Designing interfaces for children creates different challenges compared to designing for adults. Children, as they are in their developmental stage, have different cognitive, social, and physical needs and skills than adults, also when it comes to digital artifacts. Uppsala University has together with RISE, Research Institutes of Sweden, conducted a study within child-computer interaction and educational games. The study was conducted alongside a project where RISE are partners in the development of a healthcare educational game for children, through which, child patients can learn and prepare for MRI-scanning procedures.
The aim of the study was to develop a tool that easily can be used by designers for educational games targeting children. There exists a wide range of guidelines within the fields of game design, game-based learning/educational games and child computer interaction. All of these are useful when designing for these specific areas but from the literature study, we could see a lack of guidelines that combines these areas, especially game-based learning and child-computer interaction.
- When designing educational games for children it is of interest to view guidelines from areas to ensure that the learning goals of an application are reached. Children have other skills and needs than adults which are important to acknowledge within the area of human-computer interaction and UX. It could for example concern which kind of symbols are suitable and understandable for children but also which kind of gestures (eg. zoom and pinch) are intuitive and manageable.
Educational or Pedagogical games refer to games with further goals than pure entertainment. An important aspect for these games to be effective is that they should be fun and motivating for the player which can be challenging when the app also needs to ensure that the pedagogical goals are reached.
- The framework that has been developed through this study can be used before, during and after design and development. It is important to keep in mind that the framework should not be seen as a checklist but rather as a way in which to reflect and acknowledge important aspects within game-based learning and child-computer interaction.
A literature study was conducted within the areas of games, educational games, and child-computer interaction. From the publications, 42 guidelines within educational games and child-computer interaction were elicited. The guidelines were applied and tested on the current healthcare application. Findings from this walkthrough were compared to results and findings from user testing where children got to play the game. Formulations of the guidelines were updated and resulted in a new, more easily applicable compact version of the framework, named the Educational Games for Children (EGC) framework.
This work suggests that it could be beneficial to combine guidelines and theories from different areas. The walkthrough showed that it worked well to apply the framework of design guidelines in the development of an educational game for healthcare and that it was also possible to evaluate how well the game met the recommendations. The evaluation also gave indications of how to further improve and update the framework which resulted in a more compact and usable version with 24 guidelines.
By using the framework important insight can be reached when designing and developing educational games for children. Future research within the field of educational games for children can contribute to further recommendations but also widen the field with different aspects.
This study was based on a master thesis by Emma Nilsson. The paper is published at the international conference on Advances in Computer-Human Interactions, ACHI 2020.
Nilsson, E., Sjölinder, M., Cajander, Å., Ståhl, O. & Einebrant, E. (2020) Design Guidelines for Educational Games Targeting Children, ACHI 2020: The Thirteenth International Conference on Advances in Computer-Human Interactions, Valencia, 21-25 November. (ISSN: 2308-4138)
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