency. However, this will likely not fully
reect all possible play styles and could introduce single researcher
related biases. To reduce the potential impact of these limitations,
weekly reviews were conducted between three researchers to dis-
cuss the classications and codes generated by single the researcher
playing the games. Additionally, prior research, i.e., [
26
], has utilized
the same single researcher approach in the analysis of interactive
narrative games.
For the analysis, a single researcher played the games and paused
to take notes. These insights were recorded as short descriptions of
gameplay and learning experience. The researcher then switched to
an observational approach where the VN was treated as a series of
mechanical interactions. This included recording platform, features,
educational topic, teaching methods, and notable design elements.
This data focused on the mechanics or rules of the VN [
56
]. For
games that were not accessible, the researcher relied on videos and
A (Visual) Novel Route to Learning: A Taxonomy of Teaching Strategies in Visual Novels FDG ’20, September 15–18, 2020, Bugibba, Malta
Figure 2: The Taxonomy of Teaching Strategies in Visual Novels.
descriptions of the VN from its corresponding paper(s) to generate
insights and descriptions of mechanical interactions. This stage is
synonymous with familiarization with data, and coding [25].
3.2 Generating and Reviewing Concepts
In this phase, a researcher used the collected data and applied two
descriptive Interactive Narrative design frameworks [
26
,
67
] to
code the designs of all the games in the data set. Gameplay was re-
examined for the type, timing, and delivery of feedback. Narrative
progression and story structure were also reviewed. This phase
helped codify the designs, to create an understanding of specic
dynamics [
56
], and how the mechanics of the game interact with
the player and learning.
3.3 Dening Themes and Reporting
In this phase, ve key teaching strategies for VNs were identied,
informed by educational literature such as [
64
,
81
,
125
]. Speci-
cally, strategies were identied by examining Interactive Narrative
concepts/codes and how they worked together with concepts from
existing educational literature to support learning—akin to the pro-
cess employed in [
90
]. These strategies were then examined for
aesthetics [
56
], how the the dynamics created motivation for learn-
ing (agency) [
19
], and how the content delivery enforces player
engagement with educational material (cognitive engagement) [
16
].
The resulting taxonomy with ve key categories of teaching strate-
gies is shown in Figure 2. The categorization of each educational
VN by teaching strategy is also shown in Figure 3.
4 TAXONOMY OF TEACHING STRATEGIES IN
EDUCATIONAL VISUAL NOVELS
4.1 Teaching Through Choice
In this strategy, the focus on learning and story progression is
through the selection of explicit choices for the player’s character.
In this way, concepts are delivered through the player experiencing
the eects of their choices. This dimension draws from notions of
choice-based learning [
45
,
63
] and self-determination theory [
37
]
in learning science and serious games literature, which have shown
the substantial impact such approaches can have on autonomy,
engagement, and learning [
44
,
114
]. For this strategy, feedback was
observed to be generally diegetic, aiming to provide diegetic conse-
quences that could represent real life consequences. It is important
to note that for a game to fall under this category, the feedback
given by the characters or story has to be meaningful. Players can
encounter and receive immediate and non-meaningful response,
and as such "the existence of local agency does not guarantee the
presence of emotional agency." [72].
Examples of VNs from our data set that fall under this category
include Time Mage [
128
] (see Figure 4), a story where the player
character has the power of time travel—which allows them to go
back in time to save a family member from a heart attack. As a
result, the game allows the player character to virtually experience
the learning content (i.e., improved patient engagement) through
their choices. The consequences of choices to the story are not
always immediate since the game does not explicitly say that they
made a mistake. Instead, these mistakes lead to the eventual death
of a loved one, creating a sense of global agency [
86
]. This strategy
takes a constructive approach to learning, encouraging learners to
actively process and organize information by making new internal
cognitive connections [
120
]. It is also frequently used to make
emotional arguments in games such as Katawa Shoujo [28].
4.2 Teaching Through Mini-games
In this educational VN teaching strategy, players are taught con-
cepts through playing mini-games—which has had a long history of
use in serious games [
49
,
115
] and has been shown to be an eective
educational tool for such games [
58
,
60
]. As such, these mini-games
can employ standard educational game design concepts such as
assessment and learning mechanics [
73
,
103
]. With respect to VNs,
the progression of the story is tied to the player’s performance in an
underlying system [
26
], in this case, mini-games. As a result, these
mini-games ultimately have players either demonstrate/assess their
knowledge [
103
] or practice an activity to reinforce learning [
106
]
in order to progress through the story. They also often use a form
FDG ’20, September 15–18, 2020, Bugibba, Malta Camingue et al.
Figure 3: Categorization of educational Visual Novels by
teaching strategy.
of non-diegetic feedback [67] to clearly convey messages relevant
Figure 4: An example of Teaching Through Choice in The
Time Mage [128]. The player makes choices to save a loved
one, and with the checkpoint system, players can learn from
their mistakes.
to the player and learning content, but not the story. Ideally, mas-
tering mini-games with this teaching strategy requires mastering
the educational material. For example, Learn Japanese To Survive!
Kanji Combat [
8
] is an educational VN about learning Kanji (see
Figure 5). In it the player must ght all of the Kanji enemies during
mini-games by correctly answering what each character is in or-
der to progress through the story, allowing the player to practice
reading Kanji.
4.3 Teaching Through Scripted Sequences
Scripted sequences was the most frequently employed teaching
strategy in our data set, with the player’s progression through
the story being reliant upon scripted sequences (i.e., scenarios)
[
26
]. Unlike in teaching through mini-games, scripted sequences
require the player to perform the designer’s exact intended actions
before allowing them to progress, and typically utilize pedagogical
theory focused on demonstrating real problems from the knowledge
domain as well as guiding/applying a learner’s knowledge—i.e,
guided experiential learning [
31
]. This often takes the form of
interactive cut scenes or in-game quizzes. For educational VNs, this
attempts to ensure that players experience or interact with all the
desired educational content.
Overall, scripted sequences are generally used as a transmission
model of teaching [
75
], where the student is rst given instruction
and then is accessed through testing. This is seen in many of the
educational VNs from our data set, such as Code Romantic [
2
],
where the player character rst reads an explanation given in the
academy and then is asked to debug related code based on that
information (see Figure 6Top).
Scripted sequences can also be used as a form of structure inquiry
[
132
], where the student investigates a (in-game) teacher-presented
question through a prescribed procedure. An example of a game
that falls under this category is The Grey Plague [
5
], where the
player’s character is a university student with superhuman immu-
nity investigating a mysterious disease. In the opening sequences,
the player must nish an interactive cut-scene as the character
talks to their mother about diseases. For example, when the mother
explains to the main character how the viruses can travel to the
lung, the player’s character takes the role as a virus moving through
A (Visual) Novel Route to Learning: A Taxonomy of Teaching Strategies in Visual Novels FDG ’20, September 15–18, 2020, Bugibba, Malta
Figure 5: An example of Teaching Through Mini-games in
Learn Japanese To Survive! Kanji Combat. The player prac-
tices reading Kanji by select the corresponding English word
in a list of attacks.
the body (see Figure 6Bottom). The scenario in this case explains
concepts through dialogue.
4.4 Teaching Through Exploration
In this strategy, the player is taught concepts through exploration
of the game’s world. This type of teaching relies on self exploration,
and oftentimes employs a hidden story structure where players
have to discover story content in order to progress [
26
]. Players are
also typically given additional information, including educational
content, about what they discover through narration. As a result,
exploration, in this case, acts as both educational delivery as well
as progression through discovery.
One notable game which employs this strategy is Osiris [
9
]. In the
game, the player’s character is a student who is whisked into ancient
Egypt, where they meet characters based on mythology, like Osiris
and Isis, and can learn about Egypt’s mythology through interacting
with them (see Figure 7). The story of the game progresses through
nding and clicking on hidden items. When the player nds new
objects, their character provides narration that connects it to the
real world. In addition, nding all the objects such as nding all of
Osiris’s body parts unlocks new parts of the story.
Teaching through exploration in this context is similar to guided
inquiry learning [
71
], where the VN establishes a set of questions
and procedures that students can choose to follow [
132
] (in this
case the implemented action set [
67
]). It also leverages the learn-
ing by exploration dimension of Lim’s Six Learnings framework
[
81
] and learner control game attribute from the conceptual frame-
work for serious games by Yuso et al. [
129
] to guide gameplay to
achieve desired learning outcomes [
76
]. Notably, the games in this
categorization of teaching strategies for educational VNs showed
that exploration is almost always paired with another strategy. One
likely explanation is that exploration alone does not provide any
direct application of knowledge, a key part of inquiry [
132
]. There-
fore, these games have to rely on another strategy to have players
apply knowledge and verify learning outcomes.
Figure 6: Examples of teaching through scripted sequences.
Top) Code Romantic: the player cannot progress until they
pick all the correct syntax for the current hack slate (pro-
gram). Bottom) The Grey Plague: the player takes the role of
bacteria to show how viruses and germs can travel.
4.5 Non-interactive Teaching
In this teaching strategy, educational VNs rely solely on narration
and character dialogue to convey educational content and teach
players. Unlike other strategies, this strategy teaches passively
with learners receiving information without doing any activities to
learn new concepts or reinforce existing ones. As a result, player
knowledge is irrelevant to the story progression, and the selection
of choices does not rely on the concepts being taught. According to
the ICAP model, this teaching strategy is less eective than more
active strategies [29]. Fortunately, this was the least used strategy
among all games from the data set.
5 DISCUSSION
In building the taxonomy, ve types of teaching strategies were
identied in existing educational VNs—each with their own partic-
ular implications for design. In this section, we discuss the design
implications of these strategies in relation to their educational ef-
fectiveness. In addition, we discuss two notable features of VNs
as a genre, Romance and Choices, and how they were utilized in
educational VNs.
FDG ’20, September 15–18, 2020, Bugibba, Malta Camingue et al.
Figure 7: An example of teaching through exploration in
Osiris. The player learns more about Egyptian mythology by
interacting with characters and nding hidden items, like
Osiris’ dead body parts.
5.1 Design Implications
5.1.1 Scripted Sequences and Non-interactive Teaching in Practice.
Games employing the Scripted Sequences and Non-interactive
Teaching strategies also typically used non-interactive materials
such as videos to deliver educational content—pairing it with self-
report testing for assessment of learning. However, if the Scripted
Sequences strategy is not supporting knowledge acquisition or a
particular learning outcome then it might be perceived as trivial
or non-interactive by the player—as it eectively removes learning
as a requirement of progression. That is not to say, however, that
all Scripted Sequence or Non-interactive Teaching strategies fail to
impart the impression of agency within the play experience, and
thus fail to motivate players to perform actions or learn [
72
]. For
instance, agency can emerge in a variety of contexts such as being
motivated enough to press buttons to make a character crawl faster
through a tunnel despite the buttons not having any eect. For
educational games, this is known as immersion, described as plea-
surable surrender to an imagined space, and is linked to eective
learning environments within the ARCS model [
35
]. Therefore, for
Scripted Sequences and Non-interactive Teaching to be eective as
teaching strategies for educational VNs, they must focus heavily
on making the narrative immersive and strongly incorporating the
educational content that narrative.
5.1.2 Dynamic Diiculty Adjustment and Mini-games. Mini-games
are not only used as progression through task completion [
26
]
but can also serve as a means of dynamic diculty adjustment
(DDA) [
38
]. As an illustrative example, Heirdom [
98
] features a
role-based system where players are given quests (i.e., mini-games)
based on their choices and previous performance. Players that
perform well are given harder quests while players performing
poorly are given easier ones. This system also implements Player
oriented DDA (PDDA) where players are given additional control
over the diculty adjustment through choices [
15
]. After the player
completes each quest, choices that determine future quest diculty
are presented as part of a dialogue between the player character and
the quest giver. This frequency of PDDA at regular intervals has
been shown to be more eective than constant or one-time PDDA
[
15
]. Notably, Interactive Narratives and more specically VNs
typically give players choices at regular intervals. These periodical
events naturally map to periodic PDDA, and therefore suggest that
VNs which employ mini-games have underexplored potential to
support PDDA. Furthermore, PDDA in educational VNs address the
condence factor of the ARCS model, i.e. players are motivated to
learn when challenges are neither too dicult or easy [
35
]. This can
create a state of ow in the player which promotes better learning
outcomes [
35
]. Recent work (i.e., in a study of Time Mage [
128
])
further indicates that the condence factor of ARCS is important to
educational VNs, nding a positive correlation between ow score
and desired learning achievement.
PDDA in educational VNs can also be viewed as a form of di-
alogue between the instructor (the game) and the student (the
player), which is important for educational ecacy. Specically, the
conversational framework for education [
75
] states that for eec-
tive learning to occur, the continuous interactive dialogue between
teachers and students is essential. Students in this case indirectly
communicate their understanding through mini-games, and the
instructors (the game) provide feedback. This feedback can take
form of diegetic feedback in response to the player’s performance
or in a more direct manner in the form of non-diegetic feedback.
Notably, this conversation continues when the player makes dia-
logue choices in relation to diculty [
98
]. Overall, this can create
a useful loop for educational delivery, depending on how well the
VN interprets and presents player choice and action.
5.1.3 Choices and Checkpoints. Teaching through Choices teaches
players through the diegetic consequences of their action. This is
based on the player’s user experience loop [
67
]: 1) a player rst
considers their possibilities; 2) then carries out their action if pos-
sible; and 3) nally, the player observes the consequences of their
actions and the loop repeats. Teaching through Choices thus relies
on the player’s inference and reection on their actions, and the
resulting consequences thereof. However, consequences can have
both immediate (local) and delayed (global) consequences in terms
of the story, which might not be obvious until much later. For ex-
ample, in the Time Mage, the main character’s loved one may not
immediately die after one bad choice but instead may die after a
series of bad choices [128].
For learning, such unclear and delayed consequences might not
be desirable, and more immediate feedback from consequence or
experimentation preferred [
79
]. Notably, in the Time Mage, players
can use a checkpoint to go back to a dialogue choice and try some-
thing dierent[
128
]. This allows the player to more explicitly con-
sider their choices and mistakes, and gives them a chance to form
a hypothesis about their future choices. Such an approach utilizing
checkpoints in educational VNs encourages exploration, allowing
the player to move between checkpoints on each playthrough and
thus making the process iterative. In this way, checkpoints fulll
the three conditions of the process for learning in a Conversational
Framework For Individual Learning [
75
]. I.e., in Time Mage, the
three conditions are represented as learner conception through
practice (making choices based on previous play through), learner
conception through reection (the theories the learner forms about
self-ecacy in healthcare), and a teacher-designed task environ-
ment (the narrative which changes on player actions) [
75
]. As a
result, the creators of Time Mage found that when players were
A (Visual) Novel Route to Learning: A Taxonomy of Teaching Strategies in Visual Novels FDG ’20, September 15–18, 2020, Bugibba, Malta
engaged in the story, this strategy improved player’s performance
relative to participants that read a brochure [128].
5.1.4 Exploring Fictional Worlds. Games that teach through Ex-
ploration use Progression through Discovery [
67
] as a method of
examining the ctional world in relation to educational concepts,
as well as pedagogical approaches such as guided discovery [
74
]
and guided inquiry learning [
71
] to transfer educational knowledge.
For example, Osiris [
9
] allows players to form connections between
the diegetic world of the game and Egyptian Mythology. The ex-
ploration takes the form of exploring dialogue to gain information
about characters, and through point and click based tasks such
as search and puzzle solving. This approach encourages players
to examine the ctional world in more detail, and benets from
having ctional worlds that connects to the educational material.
This supports the Attention factor of the ARCS model [
35
], as it
employs strategies that maintain curiosity and interest. In this case,
in a ctional world that resembles Egyptian Mythology.
This strategy can also work well for games that try to teach a
process or methodology. For example, in the game KittyClinic [
7
]
the learner plays as a nurse who has to holistically diagnose cats that
live human-like lives. Just as Osiris strongly mimics its Egyptian
mythology, the cats in this game are clearly symbolic of human
patients. The player is told to practice using a holistic approach that
involves searching for patient les, nding medical articles, and
connecting it with the patient’s response. This could be considered
Teaching through Mini-games, but the game has strong mismatch
between its implemented actions set and its presented action set
[
67
]. In other words, the aordances of the game are not always
made clear to the player. Instead, it relies on players attempting
dierent actions and discovering important processes to learn [
74
].
However, while exploration can encourage players to examine the
ctional world more closely and make non-diegetic connections,
it also has the possibility of the player never discovering all the
educational content.
5.2 Notable Design Elements
Although an agreement of a denitive denition of the term "Vi-
sual Novel" has not been reached within the interactive narrative
community, there are two notable elements that are commonly
associated with the genre: romance and choices.
5.2.1 Romance. Romance is a popular subject matter for Visual
Novels. According to VNStat, a site visualizing data from a community-
maintained Visual Novel Database, over two-thousand VNs are
tagged with the element/genre
1
. Notably, the four tags that come
before romance in popularity include ADV, Male Protagonist, Pro-
tagonist with a Face, and Multiple Endings. These tags were either
too vague or non-genres. Despite the popularity and prevalence of
the subject within the VN genre, only four of the games surveyed
[1,2,4,10] use romance as part of their educational delivery.
We argue that romance is under utilized in educational VNs,
and that it has the potential to greatly improve player motivation
and immersion. Given its popularity with current VN players, it
could also be leveraged to spark interest and engagement in various
subject matters. For instance, romance can facilitate a character
1https://vnstat.net/tag/96
focused approach, using player attachment to characters to moti-
vate them to invest in the game’s goal [
95
] and giving the player
agency to choose the manner in which they engage. Not only is this
benecial for maintaining a player’s attention, motivation is also
a is prerequisite for learning [
125
]. As an example, in After-Party
Chemistry [
4
], there is a direct relationship between knowledge and
character relationships. The main character’s relationship deepens
as the teacher is attracted to the character’s determination, which is
expressed through the player’s performance on quizzes. This direct
relationship can ultimately motivate the player to learn educational
material in order to help progress the romance.
5.2.2 Choices. Choices play an integral role in VNs and can fur-
ther enhance dierent educational delivery strategies. VNs are com-
monly known for featuring progression through choice selection
[
26
], and while some VNs such as Heirdom [
98
] and Learn Japanese
To Survive! Kanji Combat [
8
] use other forms of teaching strategies
such as mini-games, narrative choices are still a key element in
these VNs. In general, choices are a direct form of control over the
story, however Kway and Mitchell also suggest three other cate-
gories of choices that provide agency: avour choices, unchoices,
and false choices [
72
]. We observed that these most of these choice
types were utilized in combination with the teaching strategies of
the VNs in our data set, albeit not as frequently.
Flavour choices are not meaningful to the system or story but
instead allow players to express themselves [
72
]. In the data set,
Flavour choices were used in combination with games using Teach-
ing Through Exploration and Non-Interactive Teaching strategies.
For example, in KittyClinic [
7
], the player is given dierent options
to respond to the owner’s use of cat puns. Although these choices
have no eect on the story, they do allow the players to dene their
character’s role in the story.
Unchoices are choices with only one option [
72
]. In the data
set, Unchoices were used in combination with Teaching Through
Scripted Sequences. Progression through Scripted Scenarios [
26
]
have players follow the designers predetermined actions exactly. In
Teaching Through Scripted Sequences players are asked to follow spe-
cic set of instructions, this can be interpreted as both Progression
through Scripted Scenario as well as an unchoice. For example, in
Code Romantic [
2
], players are asked to complete code on the hack
slates to complete a test for their character, but are only presented
with one choice. However, players may still feel responsible for
their character’s success in the game, thus creating an illusion that
their choices matters to the narrative. These types of choices can
enforce emotional agency [72] if utilized properly.
False choices are choices where all the options lead to the same
outcome [
72
]. In terms of structure, this can be considered to be
similar to a Foldback structure type [
26
]. In the data set, False
choices were not used. Kway and Mitchell argue that these types
of choices can create a certain level of agency through authorial
intent [
72
]. Inclusion of these types of choices could therefore, in
certain cases, be used to enhance educational delivery.
6 LIMITATIONS AND FUTURE WORK
The methodology used to produce the taxonomy has certain lim-
itations that inuenced the taxonomy. One such limitation was
that there was only one researcher playing the games. This can
FDG ’20, September 15–18, 2020, Bugibba, Malta Camingue et al.
potentially introduce personal biases to the observations made. For
instance, the playthroughs done by the researcher will likely not
fully reect all possible play styles. Similarly, the dierent elements
observed in the educational VNs may not have been classied in the
same way by other researchers. We worked to reduce the potential
impact of some of these limitations by having weekly reviews be-
tween all authors to discuss the classications and codes generated
by the researcher playing the games. Self-identication is also a
limiting factor, particularly for games on itch.io where creators set
their own tags. This can result in games with signicantly dierent
mechanics being categorized as the same genre. Finally, visual nov-
els as a genre does not have a clear consensus of a denition. This
limits the ability to lter games and limits the possible search crite-
ria. Future work will seek to create a more unied denition of VNs
to better identify such games and their uses for education. Finally,
due to time and size constraints, the eectiveness of each teaching
strategy is not evaluated. Instead, this taxonomy provides ground-
work for future analyses and explorations, including discussions
with expert designers.
7 CONCLUSION
VNs, as a sub-genre of interactive narratives, are widely used for
educational purposes due to their popularity and accessibility. For
educational VNs, the narrative helps frame educational content and
its delivery, while also providing a narrative engagement and moti-
vation for the player. Educational VNs have also proven eective
as a learning tool over traditional non-interactive materials, but
unfortunately remain understudied in terms of their design and
eectiveness at achieving desired learning outcomes.
In this paper we present a taxonomy of teaching strategies for
educational VNs, focusing on the dierent strategies and designs
employed by exiting educational VNs for the delivery of educational
content. Through thematic analysis of a set of 31 educational visual
novels, ve teaching strategies were identied: teaching through
Choice, Scripted Sequences, Mini-games, Exploration, and Non-
Interactive teaching. We discussed examples of how each strategy
can be dened and its main design features. These strategies allow
for closer examination and categorization of educational VN de-
signs and the relationship between educational content delivery
and story progression, which have potential broader implications
for the use of interactive narrative in education. Notably, these
strategies are not mutually exclusive and educational VNs in the
data set were sometimes found to employ more than one strategy.
We discussed implications for design as it relates to theoretical
learning eectiveness, such as the educational implications of how
Scripted Sequences and Non-Interactive Teaching were utilized
in practice. Finally we discussed how two notable and popular
elements of the VN genre, romance (as a topic and collection of
relationship mechanics) and choices, were utilized in relation to
education. Surprisingly, we found that romance, while immensely
popular by players of the genre, was not prevalent in educational
VNs.
Overall, this paper provides designers and researchers with
strategies and suggestions for identifying more potentially eective
ways to deliver educational content, as well as to evaluate how
narrative is used to complement educational content delivery. It is
our hope that classifying the dierent designs of VNs employed for
education will ultimately allow us to improve the design, presenta-
tion, and interaction with educational subject matter in interactive
narrative games.
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... In addition, serious games can be specified into an interactive narrative. A narrative interactive game is defined as a game, in which the story exists to improve the gameplay [11].The same authors claim that an interactive narrative maintains or increases student's motivation, having a substantial positive impact on the learning process. ...
... Most of the studies carried out on interactive narrative focus mainly on adaptivity, interactivity, player and knowledge modelling, narrative and generation planning, emerging narrative, player experience, and, finally, the creation process about the game [11]. However, there is a gap in terms of the number of studies evaluating the effectiveness of such games concerning the learning outcomes, especially when compared to other types of serious games. ...
... According to the classification mentioned in [11], CNME belongs to the class of serious narrative games, with its action taking place on the Magellan -Elcano circumnavigation around the world. ...
... This in turn has made VNs simple to construct and beginner friendly for novice designers, while simultaneously allowing expert designers to produce complex and engaging work. Furthermore, the overall ease of creation, distribution, and accessibility for players at a variety of skill levels with respect to VNs has also led to their frequent use in academic research-most commonly in high-impact domains such as education [4,13,26,29,31,40,49,51,68,87] and health [77,93]. This highlights the significance of VNs as an area of study in their own right, and the value that improving understanding of such designs can provide. ...
... Despite relatively simple core mechanics, VNs have incorporated a variety of themes ranging from Horror Survival (e.g., Spirit Hunter: Death Mark [46]) and Murder Mystery (e.g., Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony [82]) to Historical Fantasy (e.g., Hakuoki: Edo Blossoms [42]) and Romance (e.g., Amnesia: Memories [41]). The increasing popularity of VNs, coupled with the introduction of free and accessible VN authoring tools, has raised both interest and awareness for the use of VNs in other applications such as education [13]. However, the question of how to define VNs as a genre has remained elusive. ...
... For instance, VNs have been employed to teach topics such as second-language acquisition [25,86], chemistry [89,92], life management [49], research skills [87], and cooking [44,45]. Recent work has even constructed a taxonomy categorizing how VNs can deliver educational content [13]-describing the different teaching strategies currently employed by educational VNs. With respect to health applications, past work has focused on teaching health concepts such as nutrition [77], explored how an individual VN can improve patient perspectives and support desired health outcomes [93], and addressed complex health related topics such as disability [17,84]. ...
Article
Full-text available
Visual Novel (VN) is a widely recognizable genre of narrative-focused games that has grown in popularity over the past decade. Surprisingly, despite being so widely recognizable, there is not a singular definition to help guide the design and analysis of such games---with academic definitions and implementations ranging from "interactive textbooks" to "adventure games with multi-ending stories". In this paper, we present a unified definition of VNs drawn from an analysis of 30 prior academic definitions. We also examined 54 existing VNs to further refine our definition and employ a deeper analysis of the interactivity within VNs. We highlight key features of VNs that arise in our definition, and discuss resulting implications for the design of VNs. This work is relevant for narrative game designers and researchers, affording a more unified structure and clearer guidelines to identify, analyze, and design future VN games.
... In addition, serious games can be specified into an interactive narrative. A narrative interactive game is defined as a game, in which the story exists to improve the gameplay [11].The same authors claim that an interactive narrative maintains or increases student's motivation, having a substantial positive impact on the learning process. ...
... Most of the studies carried out on interactive narrative focus mainly on adaptivity, interactivity, player and knowledge modelling, narrative and generation planning, emerging narrative, player experience, and, finally, the creation process about the game [11]. However, there is a gap in terms of the number of studies evaluating the effectiveness of such games concerning the learning outcomes, especially when compared to other types of serious games. ...
... According to the classification mentioned in [11], CNME belongs to the class of serious narrative games, with its action taking place on the Magellan -Elcano circumnavigation around the world. ...
Conference Paper
The teaching method has varied and evolved over the years. The year 2020 is a milestone in this variability. The COVID-19 pandemic unleashed the strict need for a radical adaptation of teaching processes that, worldwide, become exclusively or almost exclusively at a distance. The impact of the digital world on our lives has been and is being felt like never before. Non-formal teaching processes gain crucial importance in this scenario. Serious games are engaging and provide a stimulating environment in which students can explore and discover in a fun and interactive way, improving student’s motivation and performance in mathematics and making them active learners. The adoption in the educational process of serious games, promoting the development of critical thinking, and its interest, as a research topic, by scientists from various areas, namely, mathematics, have gained increasing prominence. With regard to mathematics, despite its recognized importance in the intellectual human development, children and adolescents usually believe that it is a difficult subject, both at a conceptual and procedural level, leading to a lack of motivation and high failure rates. In this paper, based on a solid and recent literature review, we look at the role that serious games play in the learning and motivation of children and adolescents, especially the narrative educational games focused on mathematics. A narrative interactive game is defined as a serious game, in which the story exists to improve the gameplay. Within this context, the Thematic Line Geometrix of the Center for Research and Development of Mathematics and Applications (CIDMA) of the University of Aveiro developed a narrative serious game entitled CNME, based on the historical event “Magellan - Elcano circumnavigation around the world”. This game runs on every platform that has a recent browser and it also has an application for Android and iOS. In the CNME digital and interactive game there are two game modes, the generic and the academic, depending on the player's profile. The generic modality was designed to promote mathematical literacy and is aimed at any citizen. The academic modality was designed to promote critical and creative thinking and is aimed at young people with mathematical knowledge at the level of the 3rd Cycle of the Portuguese Basic Education. In short, CNME is an interactive mathematical narrative game, aiming at mathematical learning in an interactive, playful and motivating way, anchored in a notable and true historical event conceived under a set of scrutinized scientific evidence.
... Terdapat dua jenis pengguna sistem tersebut, yaitu Siswa dan Guru. Siswa menggunakan PJA, yang berjenis novel visual [25], untuk mempelajari Jari Aritmetika, sedangkan Guru menggunakan SIMGEJA, yang berbasis web, untuk memodifikasi konten pembelajaran Jari Aritmetika di PJA. Dengan demikian, PJA dapat digunakan untuk jangka panjang di TK Lintang. ...
... Berdasarkan taksonomi Camingue dkk. [25], PJA menerapkan strategi "pengajaran melalui gim mini" (teaching through mini-games). Untuk itu, kami mendesain alur permainan PJA agar tersusun dari dua bagian, yaitu adegan cerita dan soal. ...
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Educational games are a state-of-the-art method for education in the 21st century. However, they have not been applied for new-normal education in preschools. To contribute to the matter, we developed an educational game to help TK Lintang, a preschool institution in Surabaya, conduct "Jari Aritmetika" or "Magic Fingers" learning and teaching. We chose the visual novel as the game's genre, and the game presented Jari Aritmetika through storytelling and cartoon visuals. We developed the game in two iterations by considering "ease of use" as its non-functional requirement. Our results are two versions of the game and an information system for modifying the game's arithmetic questions. The students will play the game's mobile version at home, whereas the desktop version will be used in TK Lintang's location. We have proven the game's feasibility through a testing process involving four students and their parents. We have also extracted five principles of educational game applications in new-normal preschool education, including facilitating "family time" between students and their parents.
... Prior work has argued for interactive storytelling's power in terms of providing therapeutic benefits Starks et al. (2016), Dias et al. (2018) and enabling learning experiences through educational games Weiß and Müller, (2008), Danilicheva et al. (2009), Melcer et al. (2015, Nguyen et al. (2018), Camingue et al. (2020). Specifically, narrative/storytelling is an important element that can be incorporated into educational games in order to maintain and increase students' motivation Dickey, (2006), Rowe et al. (2011), Padilla-Zea et al. (2014, with some suggesting that integration of a good story into an educational game will determine its success or failure Göbel et al. (2009). ...
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Choice-based interactive storytelling games such as Academical, our responsible conduct of research training game, show great promise as a novel way of providing efficacious ethics training. However, much work remains to determine what factors of such games contribute to their advantages over traditional text-based training tools, especially if we hope to further improve their enjoyment, engagement and efficacy. In this article, we present a case study exploring how the motivational factors of Self-Determination Theory (SDT) underlie players’ perceived most and least enjoyable experiences arising from the design of Academical. Specifically, we discuss how certain elements of Academical’s design influence different SDT factors and subsequently player experience, as well as how such elements can be changed to further improve the game. Furthermore, our work highlights potential limitations of existing conceptualizations for the relatedness factor of SDT—discussing ways that it can be extended to properly understand player enjoyment within single-player educational interactive narrative games.
... Prior work has argued for interactive storytelling's power in terms of evoking empathy (Bratitsis 2016;Salter 2016;Samuel et al. 2017), 1 providing therapeutic benefits (Dias et al. 2018;Starks et al. 2016), and enabling learning experiences through educational games (Camingue et al. 2020;Danilicheva et al. 2009;Melcer et al. 2015;Nguyen et al. 2018;Weiß and Müller 2008). Specifically, narrative/storytelling is an important element that can be incorporated into educational games in order to maintain and increase students' motivation (Dickey 2006;Padilla-Zea et al. 2014;Rowe et al. 2011), with some suggesting that integration of a good story into an educational game will determine its success or failure (Göbel et al. 2009). ...
Chapter
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Responsible conduct of research (RCR) is an essential skill for all researchers to develop, but training scientists to behave ethically is complex because it requires addressing both cognitive (e.g., conceptual knowledge and moral reasoning skills) and socio-affective (e.g., attitudes) learning outcomes. Both classroom- and web-based forms of RCR training struggle to address these distinct types of learning outcomes simultaneously. This chapter presents a pair of experiments providing initial evidence that playing a single brief session of Academical, a choice-based interactive narrative game, has positive effects on all three key RCR learning outcomes. Our results highlight that utilizing a choice-based interactive storytelling game is a uniquely effective way to holistically address RCR learning outcomes that drive ethical research behaviors.
... A famous creation of conversationalbased games is a visual novel. The use of visual novels in learning contexts also has been developed by Camingue et al. [50] and Andrew et al. [51]. In the Camingue study, they proposed six taxonomies to be considered while designing a visual novel learning: 1) Teaching Through Choice, 2) Teaching Through Scripted Sequences, 3) Teaching Through Mini-games, 4) Teaching Through Exploration, and 5) Noninteractive Teaching. ...
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The mobile learning sector has exploded, implying that the e-Learning trend is shifting to mobile platforms. As a result, chatbots have become increasingly popular alternatives for online learning and examinations on mobile platforms. However, it did not provide enough motivation for the student. On the other hand, gamification in a typical e-Learning platform is a widely used technique for increasing students' learning motivation. Therefore, combining gamification with chatbot-based learning and examinations possibly offer benefits, including increase student learning motivation. This study explored the possibilities and future challenges of the development of gamification within chatbot-based learning media. We discussed four aspects: architecture's reliability, security and privacy issue, user’s acceptance and motivation, and gamification feature challenges.
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Concepts utilizing applied ethics, such as responsible conduct of research (RCR), can prove difficult to teach due to the complexity of problems faced by researchers and the many underlying perspectives involved in such dilemmas. To address this issue, we created Academical, a choice-based interactive storytelling game for RCR education that enables players to experience a story from multiple perspectives. In this paper, we describe the design rationale of Academical, and present results from an initial study comparing it with traditional web-based educational materials from an existing university RCR course. The results highlight that utilizing a choice-based interactive story game is more effective for RCR education, with learners developing significantly higher engagement, stronger overall moral reasoning skills, and better knowledge scores for certain RCR topics.
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Failure is a central aspect of almost every game experience, driving player perceptions of difficulty and impacting core game user experience concepts such as flow. At the heart of failure in many game genres is player death. While techniques such as dynamic difficulty adjustment have addressed tweaking game parameters to control the frequency of player death occurrence, there is a surprisingly limited amount of research examining how games handle what happens when a player actually dies. We posit that this is a rich, underexplored space with significant implications for player experience and related techniques. This chapter presents our exploration into the space of player death and rebirth through the creation of a generalized taxonomy of death in platformer games—one of the genres that features player death and respawning most heavily. In order to create this taxonomy, we collected and catalogued examples of death and respawning mechanics from 62 recent platformer games released on the digital distribution platform Steam after January 2018. Games selected varied equally across positive, mixed, and negative overall reviews in order to provide a broader range of mechanics, both good and bad. We observed gameplays of each individual game and noted the processes of death and rebirth, respectively. A grounded theory approach was then employed to develop the taxonomy of game death and respawning, resulting in five notable dimensions: (1) obstacles, (2) death conditions, (3) aesthetics, (4) changes to player progress, and (5) respawn locations. Finally, we discuss how the different dimensions and mechanics highlighted in our taxonomy have implications for key aspects of player experience, as well as how they could be used to improve the effectiveness of related techniques such as dynamic difficulty adjustment.
Conference Paper
Full-text available
Concepts utilizing applied ethics, such as responsible conduct of research (RCR), can prove difficult to teach due to the complexity of problems faced by researchers and the many underlying perspectives involved in such dilemmas. To address this issue, we created Academical, a choice-based interactive storytelling game for RCR education that enables players to experience a story from multiple perspectives. In this paper, we describe the design rationale of Academical, and present results from an initial pilot study comparing it with traditional web-based educational materials from an existing RCR course. The preliminary results highlight that utilizing a choice-based interactive story game may prove more effective for RCR education, with significantly higher engagement and comparable or better scores for tests of RCR topics.
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Failure, often represented through death, is a central aspect of almost every video game. In-game death can drive player perceptions of difficulty and greatly impact the core player experience; however, there is surprisingly limited amounts of research examining how games actually handle this occurrence. We posit that this is a rich, underexplored space with significant implications for player experience and the design of many games. This paper presents our initial exploration into the space of player death and rebirth through the creation of a generalized taxonomy developed from 62 recent platformer games. Our taxonomy consists of five key dimensions: 1) obstacles, 2) death conditions, 3) aesthetics, 4) changes to player progress, and 5) respawn locations.
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We propose a new approach to the human-centered evaluation of AI-based games, grounded in the analysis of player retellings of their play experiences. Retellings offer unique insight into dimensions of player experience that can be hard to get at through existing evaluation methods, such as the typical narrative structures that tend to emerge in the player’s mind when they play a particular game; the variety of subjectively experienced narratives that are possible and probable within a particular game; and the ways in which a game supports, or fails to support, the player’s process of narrativization. We used a grounded theory methodology to analyze retellings of play experiences in Civilization VI, Stellaris, and two distinct versions of the research game Prom Week. We also interviewed the creators of several retellings to gain insight into the subjective experience of story construction in collaboration with these games.
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Dynamic difficulty adjustment (DDA) systems can improve the player experience (PX). Allowing the player to make difficulty adjustment decisions can lead to an improved sense of control. However, we hypothesize that shifting the responsibility for making difficulty adjustment decisions from the computational system to the player may be detrimental to the overall PX. We conducted a controlled experiment, analyzing data from 84 participants, to investigate how (1) the way difficulty choices are presented (integrated into game mechanics or direct control) and (2) the frequency of presenting these choices to the player (once, periodically, or constantly) affects the PX. Our findings show that integrated choices lead to an improved PX along some PX dimensions. Presenting choices once or constantly yields poorer PX compared to presenting choices periodically. The results also demonstrate interaction effects between the two experiment factors, suggesting the need for more deliberate design decisions when designing for difficulty adjustment.
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When studying the impact of interactive narratives, especially in high impact, sensitive domains such as education and health, it is important that the narrative design as a whole is reported in sufficient detail to allow for analysis and replication. However, the design of interactive narrative applications is often insufficiently documented and reported, despite being a central component and, often, a focus of study. This is due, in part, to a lack of a common lexicon that allows designers and practitioners to describe and compare their designs. This paper examines interaction design in interactive narrative games, specifically structure and progression mechanics, from the perspective of establishing common ground between designer and player. Using the interaction model for interactive narratives to guide our analysis, we found patterns of structure and narrative progression mechanics that offer insight into commercial design practices, which can inform and guide interaction design choices for narrative games.