EDUCATIONAL POTENTIAL MAPPER - A SEMANTIC-BASED TOOL FOR ANALYSING AND DESIGNING SERIOUS GAMES

This paper arises from some remarks within the field of Serious Games about the lacks of an effective and suitable framework for supporting both the design and the analysis of serious games. Such an absence recurs as the leading argument against the use of serious games as useful educational tools.

The main aim of the paper is to define a methodological framework able to support designers and educators in the designing and analysing Serious Games starting from the assignment of an actional value to the key notion of Game Mechanic (GM). While GMs are often approached as elements at the same level of the others, as components too rigid to be effectively used in a real scenario, we propose to treat GMs as the main element involved in the game design process since it can be closely linked to the learning constructs of game experiences.

In order to highlight this actional value of GMs, we propose:
(a) to conceive GMs as what a player do or can do in a gaming/learning context, and
(b) to represent this set of playable actions as verbs (natural lexical representatives of actions).

Treating GMs as verbs, as they are described in Frame Semantics, makes available the exploitation of the cognitive and linguistic knowledge about verbs for providing a strong framework that allows a specific characterization of both GMs and learning constructs linked to them.

Assuming this parallelism and starting from the FrameNet project as a data source, the paper describes a prototype of a tool able:
(a) to track, during a process of game analysis, the learning paths implemented by GMs of a serious game, and
(b) to guide developers both in the exploration and construction of general and specific game/learning domains within a context of game design.

Such a tool, generating a navigable network of real scenarios of use for GMs, allows connecting in a whole coherent knowledge, and through different relations, the learning experiences emerging from the gaming processes.