Game Modding for Learning
Design Thinking on an
MELIS ÖRNEKOĞLU SELÇUK
LIEVA VAN LANGENHOVE
Design Thinking (DT) is not merely a well-known design methodology but also an
entire mindset towards solving complex societal problems in an innovative way.
Its popularity in diverse disciplines beyond design, is due to its relation with the
development of key 21st-century skills, such as creativity, critical thinking, collaboration
and communication. Teaching the DT mindset has always required methods different
from the traditional, one-way, mainly teacher-led approaches in which students
play a more passive role in the learning process. Such creative methods include
constructivist teaching practices, such as learning-by-doing and learning-by-making.
Game modding, which is deﬁned as the modiﬁcation of existing games, is also seen
as a constructivist teaching approach since in this way students learn by designing a
game. The experience is argued to increase the engagement and interaction of players
with the game, and combine the roles of player and designer. However, using game
modding to teach the DT mindset remains poorly researched. This paper discusses the
outcomes of a pilot study developed in the scope of the in-progress Erasmus+ KA2
project ‘T-CREPE’ (Textile Engineering for Co-Creation Paradigms in Education). This
study investigates the inﬂuence of game modding on students’ adoption of the DT
mindset through the use of an online learning platform that enables a game modding
experience. This platform includes games that students can play, modify, and/or design
their own in the process of developing a project. Students (n = 240) and teachers (n =
9) from three higher education institutions in Belgium and Greece participated in this
study. The quantitative and qualitative data collected has provided information on
their experiences of game modding while cultivating a DT mindset. The ﬁndings of the
study indicate that game modding enables students to practise critical questioning,
constructionism and co-creation, which are core elements of the DT mindset.
Melis Örnekoğlu Selçuk
Ghent University, BE
game modding; Design
TO CITE THIS ARTICLE:
Emmanouil, M., Grizioti M., &
Van Langenhove, L. (2022).
Game Modding for Learning
Design Thinking on an
E-Learning Platform. Designs
for Learning, 14(1), 99–111.
*Author afﬁliations can be found in the back matter of this article
100Örnekoğlu-Selçuk et al Designs for Learning DOI: 10.16993/dfl.181
Design Thinking (DT) provides a human-centred base
to examine and reframe interdisciplinary or unfamiliar
problems to ﬁnd innovative solutions. The term “wicked
problems” coined by Horst Rittel, refers to these complex
problems that stem from multiple causes, and affect a
multitude of stakeholders with various needs that do not
have a single solution (Rittel & Webber, 1973; Buchanan,
1992). For this reason, wicked problems, ﬁrst, cannot be
solved by following a conventional engineering-grounded
linear process, and second, they require the involvement
of the stakeholders, who have a connection with, and are
affected by the problem. The DT methodology approaches
these problems from a possibility-driven, iterative and
continuous perspective. In order to achieve solutions that
meet the needs of individuals, it encourages empathising
and strives at involving the users in co-creation (Liedtka
et al., 2013). Moreover, it advocates the importance of
hands-on activities linked with real-life issues rather than
hypothetical projects (Dorst, 2010; Liedtka et al., 2013).
Although these are the most well-known properties
of DT, there is not only one clear deﬁnition for this
framework. In fact, DT is often criticised because of the
lack of consensus on an appropriate deﬁnition (Kimbell,
2011; Thao, 2016). Since DT has been adapted and used
by multiple disciplines, it can carry a different meaning
in accordance with the ﬁeld which it is utilised and the
Moreover, according to recent developments in theory,
DT is not only a process but also a mindset (Dosi et al.,
2018), and its essentials are human-centeredness (Liedtka,
2011), empathy (McDonagh & Thomas, 2010), co-creation
(Liedtka et al., 2013), multidisciplinary approach (Meinel
& Leifer, 2012), critical questioning (Davis, 2010) and
learning-by-doing (Schweitzer et al., 2016). Brown (2008)
explains the key characteristics of the DT mindset as:
1) empathy (trying to look at the world from multiple
perspectives); 2) integrative thinking (transcending
analytic thinking); 3) optimism (hoping there is at least
one alternate solution for challenges); 4) experimentalism
(exploring the limitations through creative ways that lead
to innovation); and 5) collaboration (to be able to work in
interdisciplinary settings and have experience in more than
one discipline). According to some researchers (Baeck &
Gremett 2012; Luka, 2014; Guvenir & Bagli, 2019), the DT
mindset has nine characteristic features: 1) ambiguity; 2)
collaboration; 3) constructiveness; 4) curiosity; 5) empathy;
6) holism; 7) iteration; 8) non-judgmental way; and 9)
openness. Even though there is not one single deﬁnition
of the DT mindset either, cultivating it in individuals is
regarded as the key to face today’s and future’s manifold
world challenges. Hence, it is of paramount importance
to support the improvement of approaches and tools that
can ameliorate the DT learning process (Fabricatore &
Customarily, the DT methodology has been utilised
and taught both in academia and professional practice
(IDEO, 2021) in numerous disciplines besides the
design domain (Gill & Graell, 2016), including marketing
(Chen et al., 2018), business (Gaskin & Berente, 2011),
management (Ramaswamy & Ozcan, 2018), education
(Torrisi-Steele, 2020), and medicine (Badwan et al.,
2018). Previously, in order to teach the DT methodology
and mindset, unconventional and creative techniques
have been employed to address the non-linear, ill-
structured and iterative nature of the design process.
For instance, constructivist learning strategies, such
as learning-by-doing, learning-by-making (Morado et
al., 2021), and collaborative learning tools, namely the
Think-maps (Oxman, 2004), have been used in order to
teach DT effectively through the active involvement of
learners. Starting from this standpoint, the game-design
strategy - as another approach in constructivist learning -
could also be a useful tool for DT learners and educators.
However, a lack of association between the game-design
approach and teaching the DT mindset is being reported
(Cooke et al., 2020). Only a limited number of researchers
has stated that games can be utilised for teaching DT
(Tsalapatas et al., 2019). Nevertheless, these studies
have not presented a connection between game-design
and the DT mindset. For instance, the DT mindset has
not been linked before to game-design as its learning
However, students’ active involvement in the learning
process is not new. This has been discussed and the
signiﬁcance of learner-generated contexts has been
pointed out by various researchers (Luckin et al., 2007,
Aguayo et al., 2017). Students’ transition from consumers
to producers has been also linked with participatory
design, which advocates the involvement of the people
who will be affected by the outcome in the design
process (Ehn, 2008). These create a broader framework
for the use of game modding (Hong, 2013; Kafai & Burke,
2016) in DT education.
Game-based learning refers to using games to
make the learning activity more engaging, motivating
and efﬁcient (Plass et al., 2019). Kafai (2006) explains
that educators can approach the exploitation
of games for learning from two points of views:
instructionist and constructionist perspectives. In the
instructionist approach, students only play the games
as passive consumers. Differently from instructionists,
constructionists encourage their students to create and
design their own games as active participants. In line with
the constructivist learning principles, several researchers
advocate that designing their own games (game-design
approach) offers students a more enriched learning
experience when compared to merely playing games
for learning (Yiannoutsou & Avouris, 2012; Kafai & Burke,
2015; Kynigos & Yiannoutsou, 2018). Kafai and Burke
(2016) point out that the game-design approach, in
101Örnekoğlu-Selçuk et al Designs for Learning DOI: 10.16993/dfl.181
which students design their own games, encourages
students’ transition from being passive consumers
towards becoming active producers and participants.
However, one of the biggest obstacles for incorporating
game-design approach into education is that it may
require high technical knowledge of the students. In
this case, game modding can be seen as the solution
as the initial step of game-design. Game modding is a
term that comes from the gamers’ communities and
describes the process of players modifying or extending
speciﬁc parts of an existing game as a way to express
personal ideas on how these parts should have been
(El Nasr & Smith, 2006). Modifying games increases the
engagement and interaction of players with the game
(Sihvonen, 2011) and combines the roles of player and
designer (Kynigos & Grizioti, 2020). Game modding has
lately been used as an educational activity to support
constructionist learning in different school subjects
(Sotamaa, 2010; Kafai & Bruke, 2015), as well as, for
engaging students with complex real-world problems
(Grizioti & Kynigos, 2021). One of the advantages of
game modding, compared to game-design, is that it
involves students in a progressively constructing process
(El Nasr & Smith, 2006; Sotamaa, 2010; Kynigos &
Grizioti, 2020) in which they play, discuss and build on
an existing game, instead of creating all the elements of
a new game from scratch. This allows users/players who
are not experts in programming and game-design to
express their ideas, create and share new game versions,
and in a way, become part of the game development
and improvement. One design construct developed to
promote learning through game modding is the design of
the ‘half-baked’ games, which are purposefully faulty or
inadequate aiming to provoke students to question and
modify them (Kynigos & Yiannoutsou, 2018). Half-baked
games have been created and used in digital platforms
that allow users to easily modify parts of the game
with high-level computational affordances, in our case,
the ChoiCo (Choices with Consequences) environment.
In these environments, students do not have to think
about the technical details of creating a game because
it is relatively easy to make changes even for novices or
individuals from disciplines irrelevant to programming
disciplines. Hence, they can focus on and modify the
values, axioms, rules and meanings given in the game
(Grizioti & Kynigos, 2021). Moreover, half-baked games
can raise awareness and questions and start discussions
among students with their function in promoting game-
As can be inferred from the literature, game-based
learning, game-design and game modding approaches
have been utilised especially in teaching complex and
diverse subjects, such as programming, mathematics,
and linguistics in order to enhance student involvement,
enjoyment and commitment (Squire, 2003). Even
though these could be very beneﬁcial in teaching the DT
mindset as well, especially to the ‘outsiders’ to design or
novices in design education, this subject remains under-
researched. The key research question of this study
addresses whether and how game-modding approach
affects the students’ acquisition of the DT mindset.
CASE STUDY WITH THE ‘PLANET’ PLATFORM
In order to investigate the impact of game modding on
students’ understanding of the DT mindset, a case study
was conducted in three university-level courses, one
in Belgium and two in Greece. In this study, students
from different disciplines including industrial design
engineering, psychology, business economics, textile
engineering and educational sciences utilised a learning
platform in their courses. This was an online, student-
centred, open-source platform, referred to as the ‘Planet’,
developed in the scope of the Erasmus+ KA2 project
‘T-CREPE’, with the aim to remediate the learning of the
DT methodology and mindset.
The platform (cocreationplanet.eu) conceptualises
the DT methodology onto an imaginary planet with
four continents that correspond to the four stages of
this methodology: Discover, Deﬁne, Develop and Deliver,
as modelled in the well-known ‘Double Diamond’
diagramme by the British Design Council (Design Council
UK, 2021). However, this is not the only model and
the Design Thinking process has been interpreted and
adapted by various researchers and institutions (Stanford
d.school, 2021; IDEO, 2021; Liedtka & Ogilvie, 2011). In
all models, divergence (generating choices as much as
possible) and convergence (making choices amongst
multiple options) exist. Moreover, they have a problem
space and solution space. Lastly, all models highlight
the signiﬁcance of iterations. In this study, the Double
Diamond model of Design Council UK was preferred
because of its comprehensiveness and simplicity. For
instance, the Empathise stage of the Stanford’s Design
Thinking model is visualised as a ﬁrst step in its 5-step
diagramme, while in the Double Diamond it is part of the
ﬁrst, ‘Discover’ stage in the 4-step Double Diamond model
The design of this platform was framed by the principles
of constructionism according to which new knowledge is
constructed by students when they collaboratively built
public digital artefacts (Papert & Harel, 1991), and by
game-based learning, game modding and game-design
approaches (Prensky, 2005).
Each continent in the platform (Figure 1) represents
the four DT stages; Discover, Deﬁne, Develop and
Deliver (Design Council UK, 2021). The countries (Figure
2), or rather the name of those countries in these
continents (e.g., empathising, exploring) stand for the
‘concepts’ educators would like to teach their students
(e.g. empathy). Zooming in those countries, the cities
(Figure 3) are the practical ‘tools’ that students can use
to learn about these concepts. For instance, the Discover
continent includes the Empathise country, where there
102Örnekoğlu-Selçuk et al Designs for Learning DOI: 10.16993/dfl.181
Figure 1 The 4 continents of the Planet platform as the 4 stages of the DT methodology.
Figure 2 Countries that represent ‘concepts’ in the Discover continent.
103Örnekoğlu-Selçuk et al Designs for Learning DOI: 10.16993/dfl.181
are ‘tools’ that are external resources, such as TED Talks
on empathy, an interview guide, and also, internally-
made resources such as the ChoiCo game called
ChoiCo (Choices with Consequences) games are
included in the platform with the aim of enabling students,
who are working on individual group projects for their
courses, to explore and develop an understanding of the
DT methodology through game-based learning, game
modding and game-design approaches. Kynigos and
Grizioti (2020) deﬁne “ChoiCo” as an open-source, online
authoring tool that provides an opportunity to play, design
and modify choice-driven simulation games related
to complex real-life issues. In these games, the player
navigates through different map-based areas making
choices that affect the game parameters (e.g. Money,
Health, Fun etc). The aim is to keep making choices without
any of the game parameters crossing certain “red lines”.
The ChoiCo games have two modes: play mode and
design mode. In the play mode, students play the game
trying to keep the balance of the game parameters for
as long as possible while making choices. In the design
mode, students are able to modify parts of the game,
including its parameters, choices, ending conditions,
graphics and data, by using high-level tools like block-
based programming and a database. In this way, they
have the opportunity to express their ideas on the game
content and develop their own understanding and
knowledge of its values.
This study focuses on the design mode of the ChoiCo
games and its impact on students’ understanding of the
DT methodology and adoption of the DT mindset. For this
reason, the next section explains how game modding can
be possible in ChoiCo games and what can be changed
through the design mode.
GAME MODDING WITH THE CHOICO GAMES
According to its deﬁnition, the ChoiCo games are not
developed for close-ended topics. Instead, they are open
to modiﬁcation, adaptation and manipulation. Hence,
they are designed in a way that provides individuals an
opportunity to make changes in the game and even
create a totally new game. Therefore, ChoiCo games do
not only offer a ‘game play’ mode, but also a ‘design
game’ mode (Kynigos & Grizioti, 2020).
As an example, Figure 4 demonstrates the play mode
of the ChoiCo game interface of the “Approaching
Empathy” game which is located in the Develop
continent and the respective Empathise country of the
planet platform. The interface of this game consists of
parameters (e.g., allocated time, effort), initial values
(e.g., 40, 100), a background image, choices (e.g.,
“Observe users at countryside”) and ‘consequences’
values. In a ChoiCo game, each choice has certain
scores in given parameters, which may depend on
the topic of the game, and these are represented as
‘consequences’ values on the right-hand side of the
The design mode of the ChoiCo games offers
affordances for changing all these game elements
(parameters, initial values, background image, choices
and their ‘consequences’ values), as well as game-play
Figure 3 Cities as tools that include links to external and internally-made sources (e.g. ChoiCo games).
104Örnekoğlu-Selçuk et al Designs for Learning DOI: 10.16993/dfl.181
rules and end rules of the games. For instance, students
can determine what will be written on the pop-up window
that will appear when the players are below certain scores
in order to warn them and attract their attention towards
other parameters. Furthermore, they can also change the
scores in conditional statements (e.g., if immersion is lower
than –20 then the game is over). Depending on the topic
of the ChoiCo game, students are encouraged to modify
all values and other game elements via the design mode.
This study focuses on the design functions of the
ChoiCo games that give students the chance to make
changes in the games according to their course projects.
In this way, this research aims at investigating the impact
of game modding on the adoption of the DT mindset.
The following section explicates the methods used in this
In this pilot case study, the planet platform with the
ChoiCo games was implemented in a one-year long
3rd-year bachelor design engineering course in Belgium
during the 2020–21 Fall and Spring semesters, a 2nd-year
bachelor industrial design and production engineering
course in Greece, and a Master’s-level educational
sciences course in Greece during the 2020–21 Spring
semester. All these courses were project-based courses
and the students worked in groups with their classmates.
Each group of students were working on a speciﬁc project
(e.g., women’s role in modern society, minimal tap water
consumption in Belgium) and the planet platform with
its ChoiCo games were integrated into their course as a
complementary tool for supporting the learning of the
DT methodology and acquisition of the DT mindset. Since
all these courses were project-based courses in which
students deal with societal real-life problems, ChoiCo
games were easily adaptable to these contexts such as tap
water consumption. Moreover, these games were found
suitable in these courses because via its game modding
feature, ChoiCo provides a chance to simulate complex
real-life issues, namely “wicked problems”. Also, through
this pilot study, the effectiveness of game modding on
students’ acquisition of the DT mindset throughout the
courses was investigated using the “Design Thinking
Mindset Questionnaire” (Dosi et al., 2018).
Both quantitative and qualitative methods were
utilised in order to elicit data and information regarding
the experiences of students and course teachers with
the planet platform, ChoiCo games and game modding.
Students (n = 240) ﬁlled out a questionnaire before and
during their experience with the ChoiCo games. This
quantitative data was supplemented with students’
(n = 113) self-reﬂection reports and semi-structured
interviews conducted at the end of the semester with
both teachers and students.
Figure 4 Introduction of the ChoiCo game elements (http://etl.ppp.uoa.gr/choico/).
105Örnekoğlu-Selçuk et al Designs for Learning DOI: 10.16993/dfl.181
A template for self-reﬂection reports was prepared
by the researchers and distributed to the students
at the beginning of the semester. The students ﬁlled
in the reports as a “journal” just after they played/
designed a game or used a tool in the planet platform.
Semi-structured interviews were conducted on a
voluntary basis with students and teachers at the end
of the semester after their interaction with the tools
and games. Students from 6 different project groups
(out of the total 40 groups) who modiﬁed the games (n
= 8) were interviewed (on a voluntary basis) regarding
their game modding experiences. The interviews were
conducted online through Zoom. The questions asked
during the interviews were about students’ opinions
on game modding, their gains from it in relation to
learning about the DT methodology and mindset, and
the acquisition of certain skills during game modding
from their perspectives. Moreover, students were asked
to show and explain the outcome of their game modding
experiences (their game design) by sharing their screens
during the online interviews.
The aim of this research project and the expectations
from students and teachers as participants were
explained at the beginning of the semester both verbally
and in text, and their questions were answered. At the
start of the online questionnaires, the participants read
a text about informed consent. The ones who would
like to take part in this study agreed and continued with
the rest of the questions. In order to protect students’
rights, no real names were disclosed and pseudonyms
were used on the transcripts of the interviews and in the
The data collected through these qualitative and
quantitative methods were analysed on NVivo 12, a
qualitative data analysis software. Students’ comments
on the reﬂection reports open-ended questions of the
questionnaires, and interviews were coded through
thematic analysis. Table 1 demonstrates an example
of how students’ comments are linked with the
themes. The codes were generated following both an
inductive and deductive approach (Saldaña, 2013). The
codes about game modding (changing only the game
elements, adding new elements and creating a new
game) deﬁned by the researchers (deductive approach).
The other codes, namely improving critical thinking skills,
were created simultaneously while reading the students’
comments (inductive approach).
The ﬁndings of this pilot study provided an insight into
students’ motivations for modifying the games and
their gains from this experience with regard to the DT
methodology and mindset. According to the results of
the questionnaires, interviews and self-reﬂection reports,
students’ motivations to modify the ChoiCo games in
the planet platform stem from various reasons. This
section covers the game modding experiences at various
levels (e.g. changing only the game values, adding new
elements, creating a new game) of the students that
originate from different motivations, and the gains of
the students from game modding in relation to the DT
methodology and mindset.
STUDENTS’ GAME-MODDING LEVEL
Since the students shared their screens during the
online interview and demonstrated the changes made
by them, it was possible to see how, why and what
sort of modiﬁcations are made by the students. The
modiﬁcations of the students can be grouped under
three main sub-categories from micro (small changes) to
macro (fundamental changes) level changes: changing
only the game values (Level 1); adding new elements
(Level 2); and creating a new game (Level 3).
Level 1: Changing only the game values
Several students stated that they did not change the
parameters but they manipulated the game values given
in these parameters. For instance, in the “Impact of
Empathy” game, which is located in the Discover stage
on the planet platform, the aim is to empathise with
diverse user types as much as possible and try to look at
the issue from the perspectives of these users. The user
CODES STUDENTS’ COMMENTS
“Speciﬁcally it improved my critical thinking skills because you start to question the methods that you employed in the
project. So you start thinking ‘Oh wait, maybe we could do it otherwise!”
Creating a new
“My team and I worked together to make a ChoiCo game, the main idea was to make the player make decisions about
the parts that he would want on his own e-scooter to possess. He has seven categories from which he can choose
from different types of components for his e-scooter. Every component has three values on it, price, weight and
durability. Once the player completes all seven categories he is going to be presented with a message. If the choices
he made were correct (meaning the e-scooter was not too expensive, heavy or unstable) the message will say: “You
did it!”, but if the choices weren’t so wise the message will say: “You failed!”. Regarding the game making experience,
I personally found our game quite enjoyable and fun, it took us some trial and error to ﬁgure some stuff out, but in
the end everything blended together perfectly. It was a really amazing experience, all the members of the team were
friendly and hardworking.’
Table 1 An example from the coding process with NVivo 12.
106Örnekoğlu-Selçuk et al Designs for Learning DOI: 10.16993/dfl.181
types are given as parameters in this game: ‘youngsters’,
‘elderly people’, ‘non-natives’ and ‘people who have low
income’. The choices that students can make in this
game range from high-immersion research methods,
such as “interview at users’ home” to low-immersion
ones, namely “do an online survey”.
In this example, one of the students explained that
they did not change the parameters but they modiﬁed
(Figure 5) the game values, which are the scores of the
choices. What motivated this student to modify these
numbers derives from the idea that they believe that
the given game values were not correct from their point
of view. Another student expressed that they made
changes in the game values since they found the game
too easy and wanted to make it more challenging. This
can be seen as a micro change and the ﬁrst level of game
modding, since only changing the game values does not
require a lot of effort and a complex thought process
of the students. However, it still shows that students
critically approached these games.
“I think the working class is part of the elderly
and this group is a major part of commuters,
so I changed their score from –10 to 10 for an
interview at the station.” - Student 1, reﬂection
Level 2: Adding new elements
In this pilot study, the second level experienced by
some students in game modding included adding new
elements to the ChoiCo games. It was found that some
students not only changed the initial or ‘consequences’
values but also went a step further and generated new
parameters, game play rules, end rules and choices for
“I decided to add a new point called ‘interview at
tourist destination’. Here the score for youngsters
remains neutral, the elderly and non-natives get
respectively a score of 10 and 15. Low-income
people get a score of 2.” - Student 2, reﬂection
This modiﬁcation necessitates students to go through a
meaning-making process at a higher level rather than
only changing the game values. One of the aspects that
motivated students to add new elements in the ChoiCo
games is explained as exploring the games. The students
mentioned that they tinker with the games in order to
see the impact of these changes on the game.
Another source of motivation for the students in
generating new elements was improving the quality of
the game. For instance, some students modiﬁed the end
rules of the ChoiCo games in order to prevent the game
from ending too quickly or have more realistic results
from the game.
Level 3: Creating a new game
As the last and macro-level of game modding, some
students designed their own games. Since game
modding does not require high-level programming
knowledge, students were able to create new games in a
more convenient way.
The students, who created a new game, noted that
the reason for them to engage in this activity was making
the game more aligned with their course projects. This
means that the students used the opportunity to create
a new ChoiCo game in relation to their course project
topics. In some cases, if the existing game is relevant
to the course project of students, it motivated them to
further develop and modify it.
“I saw alignment with my project, I saw potential
in modifying it and I could get the value out of
it. Seeing initial alignment with your project is
really useful to actually make sure that you start
modifying it. Because otherwise, I think that the
possibilities are slim to none that you are going to
modify it if you don’t see alignment.” - Student 3,
Figure 5 Impact of Empathy game design mode allows students to change the game values on the right hand side.
107Örnekoğlu-Selçuk et al Designs for Learning DOI: 10.16993/dfl.181
For instance, a group of students designed a new game
aligned with their project topic. Their course project was
about the roles of modern women in today’s society.
They created game instructions that appear as the ﬁrst
message on the screen when someone enters the game.
Their parameters were: ‘wellness’, ‘family’, ‘career’,
‘socialising’, and their choices were: ‘entertainment’,
‘workout’, ‘cooking’, ‘maintenance’, ‘parent’, ‘child’
and ‘partner’ etc. Figure 6 demonstrates that students
changed the background image, game values, choices
and their consequences and created a totally new game.
In addition, they added a pop-out message that will
be seen if the wellness level drops to –15 after making
certain choices. The students explained that they created
this game as a group during the course and the game
modding function allowed them to discuss the values
and meanings of the game topic among themselves.
STUDENTS’ GAINS FROM GAME-MODDING IN
RELATION TO THE DT MINDSET
The ﬁndings demonstrated that students were able to
gain several skills during their game modding activity
in this case study. This section presents the gains that
can be associated with the DT mindset, namely, critical
questioning, constructionism and co-creation.
It was found that during this study the students
practised critical thinking and questioning in many ways
with the ChoiCo games. Firstly, they became sceptical
and they learned to question the existing game elements
with the intent of improving or/and adjusting them, by
exploring the game or expressing their own perceptions.
Secondly, they were critical of their own choices through
looking for relevant tools for their projects. Lastly, while
working with their group members, they questioned
their suggestions and this created a thought sharing
atmosphere with the rest of the group members.
“Speciﬁcally it improved my critical thinking skills
because you start to question the methods that
you employed in the project. So you start thinking
‘Oh wait, maybe we could do it otherwise!’” -
Student 4, interview
Moreover, the students were able to construct their own
knowledge through game modding in the ChoiCo games.
The hands-on nature of the game modding activity
assigned them to the role of active participants instead of
passive listeners in the class. In that sense, they learned
about the DT methodology and mindset by doing and
actively taking part in the design process.
“I think it is much more useful for example
to modify two games than to play six games.
Because you get a lot more out of just modifying
two for example. Because actually when you
modify you are going to think about it, you put
time into modifying and it’s not just a game that
was pre-designed for you but it is your own game
that you make yourself.” - Student 5, interview
The ﬁndings also showed that the game modding
activity facilitated the co-creation process among
group members during the course. Since they worked
in groups, they did not design or modify the game on
their own. Instead, they collaborated during the process
and they had to compromise on certain features of the
game. Moreover, the platform encouraged the active
participation of the users and other stakeholders in
Figure 6 An example of how students created a new ChoiCo game (background, game values, choices).
108Örnekoğlu-Selçuk et al Designs for Learning DOI: 10.16993/dfl.181
the DT process with the tools in it, such as conducting
interviews and observations with real users or external
partners from the industry. These enabled them to
practise and improve their co-creation skills, which is vital
in developing the DT mindset.
“It’s really fascinating to see the different
approaches that I took compared to her. We
really had to ﬁnd a certain way to merge those
two ideas together because they were both
important.” - Student 6, interview
According to the results of this study, students’ motivations
(Figure 7) for game modding depended on the level of
the changes (micro or macro changes) they made. In
the ﬁrst level, only changing the game values, students’
motivation came from their need to express their own
perceptions of the values. In the second level, students
added new elements into the game because they wanted
to explore the game or improve its quality. Lastly, in the
third level, students were inspired to create their own
games, which is about a completely different topic, with
the aim of adapting the game to their own projects. It
was found that as the process of modding progresses
from micro to macro level, game-design activity becomes
more engaging for the students. Moreover, they could get
the most out of the ChoiCo games when they designed
their own games, which are tailored in order to make
them more aligned with their project topics.
The ChoiCo games can be seen as a tool to promote
the improvement of the DT mindset of the students. The
rationale behind this interrelation is that these games
consist of many parameters and choices, which requires
contemplation on each of them for ﬁnding the balance
for staying longer in the game. This is a problem-solving
process, which does not have a single clear answer. The
problems, which arise from multiple causes and have
an impact on a multitude of stakeholders, are deﬁned
as “wicked problems”. This resemblance denotes the
relation between the ChoiCo games, which includes
wicked problems, and the DT methodology, which was
developed for solving those problems.
The play mode of the ChoiCo games contributed to
the development of the DT mindset of the students. In
addition to that, this study claims that the design mode
of the ChoiCo games (game modding) provides more
chances to learn about the DT mindset rather than
merely playing the ChoiCo games. Below are students’
three main gains from a game modding experience in
terms of the development of the DT mindset.
First, the game modding option provokes students to
question the existing game setting, values and elements.
In this sense, students practise critical questioning, which
is one of the key criteria for developing the DT mindset
(Dosi et al., 2018). For example, especially for designers,
it is essential to question the existing properties of
products, services or environments in order to come up
with a design idea that meets the needs of users in an
innovative way, which has not been possible before (Dym
et al., 2005).
Second, game modding allows students to construct
their own understanding and knowledge, which is in
line with the constructionist learning principles. While
modifying the game elements, students engaged in
“meaning-making” activities and learning-by-doing. This
is essential in teaching the DT methodology and mindset
as a hands-on approach (Hassi & Laakso, 2011; Morado
et al., 2021). Koria et al. (2011) stress that during the DT
process, which is an abductive way of thinking (Martin,
2009), individuals can create new knowledge only
through exploring, experimenting and learning-by-doing.
Figure 7 Motivations of the students for modifying the ChoiCo games.
109Örnekoğlu-Selçuk et al Designs for Learning DOI: 10.16993/dfl.181
Last, the game modding activity provides a basis for
co-creation and collaboration. To be able to effectively
work in a collaborative environment is crucial in reaching
innovative solutions with DT and this is considered as
the key driver in developing the DT mindset (Koria et al.,
2011; Meinel & Leifer, 2012; Liedtka et al., 2013).
This in-progress study aimed to scrutinise whether and
how game modding, as a way of game-design and
constructivist learning strategy, affect students’ adoption
of the DT mindset.
Although not all principles of the DT mindset are
covered in this study, game modding is still a promising
medium in terms of contributing to the development
of the core elements of this mindset. This does not
mean that game modding has no impact on other
characteristics of the DT mindset. The effect of game-
modding on other DT principles can be investigated
through further studies. Since DT is argued to be of
importance in creating a more innovative future, it is vital
to encourage students in learning about its essentials.
For this reason, the use of an engaging, motivating, and
effective tool, which is game modding with ChoiCo, has
a signiﬁcant role to play, and this is why it is offered
as an additional tool to existing DT teaching methods.
ChoiCo’s high-level computational affordances, i.e. the
database, the block-based programming and the map
designer, seemed to motivate students to experiment
with different game parameters and values, leading
them to an in-depth investigation of the game topic.
Moreover, adapting the games to their DT project’s topic,
like the example given in section 3.1.2., helped students
to come up with solutions for their project which they
probably would not have thought otherwise. Finally, the
creation of a new game with the modding tools, like the
example in section 3.1.3, enhanced their understanding
of the socio-scientiﬁc issues they had to deal with and
increased their sense of ownership of the game.
In conclusion, this study shows that game modding
can contribute to teaching and learning about the DT
methodology and developing this mindset in two main
ways. First way is making students more conscious and
critical of their choices through selecting and utilising
relevant tools that enable them to better understand
concepts they are dealing with in their design projects.
The second way is allowing them to construct their own
knowledge whilst co-creating with the game developers
indirectly and their group members directly.
This pilot study is seen as a basis for redesigning the
games and activities in order to perform a larger case
study with more students. In the follow-up study, it is
also aimed to investigate the relationship between game
modding and other DT mindset principles that has not
been found in this pilot study.
The ﬁndings of this study cannot be generalised
because of the limited number of participants and the
fact that it was a pilot study of a work-in-progress project
in which many of its components were regularly revised
and improved based on students’ comments. However,
they still show the potential of using game modding,
game-design and game-based learning approaches for
teaching and learning about the DT methodology and
mindset. In this regard, this study may serve as a point of
departure for further studies.
The authors would like to extend their appreciation
to the participants of this study, and to the European
Commission for the support and funding to the Erasmus+
KA2 project ‘T-CREPE’ (Textile Engineering for Co-Creation
Paradigms in Education). Project No: 612641.
The authors have no competing interests to declare.
Melis Örnekoğlu Selçuk orcid.org/0000-0003-4760-2677
Ghent University, BE
Marina Emmanouil orcid.org/0000-0003-4371-8656
Ghent University, BE
Marianthi Grizioti orcid.org/0000-0001-9670-0359
National Kapodistrian University of Athens, GR
Lieva Van Langenhove orcid.org/0000-0001-9802-7399
Ghent University, BE
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Örnekoğlu-Selçuk, M., Emmanouil, M., Grizioti M., & Van Langenhove, L. (2022). Game Modding for Learning Design Thinking on an
E-Learning Platform. Designs for Learning, 14(1), 99–111. DOI: https://doi.org/10.16993/dﬂ.181
Submitted: 14 August 2021 Accepted: 15 June 2022 Published: 07 July 2022
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