Sonny E. Kirkley
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CEO, Information in Place, Inc.
Adjunct Assistant Professor
School of Informatics
Indiana University


Authoring for Serious Games: Facilitating the Integration of Instructional Systems Design (ISD) and Game Design
Thursday & Friday

A significant trend is underway to apply entertainment game technologies to learning-the Serious Games movement. However, the design and development of effective training using these technologies is challenging. There is often deep conflict between ensuring that desired instructional goals are met while at the same time staying true to key benefits of games for training-engagement, fun, and complexity within the game. Out of this, a serious question emerges, "Can we stop instructional designers from sucking all the fun out of serious games?" The unpredictability of games impedes control of training variables (van den Bosch & Riemersma, 2004), and poorly designed games may result in negative training effects. Yet, trainers realize that many current training systems (e.g., simulations) and instructional methods are ineffective, lack real world complexity and may be boring. There is a need to bridge the instructional gap between proven simulation-based training systems and gaming entertainment technologies (Koster, 2004). Regardless, many training managers are fearful of treating fun as a critical component of learning or sacrificing predictability for open ended game design. Control of task content is a fundamental requirement of measuring training effectiveness (Fowlkes et al., 1998). One way to address this myriad of issues is the use of authoring tools designed to support developing serious games.

Our team has been investigating how to develop an instructional design authoring tool that supports the entire process from identifying training requirements through the delivery of standard and embedded training (Kirkley et al., 2005). The prototype has been designed to ensure it supports official military Instructional Systems Development (ISD) processes for effective design while promoting game development best practices. The system architecture has been designed to enable any game engine to be used as the development and delivery platform, with our focus on the analysis and design phase. The output of this is a training outline of a mission or problem, learning objectives linked to game tasks and activities, design of assessments, interface specifications, and storyboards. These are used by the development team to implement the design in the game engine of their choice.

The output of the design and development phase is a training game and an interactive Training Support Package (iTSP)-basically a lesson plan. The iTSP enables local trainers to modify the game scenarios for their unique needs and understand the effects those changes will have on meeting the iTSPs training objectives and assessment. For instance, they are informed that if they remove one selected game event, one of the training objectives will no longer be met or an assessment component will be invalid. This Interactive Exhibit will present the research that led into the design of the tool, review by instructional designers and training experts, and discussion of how systems like this can ensure better development and delivery of serious games. While the focus of this work has been on applying the authoring tool to military training, the framework can be generalized to any kind of setting. This Exhibit will detail our research and lessons learned.


Bosch, K. van den, & Riemersma, J. B. J. (2004). Reflections on scenario-based training in tactical command. In S. G. Schiflett, L.
R. Elliott, E. Salas, & M. D. Coovert (Eds.), Scaled Worlds: Development, Validation and Applications. Aldershot: Ashgate.
Fowlkes, J.E., Dwyer, D.J., Oser, R.L., & Salas, E. (1998). Event-based approach to training. The International Journal of Aviation Psychology, 8(3), 209-221.
Koster, R. (2004). Theory of fun for game design. Paraglyph Press.
Kirkley, J., Kirkley, S., Myers, T., Borland, C., Swan, M., Sherwood, D., & Singer, M. (2005). Embedded training for Objective Force Warrior: Using problem-based embedded training (PBET) to support mixed and virtual reality simulations. U. S. Army Research Institute for the Behavioral and Social Sciences Technical Report.

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