Game-based learning and game-design approaches have been utilized in teaching complex and diverse subjects such as programming, mathematics, and linguistics in order to enhance student involvement, enjoyment and commitment (Squire, 2003). In the design domain, unconventional and creative techniques are also employed due to the design process’ non-linear, ill-structured and iterative nature. However, when teaching the design thinking methodology, lack of association with games is being reported (Cooke, Dusenberry & Robinson, 2020). The key research question of this study addresses whether and how a game-design approach affects teaching the design thinking methodology in a more effective and playful way.
Thus, this in-progress study aims to investigate the impact of game modding as a way of game-design on students’ comprehension of the design thinking methodology. Game modding refers to modification of existing games (El Nasr & Smith, 2006) which increases the engagement of players with the game (Sihvonen, 2010) and combines the roles of player and designer (Kynigos, 2004). This paper discusses an online, student-centered, open-source platform developed in the scope of an Erasmus+ KA2 project with the aim to remediate the learning system. The platform conceptualizes the design thinking methodology onto an imaginary planet with 4 continents (phases). Its design was framed by the ideas of constructionism, according to which new knowledge is constructed by students when they collaboratively built public digital artifacts (Papert & Harel, 1991) and by game-based learning approach (Prensky, 2005). The latter is integrated into the platform through the use of “ChoiCo” games (Choices with Consequences) as a way to enable students explore and develop an understanding of the four design thinking stages; discover, define, develop, deliver (Design Council UK, 2021). “ChoiCo” is an online authoring tool developed for playing, designing and modifying choice-driven simulation games related to complex real life issues (Kynigos & Grizioti, 2020).
In order to investigate the effectiveness of this online platform on students’ comprehension of the design thinking methodology, a pilot study was conducted at a Belgian University during the 2020-21 Fall semester. The platform with the games was implemented in a 3rd year bachelor design engineering course. Quantitative and qualitative methods were utilized in order to elicit data and information regarding the experience of students and course teachers. 40 students filled out a questionnaire before and during their experience with the ChoiCo games. This quantitative data is supplemented with students’ self-reflection reports and semi-structured interviews conducted at the end of the semester with both teachers and students. The findings of this pilot study provide an insight into students’ motivations for modifying the games and their gains from this experience. The results especially show that game modding contributes to learning the design thinking methodology by making students more conscious and critical of their choices through selecting and utilising relevant tools that enable them to understand better concepts they are dealing with in their design projects.