INF541: Critical Reflection

Before studying INF541, my use and understanding of games and game-based learning was limited and I had little inclination to use it in my teaching. The unit has helped me to develop a reflective and nuanced view of game-based learning that has allowed me to understand how it can be implemented to aid learning.

The initial step was understanding the principles that contribute to a good game. Depending on the framework, the principles of digital-games vary but generally consist of escapism, fun, individual or social interaction, sound, secrets, guessing, anticipation, winning, losing, rules and objectives (Perrotta, Featherstone, Ashton, & Houghton, 2013; Turkay, Hoffman, Kinzer, Chantes, & Vicari, 2014; Wood, Griffiths, Chappell, & Davies, 2004). After finding a framework that resonates, I found it useful to research how different games make use of these principles, before finally moving on to designing games with an understanding of why you are using certain design features.

In reflecting on what games can bring to education, Bronwyn Stuckey’s presentation helped to develop my understanding. Stuckey argued that games shouldn’t be used to teach but as an “invitation to tinker” and to reflect on a concept. Digital-games giving learners the freedom to play and explore was a concept that was reiterated throughout the course. That freedom to explore, gave students agency and the freedom to fail and try again gave them confidence to try new things.

The course has helped me to appreciate that digital-games can (and often should) be based on a wider array of learning theories than just behaviourism. Amy’s forum post of Errant Signal’s critique of gamification was a helpful starting point in understanding that game principles cannot just be thrown against any problem to provide improved learning. The temptation of relying on behaviouristic approaches to motivate users can be counterproductive to learning as the users only focus on winning the game (Furdu, Tomozei, & Kose, 2017). However, as Carleen and Mitchell commented in the forum, this is a negative perspective of gamification and when the principles are utilised correctly, they can benefit learning through motivation (Dicheva, Dichev, Agre, & Angelova, 2015). This use of arbitrary rewards to persuade players to do something that is not in players’ best interest was raised a number of times in my research for INF541, in this Extra Credits video, the narrator summarises that by understanding the tricks used by game developers you should be better able to spot them and avoid falling in to the traps, thereby improving your gaming experience. For me, this warning was an important lesson that players will know (either implicitly or explicitly) when something is not fun and that gaming principles are being used to exploit them.

INF5410 introduced me to the concept of remediation, the depiction of one medium in another. Once I was aware of remediation, I was aware of it everywhere. The game I chose for my game-review, Simulacra, heavily relied on remediating the plot devices from horror films through a faux-mobile phone experience. I was excited by the prospect of remediation of Amy’s and Mitchell’s game projects. I utilised remediation in my final game project remediating television news, digital currency and social media apps.

Remediation cartoonSource:

One aspect of game-based learning that I would like to study further is the accessibility and inclusiveness of games. Attempting to play Ingress highlighted to me the difficulties of playing certain games (even for a fit, middle-class, white male). Although every student will experience games differently, they all should be able to play the game and explore the concept the teacher is trying to convey (Dodge et al., 2008). Part of my future studies will be exploring how games can be made accessible to students.

Prior to INF541, I considered game-based learning to be interesting but not something that I would ever use. The course has shown me how beneficial digital game-based learning can be. I have learned how game-design principles and desired learning outcomes can be combined using the wide-range of game creation tools to create exciting learning opportunities.



Dicheva, D., Dichev, C., Agre, G., & Angelova, G. (2015). Gamification in education: a systematic mapping study. Journal of Educational Technology & Society, 18(3), 75.

Dodge, T., Barab, S., Stuckey, B., Warren, S., Heiselt, C., & Stein, R. (2008). Children’s sense of self: Learning and meaning in the digital age. Journal of Interactive Learning Research, 19(2), 225.

Furdu, I., Tomozei, C., & Kose, U. (2017). Pros and cons gamification and gaming in classroom. ArXiv Preprint ArXiv:1708.09337.

Perrotta, C., Featherstone, G., Ashton, H., & Houghton, E. (2013). Game-based Learning: Latest Evidence and Future Directions (NFER Research Programme: Innovation in Education). Slough: NFER. Retrieved from

Turkay, S., Hoffman, D., Kinzer, C. K., Chantes, P., & Vicari, C. (2014). Toward Understanding the Potential of Games for Learning: Learning Theory, Game Design Characteristics, and Situating Video Games in Classrooms. Computers in the Schools, 31(1–2), 2–22.

Wood, R. T. A., Griffiths, M. D., Chappell, D., & Davies, M. N. O. (2004). The Structural Characteristics of Video Games: A Psycho-Structural Analysis. CyberPsychology & Behavior, 7(1), 1–10.

INF541: Social Media Tycoon Walkthrough and Game Link

You can play Social Media Tycoon here (you will be prompted for the name you would like to called by the game and the name of your app, you can keep these as the default if you prefer).

You can watch my walk-through of the game here or below:



INF541: Context and Rationale for Game Based Learning Project

Social Media Tycoon is a game-based learning project with the goal of improving awareness of the perils of social media among public servants.


We live in a world with ubiquitous social media, where there is a platform for almost every niche. Interested in books? Then goodreads is the social media for you. Interested in sharing photos? Then Instagram has you covered. The common theme among these social media platforms is that they are free. However, the companies behind these apps are amongst the biggest in the world, how can that happen? Most users have some understanding of the concept of ‘if it is free then your data is the product’, the business model that most social media networks employ but most users do not understand what that means for the privacy of their data (Fiesler & Hallinan, 2018). To address the gap in knowledge, Social Media Tycoon will allow the player takes the reins of a social media company.

The game aims to be beneficial to the Public Service by reducing potential political embarrassment caused by inadvertent releases of information. For the player, the aim is to reduce the risk of them oversharing information on social media, thereby reducing the risk of personal embarrassment and potential harm.


Self-reflection by users is more likely to occur if they have a chance to look ‘behind the curtain’ of a social media company (Gee, 2003; Shklovski, Mainwaring, Skúladóttir, & Borgthorsson, 2014). Normally, users only use social media from their own perspective and may not question what they are sharing and where that data may end up (Fiesler, Lampe, & Bruckman, 2016). The game aims to change this lack of reflection by giving users an understanding of how social media companies make money and how they treat your data depending on the company’s location.

Game Design Principles

The game-design principles are based on the framework of Perrotta et. al (2013). This framework provides clear definitions and detailed research.

The game rules mean the player must make decisions that will positively or negatively impact one of four scales: account balance, privacy, app desirability and users. To win, the player must get their account balance to a certain level. The simplicity of the rules will help users to understand the game quickly and is suited to the relatively short time-frame users will have to play the game during in-work training.

The game’s win-state is clear but challenging. In order to achieve the goal, players will have to make choices that sacrifice the ‘privacy’ of their pretend user-base, something that they may be against their real-world moral compass triggering greater metacognition (Gee, 2003).

The game’s authenticity comes from its setting of a social media company and the use of an adventure style interface. Although some of the decisions the players can choose may be a little absurd or direct the concepts and outcomes of the decisions are based on real-world examples of social media companies.

Despite the games reliance on real world examples the drive to make as much money as possible allows the player to abandon the need to consider others in the pursuit of financial gain. This fictional approach is aimed at getting the player in to the mindset of those that value financial profit above all (Bogost, 2011).

The game aims to make balancing the various scoreboard items challenging but possible. Many of the decisions that increase income, reduce privacy. When privacy gets too low, the player is punished by a reduction in income. The complex requirement to balance income, privacy, coolness and user numbers means that users cannot just use a ‘first order optimal strategy’ to win. To make the game enticing the user will not be punished immediately and will often make a number of decisions before experiencing any punishment. This is to ensure the player can develop an understanding of the game and a desire to keep playing.

The game does not have an inbuilt social element due to the time constraints and limits of the chosen platform. However, players would be playing the game in the same room giving them the opportunity to discuss and bond over shared experience.

The game aims to introduce enjoyment and fun through comical choices that make the player laugh. The goal is to balance realistic decisions and the absurd to ensure that the user is made to feel safe (Bogost, 2011). In some user choices, the outcome is based on chance. This provides a degree of uncertainty and unpredictability to the game as even if you make the same decision you may end up with a different outcome.

Intrinsic motivation is provided by regular score updates. Notifications provide players with immediate and constructive feedback, helping them to understand the consequences of their decisions and refine their strategy (Klimmt & Hartmann, 2006).

Players can customise their experience by adding their name and the name of the app. The narrative of the game is non-linear, allowing players to choose their own path through the game, giving them agency in the game-play (Perrotta, Featherstone, Ashton, & Houghton, 2013). The win-state is based on income level but that can be achieved in one of many combinations of choices allowing the This game to becan be replayed with different outcomes.


Bogost, I. (2011). How to do things with videogames. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Fiesler, C., & Hallinan, B. (2018). We Are the Product: Public Reactions to Online Data Sharing and Privacy Controversies in the Media. In Proceedings of the 2018 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (p. 53). ACM.

Fiesler, C., Lampe, C., & Bruckman, A. S. (2016). Reality and perception of copyright terms of service for online content creation. In Proceedings of the 19th ACM Conference on Computer-Supported Cooperative Work & Social Computing (pp. 1450–1461). ACM.

Gee, J. P. (2003). What video games have to teach us about learning and literacy. Computers in Entertainment (CIE), 1(1), 20–20.

Klimmt, C., & Hartmann, T. (2006). Effectance, self-efficacy, and the motivation to play video games. In P. Vorderer & J. Bryant (Eds.), Playing video games: Motives, responses, and consequences (pp. 133–145). New York; London: Routledge.

Perrotta, C., Featherstone, G., Ashton, H., & Houghton, E. (2013). Game-based Learning: Latest Evidence and Future Directions (NFER Research Programme: Innovation in Education). Slough: NFER. Retrieved from

Shklovski, I., Mainwaring, S. D., Skúladóttir, H. H., & Borgthorsson, H. (2014). Leakiness and creepiness in app space: Perceptions of privacy and mobile app use. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (pp. 2347–2356). ACM.


The SAMR Model

I have been learning about the Substitution Augmentation Modification Redefinition (SAMR) Model. The model offers a method of seeing how computer technology might impact teaching and learning. The model was developed by Ruben Puentedura.

As with all of these topics, I found it hard to comprehend at first but then found this great explanation on YouTube that not only explains the model but is an example of Redefinition within the model:

Here is an example of how the model works:

  • Substitution: Using technology to replicate non technological tools e.g. instead of writing an essay on paper, you write it in Microsoft Word.
  • Augmentation: Using technology to add to the substitution phase. e.g. sharing the document in the cloud to allow for multiple users to collaborate and provide feedback in real-time. This level starts to move along the teacher / student centric continuum. The impact of immediate feedback is that students may begin to become more engaged in learning.“
  • Modification: Changing the traditional audience/feedback mechanisms e.g. blogging your essay and giving people from anywhere a chance to read it and comment.
  • Redefinition: Bringing other media in to the essay e.g.using  video and infographics to tell a digital story not just an essay

INF541: Game Proposal – Social Media Tycoon

Social Media Tycoon Logo
Logo created using Canva

Game Title

Social Media Tycoon

Target Audience

Public Servants


You are starting a new social media platform. Your goal will be to get your balance above 1 million bitcoin over a set number of turns. Each decision you make will impact one of four scales:

  • Bitcoin balance (positively and negatively impacted by privacy decisions that impact advertising revenue, number of users
  • User privacy (driven by the policies you adopt, e.g. Selling user data to advertisers)
  • Number of users (driven by advertising spend
  • App “coolness”  (driven by investment in research and development plus random events such as celebrity endorsement)



Twine ScreenshotMy storyboard from my initial experimentation with Twine

Twine is a tool for making interactive games (e.g. Adventure games) in the form of web pages.

Learning Objects & Student Created Products

  • Students will understand the business model of “free” social media.
  • Student will understand the risks of sharing personal information on social media.

Examples of rewards include:

  • Positive media buzz (if coolness is high)
  • Teens give your app a nickname and it starts to take hold (if coolness is high)
  • Venture capital firm invests (if users are high)

Examples of punishments include:

  • Privacy breach discovered (if privacy is too low)
  • Young people switching to another app (if coolness is too low)
  • App being shut down by totalitarian government (if privacy is too great)

Examples of random events include:

  • Your co-founder is says something very inappropriate and the app loses investors
  • Your data center is flooded

Is Ingress Accessible and Inclusive?

I have been experimenting with playing Ingress as part of INF541. Although the game play is very interesting that are worthy of a blog post, I wanted to write about a few things that immediately stuck me about Ingress and started me thinking about whether the game’s accessibility and inclusivity.

Ingress is a location-based, augmented-reality mobile game. The concept is basically that you pick one of two sides and you battle for control of “portals” that are located around your town or city.

To start the game you must login using a google account. Once you have logged in, it will tell you the nearest “portal”.

The game is owned by Google and so requiring a Google sign-in is understandable but it immediately stops people from playing the game if they are in a country where Google is banned (e.g. China) or people who feel uncomfortable with sharing information with Google due to privacy concerns.

The concerns about Google are fairly minor, my major concern with the game is the accessibility of the portals. I live in a fairly major city but my nearest portal is over a kilometer away. Most off the portals around my area are not close to public transport.

I found the following discussion about making Ingress accessible to vision impaired players:

I feel Scott makes a really good point in his post, for a fairly small amount of effort the needs of a diverse range of the community can be included.

As augmented reality games become more popular, they should take in to consideration a broad a range of society as possible in their development. Whether that be people who are concerned with privacy, people who don’t have access to transport or people with a disability.

INF541: Online Reflective Journal Blog Task

Using these articles as a springboard, and your readings and interaction with the subject to date, develop a statement about your current knowledge and understanding of game-based learning. You may wish to recount an instance of your own learning through game (whether the game was designed for learning or not) and reflect on what you learned. What is the context of your ongoing learning through games? What are your personal aims in this subject? What challenges are you hoping to meet for yourself?

My knowledge and understanding of implementing game-based learning is limited but developing rapidly thanks to this course. Game-based learning is going to become an increasingly important to promote the skills required in the jobs of the future (such as collaboration and digital literacy). Game factors can be a great motivator but they must meet instructional design goals.

The Mary Rose game was very rudimentary but I can remember being so excited about it!

My personal experience with game-based learning is more varied. In school I played a number of rudimentary “progression” games. The most memorable being a game where you discovered the wreck of the Mary Rose, a sunken Tudor warship. The goals for the game (of me learning Tudor history) were brushed aside as I quickly endeavoured to finish the tasks as quickly as possible. That desire to “win” was my experience with most games and reflecting back, there were lots of teachable moments that were missed because the explicit links were not made between what I learnt in the game and how it could be applied to other parts of my life (a critical step as discussed by Spector et al (2010)). My time with edu-games were not accompanied by teachers prompting discussion on the topics the game raised.


In Theme Park, a good tactic was to increase the salt content in your chips so that customers would buy more drinks.

My entertainment gaming experience was mostly around strategy games such as Sim City and Theme Park and again, reflecting back, I learnt a great deal from those games about logistics, budgets and contingency planning. My early game-based learning was mostly as an individual and it was not until much later that I began to appreciate the learning potential from playing games with others. Halo was my first experience with cooperative play and it was exhilarating to be exchanging ideas an strategies and quickly evolving tactics and techniques to be able to complete the game.

I always learnt so much more about how to “beat” the game when I played Halo in coop mode (and had more fun)

Reflecting on my own experience and the lessons of this course I believe the game-based learning can be a very important tool. A number of the readings have raised that some scholars, teachers and parents are concerned that there is not enough evidence to support the use of video games as a valid learning tool. In order to appropriately respond to these questions on effectiveness, it is vital to look to the instructional design model. If the teacher can clearly articulate the learning goals and the skills they are looking for the student to develop, then it should be much easier to convey why the game choice will help develop those skills. The reasons for game choice will then form an important role in helping the students to make explicit links between the skills and knowledge learnt in the game and how they can be translated in to other parts of the students life.

I found this YouTube video to be a good description of Instructional Design

My readings so far have raised some important cautionary lessons to be considered if you are using game-based learning as a tool:

  • Ensuring that students have sufficient digital literacy in order to use the game for the desired learning outcomes.
  • Receiving feedback from students and iterating on your approach is important to ensure that you can harness the “tremendous potential” of game-based learning and not fall in to traps such as an over focus on  the game factors of winning and losing. (Media Literacy : New Agendas in Communication, edited by Kathleen Tyner, Taylor & Francis Group, 2009. ProQuest Ebook Central)

My personal aims for this subject are to be able to:

  • understand and convey to others why game-based learning is important;
  • learn the principles of good game-based learning so that I can create or adapt games for my work environment.
  • challenge myself to think creatively about how different games can be utilised to convey the learning goals of a subject.